I was first introduced to Parks and Recreation by my brother when I visited him and his in-laws the summer after high-school graduation. He had mentioned that he had been meaning to show me this show for quite a while because he thought I would enjoy it, but it wasn't until I arrived at his house that I watched it for the very first time. Parks and Rec was a show that was loved by not only him, but his wife and his sisters-in-law as well. During that week, we would all squeeze together, four or five to a couch, and lose ourselves to the world of Pawnee, Indiana for twenty minutes at a time. I tried my best to understand the strange humor of this show, started shipping Leslie and Ben and found a new way to spend time with my older brother. As far as I was concerned, I was set.
Slowly, the Parks Department developed from a random bunch of individuals with eccentric jokes to a home that I could go return to when my own life wasn't certain. When I hugged my older brother and sister-in-law at the airport and boarded a plane back to the East coast, I wasn't sure of the next time we were going to spend time together. But I knew that watching the four seasons left of Parks and Rec would feel like we were still spending time together, even after we separated. When I moved into Emory and experienced all the highs and lows of freshman year, Parks and Rec became my go-to show on a bad day. It was the show that I could watch with my roommate and we could discuss the merits of its colorful and entertaining cast. It was the show that I knew that, if I were down in the dumps when starting an episode, it would make me feel just a little lighter twenty minutes later.
Parks and Recreation haven't only been there for me on my bad days, but it also inspires me to be my best self. Its cast has given me a set of characters who, while beautifully flawed, contain traits that are truly admirable. I want to have Leslie's over-enthusiasm for both her work and her friends; Tom and Andy's naïve idealism and Jerry's desire for everyone's best. I want to have Anne's selflessness, April's loyalty, and Ben's logical reasoning. Some of these traits are the characters' biggest downfalls; for instance, Leslie's obsessive gift-giving, scrapbooking and binder projects cause her to go slightly insane at times.
But these characteristics allow us to realize that the cast of Parks and Rec is not perfect and make them even more lovable to me. As I've matured while watching the show, I've gone from one favorite character to the next, before realizing that I love and admire each one of them. In fact, I've realized that the very traits that once irritated me are now traits that I cherish, such as Chris' utter positivity despite the circumstances. The characters of Parks and Rec have taught me that human beings are complicated and challenging to cooperate with, but that ultimately, they contain some excellent characteristics that we could all use to incorporate.
A year later from my introduction to the show, I am watching the series with my younger brother. After politely laughing at the Lil' Sebastian jokes, he has fallen as much in love with the series as I have (much to the delight of my older brother and me). We laugh at Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa, gush at Chris' adorable positivity and always lament that Gary/Jerry/Larry deserves better. As we near the last season of the series, I've got to admit that I'm not sure if I'm ready to leave the world of Pawnee, Indiana, and the comfort that each of the characters has brought to me.
Parks and Rec has constructed a bridge between my two wonderful brothers and me, and I don't quite want to finish walking over it. But regardless of finishing the series, I know that I can always come back to this show and experience the home of family and friendship that this show has become for me. The series will finish, but to me, it will always represent the relationships I have with my brothers – and, of course, the best references to calzones around.