Monday, March 15, 2010

Mennonite in a little black dress

I am only recommending this book if you can take a bit of crude content... it is by no means a "religious" book. It is the story of one woman's journey back home to her mennonite heritage. Due to a failed marriage and lack of funds, Rhoda decides to take a break and move home with her traditional (not old-world) mennonite parents. She was always embarrassed by her heritage and all that it brought with it, but now as a 42 year old woman, she is realizing how big a part of her it is, and that it really is a great thing!

I smiled and laughed out loud reading this memoir.

You may not truly be able to understand the sarcasm if you weren't raised mennonite, but here are a few of my favorite excerpts...

Talking about her dad (who is a pastor -- as mine was!) No matter who you are, you do not snooze through this man's sermons. Even if you are an atheist, you find yourself nodding and thinking, Preach it mister!
Well, not nodding. Maybe you imagine your nodding. But in this scenario you are in a Mennonite church, which means you sit very still and worship Jesus with all your heart, mind and soul, only as if a snake has bitten you, and you are now in the last stages of paralysis.

Her mother trying to find her a new man... "If there aren't any single men to date where you are, I know of someone for you." "Who?" "Your cousin Walemar. Waldemar is a professor in Nova Scotia," she said earnestly, "And he has a beach house." I took a measured breath. "Wally is my first cousin," I said. "That's both incestuous and illegal." My mother considered this thoughfully. "Well," she said, "I think it should be fine since you can't have kids anyway."

Listing the various embarrassing foods put into her lunch kit as a child. Borscht is the Mennonite catnip. It makes our eyes roll back in our head a little. If you meet someone who has a Mennonite name, let's say the new librarian at your college, the encounter might go like this:

YOU. So you're a Wiebe! May I ask if your mennonite?
MR. WIEBE. Yes, on my father's side. We're the Wiebe's in Manitoba. I knew some Mennonite Janztens when I went to school in Minnesota. Are those your folks?
YOU. No, mine come from Ukraine via Ontario. I'll have to have you and your wife over for Borscht sometime.
MR. WIEBE. (trembling) Borscht! Really?!
YOU. (modestly) Oh, I can get the ole kettle boiling!
MR. WIEBE. (salivating now, with a wild look in his eye) Do you make the kind with beets in it?

Talking about Mennonite history. Mennonites marry their cousins and second cousins. Mennonites all know each other instantly, on sight and by smell. Our last names are the same. We practically have a secret handshake. If you are a Mennonite, I think I can safely guarantee that you married my mother's second cousin. We're all eerily related, and thus the gene pool is shallow. Come in a splash if you must, but you won't get a tan. We are ruddy Teutonic giants who wear plus sized swimsuits. Gotcha! We don't wear swimsuits! If we wore swimsuits, that would mean we would have to get naked! We've got better things to do. Such as sitting attentively in church, and praying that God will not call us to become a missionary on the Chaco!

Perhaps you have been wondering, how can I join this attractive religious group?

Rhoda goes on to list some of the taboo subjects for Mennonites and some of the positive as well...

We endorse - public prayer, out loud, with bowed heads, especially in restaurants and at airports.
- Potlucks (A-J bring a main dish) (K-Z bring pie)
- Pluma Moos, a hot fruit soup starring our friend the prune.
- The scrupulous consumption, on principle, of any and every moldy leftover in the fridge.

If you have paid close attention to the preceding pages, you are ready to meet Mennonites in real life. When you do, speak slowly and smile. If you play your cards right, I'm pretty sure they'll offer you some cabbage.

The author came to realize how much she loves her family and her religion. I love being Mennonite and so, even though this book is very sarcastic, I know it was written out of pride and love. And of course, truth!


Denise said...

That sounds too funny - I might have to pick it up!

Charlotte said...

Mennonites are amazing and wonderful people. I should know, my son married one of them.

Ferenje Mama said...

Sounds like a great read. I am into non-fiction at the moment whether it be a satirical look at life or a more sombre account. The world really is an amazing place.

Colin and Jill Canada said...

Sounds really great!

The potluck part cracked me up... a-j bring a main dish, k-z bring a pie. LOL!


teresa said...

Just put it on hold at the library - thanks for the recommendation! I'm sure I'll appreciate all the Mennonite humor. I just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - have you heard of it? It was surprisingly good - WWII stuff. I'm always up for good book suggestions!

The Drinkwaters said...

I wasn't brought up Mennonite, but it seems Mennonites and Catholics have something in common:

"The scrupulous consumption, on principle, of any and every moldy leftover in the fridge".

Ahhhh...memories of childhood!

Marie said...

Ohhh, definitely a must read. . . sounds like a gal I could relate to. I grew up in a VERY conservative mennonite home, and love to poke fun at all the "stupidities" as I like to call them! And I remember Mom's "deadly delight". It was made of all the leftovers that had been in the fridge for the past 2 months! Uggh!!

Marcy P said...

That sounds hilarious! I was brought up by parents who were Mennonite but not in a menno town. Then, I married a baptist who eventually pastored a Mennonite church...very interesting and lots of horror stories (interpersonal stuff) along with a lot of good pie :-) We purposely will never pastor a Menno church again, but I love the culture and food. I laughed so loud at the marrying the cousin thing b/c I actually dated a 2nd cousin once removed (or whatever) and my family was thrilled...ok. We don't need any more mixing of the genes here...**shiver** Oh, the bullet I