There at the dinner table her song began as expected, being carried along by a mesmerizing joy afforded only to three-year-olds. But no sooner than the songstress had woven her whimsical serenade—ever briefly, ever swiftly—did the course change and life was forever different.
“Here’s the church,” she sang so proudly with hands and fingers folded inward hiding the parish residents. “And here’s the steeple,” she sing-songed with her little precious fingers pointing heavenward. “Open the doors,” she intoned with angelic purity, “and see all the ZOMBIES! Blah! Blah! Blah!”
Let’s just say that I was concerned for a moment that I may have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on my wife and oldest son because they had food in their mouths and yet were laughing so hard. Evelyn’s song came out of nowhere, and although he wouldn’t admit it, I suspected that same 12-year-old boy of having a hand in her apparent familiarity with the living dead.
But in one sense, it is probably my fault. Josh has been reading a book from my library entitled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Yes, this is the boy who would often go to bed reading hymns from the hymnal or would spend his free time trying to copy and decipher the words of my Greek New Testament. Recently he located a secret volume high up on a shelf in the corner of my office at the church entitled The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. I received this as a gag gift from my sister some years ago. It was a fun read, one that helped to keep the creative writing juices flowing.
Anyway, Evelyn’s song was indeed funny, but it also unwittingly sparked a philosophical bombardment against a personal pretension. This happened because not soon after her song, the dinner-table conversation devolved from the events of the day to just what the Thoma family would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse. Josh led the discussion, suggesting practical survival techniques and safe locations. (I do believe I would look to him as a commander in any forces I’d need to rally in the event of such a crisis.) But as the conversation unfolded, I looked at my wife, knowing she was thinking the exact same thing as I, except I was the first to iterate it precisely. Not long after Josh had made the suggestion that an oil rig out at sea would be a safe location and then Jennifer added that we’d need to make sure we’d have lots of food on the rig so we wouldn’t have to go to the mainland very often, I asked quite simply, “Do you think other pastor families talk about how to survive a zombie apocalypse at the dinner table?”
I only asked it, not because I was ashamed, but rather because I really didn’t care what other pastor families were talking about at the dinner table. We were talking about how to survive a zombie apocalypse and we were having fun as a family—no guts and gross stuff—just talking, planning, being creative. We were talking about how we would protect ourselves, what we would do to stay together, mom and dad trying to steer the oldest boy away from saying out loud his guess as to which of his siblings would be eaten first. But it was fun. And we were laughing. I’d not had that much fun in a while.
Times like these are few and far between for a “pastor” family. So often it is that I am just never around to hear the laughter, to sit at the dinner table and actually talk with those I hold most dear, never around when they go to bed, never around for Saturday morning cartoons. And yes, this is an altogether strange topic—some may even suggest an inappropriate one for a Christian family—but is it ever inappropriate to imagine a scenario in which the whole family will be tested to love and care for one another like never before? It was a creative moment that actually fostered the very topic it was considering–and it happened right then and there at the dinner table. I long for this, which is why I didn’t call the discussion to an end and instead found myself agreeing rather seriously with Josh when we spoke cryptically off to the side in a separate conversation that a weapon for protection that can be set to “rock-n-roll”, that is, fully automatic, is not as an efficient use of ammunition when you are dealing with things that just won’t pass on. A single shot piece is probably much better.
I do admit, I will try a little harder the next time around to conjure a different topic. Certainly there are better things to ponder, but until that time comes and I get my next family meal at home, I’ll follow the crowd and take sides with the children, pointing my finger at Evelyn and saying to the adults, “She started it!”