Skip to content

Zockoll Thanksgivings Part 2: Laughing and Loud

November 21, 2016

1a1Jill, Julie and I are at my brother-in-law and sister’s home in Laurel, Delaware.  Danny and Gwen once again allow the entire Zockoll clan to squeeze into their 1500 square foot home and enjoy the traditional familial holiday melee.  The buzz is all though the place. The kitchen is filled with the ladies and girls chatting happily and loudly, eating even though they are not hungry.  Sara is showing baby Derrick around amidst coos and squeals before she lays him in the front room.  The kitchen area shows four types of foods spread across the counter:  breads, desserts, meats, and Moon Pies. The carbohydrate intake is amazingly high.

The males are in the television room, glancing at the college and pro football scores but really engaging in two different discussions which seamlessly weave into one another despite the fact that they have absolutely no relation to each other.  Pizza sits in the middle of their table (again, with the carbs!). Twelve year old Julie moves in and out among the groups in the two rooms, serving an applesauce cake she had just baked; nobody refuses to eat at least three helpings.  Cousins interrupt each others’ narrations but not one storyteller is offended.  Interruptions are always allowed on the condition that they affirm or enhance a story being told.  Little baby Derrick cries and the team of women rush in to perform emotional triage while never stopping a running conversation about sewing, budgets, and church dinners. Suitcases litter the front room, coats and blankets are scattered across cots and makeshift beds in the back.

The coffee maker is surrounded by spoons and mugs. It gurgles emptily but is refilled – no exaggeration! – within a cool sixty seconds. The trash can is overflowing.  People laugh and glance nervously at the lone bathroom of the household. (Whose turn is next?) It is continuously occupied, and will be throughout the evening in quick shifts. The television is soon turned off – who wants to watch anything, when you can talk and listen?  Danny pushes aside a bowl of soup, his second serving.  Groceries and scarves are parked in various chairs throughout the house.  Stuff is everywhere.  I sit on a bag of Gummi Bears.

This is the Zockoll family Thanksgiving ritual.  If you come in and visit for the first time, you may be intimidated, but stay around and you’ll be drawn in quickly.  We are organized in an artistic disarray that would remind  you of the first time you saw a Dali painting.  Your initial glance tells you nothing but confusion, but ah, as you look more deeply you begin to see the patterns of meaning.

There is a careful approach to each gathering, and following them is important to your social standing in the family tree.

The conversational aspect is taken with the utmost seriousness.  It is an unwritten rule that you need at least one Big Story to share when you walk into this farmhouse atmosphere.  It’s an ambience of expectation for great tales, so be ready.  Posers with weak anecdotes are severely frowned upon – it might takes years to re-establish your reputation.  Your conversational skills and storytelling are put to the test.  You’ve got to bring your A game.

The conversations are like a feast of words, if you will.  Each person is like a chef, presenting their initial best to the hungry masses. You first of all present your best subject – consider this your porterhouse steak.  You can make a grand impression if you have prepared your story correctly.  No side trails  – consider them adding too much seasoning or sauces – it interrupts the main food. After the room has delightfully digested your fine fare, you can lighten your dialogue and dabble lightly in the discussion, sort of like a salad or breadstick chatter.  Then you can sweeten the evening with light comments and witty repartee; liken this to a dessert.  You have the right to present exotic entrees, but whatever the variety, there is a hard and fast rule: everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts.

This is the formula for the evening.  Danny tries his best to embarrass me by recalling my high school dating disasters – he succeeds. Brent explains a strange workplace incident with a double twist to its conclusion – a delight to the audience.  Thomas, a newcomer to the tribe through marriage to Sarah, tries his hand by sharing a restaurant anecdote.  The room grins in agreement –  Thomas is in; he has quit himself well.  You soon notice the delicate balance that carries through the night of sharing the buffet of conversation: Don’t dominate the talk – step back from the table once in a while and let others give a serving.  If one person overfeeds their cuisine, palates become dull.  This formula always works, and often the evenings roll well into the early morning hours until families stagger bleary-eyed out the door at 4 a.m., facing a stiff Delaware winter  wind and a day of work with two hours’ sleep.  No one regrets it.

How do I best describe these gatherings?

Hmmm… well…

A happy mess.

Yes, that’s it.  A Happy Mess.

It’s loud, it’s vibrant, it’s unpredictable and it’s energized.  You can’t schedule anything.  It just doesn’t work.  It cannot work.  It’s not in our DNA.  I remember once when one of the ladies tried to put together a week-long timetable of hour-by-hour activities and it was laughed out of the room.  I don’t recall ever seeing that person since then.

Spontaneity is the password that opens up the fun.  My wife Jill, whose genealogy includes engineers and accountant-types, was hit with an avalanche of emotions when she first encountered our gatherings of unrestrained mayhem.  After thirty years she gives as good as she gets, and we can always recognize her boisterous laugh throughout the night.

A happy mess.

This, my friends, is the joy of Heaven to me.  My hope of the Kingdom with Jesus is not the golden streets or of transcendent power.  It’s that we will get to be at the greatest family reunion of all, with the Messiah Himself overseeing a loud, boisterous banquet of chatter and laughter.

The old coffee-table Bible pictures of white-robed saints walking stiff-backed in celestial library quiet don’t even register as reality in the Zockoll household. We’re Russian stock, for crying out loud.  We can’t even fathom trying to mingle with low-talkers.

I believe Heaven will be continual joyful, loud celebrations that’ll include jokes, jostling and high volume.  Christ Himself will oversee the convention-like atmosphere of cheerful relief from the earthly past.  People will smile.  People will hug Jesus and each other. Someone will invent a new game to play in a vacant field. Some over-hyper revellers will be joyfully wrestling and others will be trying their hand at music.   Nobody slows down or sleeps because nobody runs out of energy.  My wife, who endures daily battles with the fatigue of fibromyalgia, especially enjoys this hope.

I say this with all respect to Heaven and a holy God who Himself created happiness: we will enter into a Happy Mess.  We will enjoy the unexpected treasures and surprises that the Father will constantly unwrap for us.  We will scream and cheer in delight and direct our deepest gratitude to the Christ who made this all possible.  We will be loud. 

And we’re in no hurry.  We can enjoy all this for as long as we like!

And isn’t that a true Thanksgiving?



Brad Zockoll
Dr. Brad Zockoll


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


A year's blog as a Bible teacher

Kindness Blog

Kindness Changes Everything

%d bloggers like this: