Thursday, August 13, 2015

Strange Mennonite


Continued from Hopeless Mennonite

When George opened the door and saw my face, he wrapped his left arm around me while he closed the door with his right hand. He slid his right hand into my hair, pulled me into his embrace and just held me there really tight for a good five minutes before we even spoke a word.

I hadn’t experienced affection that way before. A question crossed my mind: how was it possible for life to be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time? How could those arms with tattoos have such a comforting effect on me?

Most of the time I felt like there was no room for food in my stomach. I constantly went back and forth between feeling like I was going to throw up over something I couldn’t handle to feeling like everything was going to be fine when George comforted me. That was foreign, strange and amazing at the same time.

“How are you holding up, sweetie?” he asked. I told him that I had been fine for most of the day until I remembered everything again.

“Anna, please do me a favor and don’t let Mark be the cause of your beautiful face getting all wrinkly. Don’t give him that.”

“Ahhh…” I replied while I turned red from head to toe. I didn’t know what to say to that.

“It’s over now. He isn’t going to bother you again. Just try to remember that the next time you get all worried about it again, okay?” he said.

“Okay.”

“So do you remember the motorcycle ride drill? Hold on to me -- I mean really hold on tight. Don’t let go and don’t fall off. The last thing I need is to explain to your family that you fell off my motorcycle,” he said as he began to laugh.

I laughed and said, “Yes I remember the ahhh... ‘Drill?’”

I just stood there and stared at him as he handed me a helmet, and grabbed his jacket, helmet and keys. He turned to me, smiled, winked, and said, “Ready for the ride of your life?”

As I walked beside him through the hallway, fear crept its way into my mind when I thought, “Ride of my life? What the heck does that even mean, and will I be able to survive it?”

I forgot all about that fear when he helped me put the helmet on and touched my chin to lift my head a few times in the process. He got on the motorcycle, and this time I didn’t need any help getting closer to him. I couldn’t snuggle up to him close enough. I put my arms around his waist without hesitation.

I practically squeezed myself right into him when he took off, leaving my fear and nauseous stomach behind.

We got to his mom’s house in Port Stanley in no time. When he got off the motorcycle I didn’t think that I would be able to stand up. I had held onto him so tensely, I started shaking when I let go of him.

He helped me get off the motorcycle, took my helmet off, and guided me into his mom’s house. A beautiful, petite woman with long blond hair walked toward us, and I thought, “that must be his friend or sister.” George gave her a hug and said, “Anna, this is my mom, Julie.”

She smiled, gave me a hug, and said, “I am so glad you could come, Anna.”

“Thank you,” I replied.

I couldn’t help but stare at her. She had perfect teeth, just like George. She looked way too young to be the mother of a grown man. I just couldn’t wrap my head around that. Most women in my colony started looking old shortly after getting married, especially by the time they had grown kids like George -- by that time they looked really old.

She asked us to come sit down in the kitchen by the table and offered us drinks that I had no idea what they were. George took a beer and explained all the drinks to me as Julie poured herself a glass of wine. I decided that I would try the wine that Julie was drinking.

I had only ever taken sips of the drinks brought to our colony by the boys who would go to town on Sunday to buy it. They usually brought beer, tequila, Don Pedro Brandy, and Coke to mix.

I took a sip of the wine and instantly felt the effect. I began to feel more comfortable sitting at that table. Julie asked me to tell her about growing up in a Mennonite colony in Mexico. I started talking and the words were flowing out of my mouth perfectly, words that I had never said before. It was like the wine had unlocked my English-word storage compartment and they were just flowing out naturally.

As I was telling Julie about growing up in Mexico, every once in a while I would look at George. He was just sitting there, leaning back in the chair, stretched out with his legs crossed, sipping away at his beer and smiling.

I felt strange yet comfortable being there. I felt that I could talk about what it was really like growing up Dietsch in Mexico. I often didn’t feel comfortable talking about that because I always thought everyone who wasn’t Dietsch would think, “What kind of strange people are you? Or who lives like that?” I felt that that wasn’t the case here, they were genuinely interested.

