A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


As mysteries go, it wasn't all that mystifying. It was just . . . mysterious.

And nobody could figure it out.

At least, not anybody old.

It had to do with our TV. Specifically, it had to do with Ch. 5. When we tuned our TV to Ch. 5, we got the picture just fine. But the sound wasn't from Ch. 5 - it was from a local AM radio station.

See what I mean? Mysterious.

We checked all the various cables and connections. No problem there. We considered the possibility that the problem had something to do with the cable company to which we subscribe. But the Ch. 5 audio came through loud and clear on the other television sets in the house, and they were connected to the same cable. So the cable company couldn't be the problem.

Could it?

For two weeks I ran the problem past every adult who came into the house, plus a few techno-geek teenagers who stumbled through. Most wanted to see the phenomenon in action. Some looked at the connections on the back of the set, and fiddled with a wire or two. They shook their heads and clicked their tongues and agreed that it was indeed mysterious. Then they excused themselves and went on with their lives.

And that's pretty much what I did, too. I went on with my life. What else was I supposed to do? I couldn't figure it out. Nobody I knew could figure out - not even Anita's dad, who is the all-time champ at figuring stuff out. And since there were other TV sets in the house that I could turn on in the rare event that there was something on Ch. 5 that was actually worth watching, I just sort of let it go on being a mystery.

Like Stonehenge.

Or Dennis Rodman.

But that wasn't good enough for my daughter, Elizabeth. She's 12. That means she's almost a teenager, and is therefore in the process of deciding that she's as smart as any adult. So one day she started messing around with the television's remote control. She got into the set's programmable menu, and started toying with some of the audio functions.

She kept pushing buttons to see what happened when you adjusted things.

Through trial and error she taught herself how to manipulate our television set's stereo output capabilities.

And suddenly - just like that - Ch. 5 sounded better than ever.

Mystery solved. Case closed.

Elizabeth reminded me of something that day. In fact, she reminded me of several things I already knew but seemed somehow to have forgotten. She reminded me that you don't have to be an adult to be able to figure things out. She reminded me that there really are answers for most things in life if we just look long enough, hard enough and in the right places.

And she reminded me that even though it is primarily our job as parents to teach our children, if we pay careful attention there's also a lot that we can learn from our kids.

And there's nothing mysterious about that.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through