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Kid Christmas 4: The Whole House was Wrecked

December 17, 2016

1a1It had been quite an eventful week at the Zockoll household.  The snowy weather – one of heaviest to hit the Pittsburgh areas in years – didn’t do anything to cool down the action indoors.  The elementary-age terrors known as Bruce, Gwen, Brent, Brad, and Brian were in rare form all December week.  Newborn Brock was too young to incite any violence.  He would have to bide his time.

This was the week before Christmas.  This was to be the time of reflective peace.

Not on Mockingbird Drive.

Mom was already at a blood-pressure high, baking fudge and making orange marmalade, a local favorite that teachers and Sunday School workers loved.  This was good, but it was also bad.  You see, Mom had entered into the Zone, which we all had seen before.  Her Christmas cheeriness took on a manic demeanor.  These goodies have got to be made, wrapped and delivered and WE ARE GOING TO SPREAD CHRISTMAS CHEER.  

That set the scene at the beginning of the week.  Now let me tell you what happened after that.

Gwen had started the whole thing.  Cute little Gwen, decked out in a snowsuit and a holly-green woolen cap, had cornered a feral cat in the snowy back yard.  Little Kitty did not take to being grappled with mittens, and had made a fair-sized scratch on Gwen’s wrist.  She responded by tossing the feline a good distance into a pile of icy mush while using every bathroom-level word she could muster in her once-innocent mind.  This was strictly taboo in Mom’s List of Rules;  one never used any conversation centering around the toilet, and “poopy” was seen as the vilest of obscenities.  Gwen had used the “P” word.

Mom:  Gwen, come here.

Gwen: (trying to act innocent) Yes, Mommy?

Mom:  Open your mouth.  Now bite down on this.

Gwen:  But that’s a bar of soap, Mommy.

Mom:  If you use dirty words, you have a dirty mouth and it needs to be washed out.  Now bite.

Gwen (bites)  Blurble.

That sort of set the par for the course, and I, a five-year old who was fascinated with the newly purchased black-and-white TV in our front room, was next in line.  I had seen enough of the Man from Uncle to know that I wanted to be a spy, or at least communicate with other spies.  The good ones, I mean.  I knew they were all around the yard – didn’t Napolean Solo say so?  And I desperately wanted to be one of them.  Surely they would take on a new recruit, especially a kindergarten-age prodigy from Hillcrest Elementary School!

My problem, I surmised, was that I needed to contact the Good Guys without getting noticed by the Bad Guys.  I started laying miniscule notes around the house (I used Mom’s good pen on bits of toilet paper, which were then wadded up and stuck under chair legs ) but soon realized that the agents of Thrush could surely read.  Besides, I wasn’t too hot on spelling anyway.

Then I hit upon the idea of making directional markers that would show them the way to my room; that way I could talk to them in private.  But toys wouldn’t work, nor could tape.  They needed some sort of a trail…

… so I spit.


Hacking and slobbering, I made a trail of spittle from the garage back door across Mom’s clean kitchen and down the hallway all the way to the boys’ bedroom.  They would find my saliva to be an easy pathway…

I still remember Mom’s wail of rage.

I still remember the spanking with the Fli-Back paddle.

But Brent set the high-water mark the next afternoon in the back yard.  While trudging around the snow, he had kicked up an old golf ball and decided to play a little winter golf.  Not having access to a golf club, he used a large plastic Wiffleball bat that we used to call the Fred Flintstone Bat.  Things went well for the first few strokes, but Brent was having problems getting that lift that he needed for a good drive.

Well, he reasoned, why not just forget this hitting-off-a-tee idea and just pick the golf ball up and hit it like they did in in the baseball games?

And that was just what he did.  He threw the golf ball up in the air and gave it a sharp and satisfying thwack.

Towards the house.

And he heard a definitely unsatisfying CRASH when the golf ball shattered the kitchen window.

And out came the Fli-Back paddle, brother. His rear was as red as mine.

The next day we all lost our dessert privileges when at dinnertime we fell on the floor laughing at Baby Brock launching spit-gobs of Gerber Baby Pea goo from his high chair every time Mom gave him a mouthful.

Then that evening after bedtime when we all packed it in,  Bruce got caught trying a new stunt he had read about in a middle school library book – hypnotizing a person into submission.  He had learned that this was a Magical Art and he very much wanted the Power that the storybook magicians possessed.  Brent was a second grader and and easy cerebral target, there on the lower bunk.  Bruce was leaning over from his top bunk and performing what looked like nether-world incantations to Brent on the lower bunk when Mom walked in.  She had always been spooked about the mystical, and this was the last thing she wanted coming into our house.  Bruce was hauled out of bed and was the next recipient of the You Guessed It.

It was a bad week.  We were each in our respective beds, sniffling.  Things seemed as far away from Christmas as could be.

We heard Mom calling.  This late?

“Kids, get out here,” Mom called at the end of the hallway. “All of you, come into the living room.”

We sat up in the dark.  Did someone else get in trouble.  This late at night?

“All of you,” Mom called a second time.  “Gwen, get your robe on.”

The five of us padded down the hall, dreading the next Yuletide Execution.

We stopped in the living room and looked. Mom pointed. The  front door was open, and we were staring through the screen door at a porch full of people.  They were all grinning widely.

We turned and looked at Mom.  She was smiling delightedly. Before she said a word, a tall man with a scarf and black gloves made a gentle gesture to the group and they all began:

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

The carolers came from a local assembly and felt the call to come to our home along the way and serenade us with heartfelt melodies that had a timeless joy.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven…

They sang of excited angels.  Of stunned shepherds.  Of determined and worshipful wise men.  Of a world that looked for the Messiah and was now going to get the greatest Christmas present the world would ever know.

We drank it in.  I don’t know how long they sang, but it wasn’t long enough.  But yet it was enough.  It settled our household.  I remember our holiday being gentle from that point on, with the harried atmosphere settling into a contented quietness that we all relished. Isn’t that what Jesus does?  He settles our restless spirit.  And that’s what he did to our home.

Oh, it was a great Christmas.  We all got the proper focus.

And later on, Gwen told me she secretly blew soap bubbles from the foam stuck in her teeth.





Brad Zockoll 2016
Dr. Brad Kent Zockoll
Knoxville Tennessee


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