Julie went to check on what she was baking in the oven. I only finished half the glass of wine when George was done his beer. He got up from the chair and asked, “Would you like to go for a stroll on the beach before supper?”

“Ahhh… sure,” I answered.

“MOM, we’re going for a walk to the beach, okay?” George shouted.

“Okay, just don’t take too long -- the food is almost ready,” she replied.

“Okay mom.”

The beach was right behind her house and the sun was about to set as we began to walk alongside the water. The water sparkled from the reflection of the sun setting. There was no one else at the beach.

“I like your mom, she is really nice.”

“Yes, she is an amazingly talented and strong woman, I admire her strength. Things haven’t always been good between us. I haven’t exactly made her life easy, that’s for sure.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well she didn’t like that I was getting so many tattoos and her idea of a happy life is different than mine. But she has accepted me this way, even though it wasn’t easy for her. In spite of that we have a great relationship. We spend a lot of time together. People often mistake her for my girlfriend, it’s hilarious.”

“I can see why. If I would have seen you with her before I met her, I would have thought that she might be Harley -- the woman that I thought you stored at your buddy’s house.”

“No shit, eh?” he answered as we both laughed and began throwing rocks in the water. We chased seagulls while we ran back to his mom’s house. When we walked in, the table was set and the food was ready. It smelled amazing.

Between the three of us we finished a whole roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, corn, and salad. George ate most of it. Julie began telling me how incredibly brave she thought I was. I told her that it hadn’t been easy and that George had helped me every time I got myself in trouble.

I looked at George as I said that. He smiled and winked at me.

“He really is an amazing man. I just wish he didn’t have so many tattoos,” she said.
“MOM!” He replied.

“Well it’s true, George. Most people have a hard time getting past the tattoos. Way too often people don’t even get to know how amazing you are because of them.”

I really wanted to tell her that I thought, “In a way, it’s the same thing as when I wear my pleated dresses: people stare at me and don’t know what to say because they think I must be a certain way just because of the way I dress.”

I got too nervous and decided that she might think that I was an idiot for comparing tattoos to a Mennonite dress.

Instead, I just told her about the time a guy riding his bicycle smashed into a post because he was staring at me so much and he got hurt really badly because of it and that he had a bruise on his face for a long time.

She laughed and said, “No way! Too bad he got hurt, but that’s really funny.”

We laughed for a while. “Do you have any family here in Canada?” she asked.

“Yes, some of my aunts, uncles and cousins live here. But most of them don’t speak to me anymore because they think that I’m living in sin. Most of them think that a woman shouldn’t be out in the world by herself, going to school and learning how to do things on her own. And in order for us to be speaking to each other we have to act, dress and be the same,” I told her.

“Oh honey, I’m sure that can’t be easy. You are a strong person to do what you are doing,” she said. 

She went to the kitchen to get the dessert while George and I gathered the dishes. I was secretly hoping that she wouldn’t bring out anything that had watermelon in it for dessert. I was relieved when I saw that she brought out apple pie and ice cream.

While we were eating dessert she asked, “Do you always have dessert after a meal in your culture?”


“No, we don’t. We have faspa instead. Usually between three and four o’clock we have instant coffee, sugar cubes, tweeback (buns) and all sorts of sweets,” I said.

“That is actually a great idea,” she replied.

“We hardly ever had ice cream. Only the rich people in my colony have fridges. As far as I can remember I had ice cream about four times before I came to Canada. Once when I was visiting the Guenther’s in my colony, twice when I got to go to Nuevo Ideal on a bus, and once when I got to go to Durango City with my aunt and uncle who had a van. Now that I have my very own fridge I make a lot of ice cubes, I love it.”

Julie said, “Wow.”

“Thank you for allowing me to come with George to visit you and have this amazing meal,” I said.

“Oh honey, you’re so welcome. And feel free to pop in whenever you like. You don’t even have to call me first, just come over any time. It’s so nice to meet you. I have really enjoyed your company,” she replied. 

On the motorcycle ride back home while holding on to George for dear life, I went over everything in my mind that I had said and thought. “Oh no! What if I told her way too much? What if she thinks we Dietsche people are strange?” Click here to continue reading my story.

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