Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mennonite Foreigner

Continued from Irked Mennonite

I stumbled to that door half asleep, looked through the peephole, and when I saw who was there I thought, “Wow, that dream I had last night was so real, only it was my mom that was standing on the other side of the door, not George.”

Then it all came back to me. What was happening was real, and so was everything that happened the night before. It wasn’t a dream and my mom was sleeping in my bed.

I thought, “Oh crap! Crap! Crap! What am I going to do?  It’s going to happen, how the heck am I going to handle this?” I told myself, “Anna, you can’t make this go away, so whatever happens, happens. I sure hope I can explain this to him fast enough before my mom wakes up.”

I took a few deep breaths and opened the door.

“Hey, sweetie, I am really sorry for coming over this early. I suddenly got this feeling that something was really wrong. I just had to check on you. Is everything okay?” he asked.

“It’s okay, thank you for worrying about me, but everything is fine. You won’t believe who is here visiting me, all the way from Mexico,” I answered.

“Is it Izaak, and he wants his car back?”

“No! Guess again.”

“That’s all I’ve got, I give up.”

“It’s my mom.”

“What the fff-- ahhh… your mom is here?”

“Yep, she is still sleeping.”

“Holy surprise.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Okay, I will leave you to visit with her then.”

“Would you like to meet her?”

“Yes, I would love too. But then I have to shave first . . . holy crap!”

I laughed and said, “Okay,” and off he went.

I closed the door, and went and lay down again. I was relieved that he knew and had a chance for it to sink in before he met her. I couldn’t help but laugh when I thought about his reaction to the news and that he thought that he had to shave before meeting my mom.

I lay there with my thoughts for a while, thinking that I was happy that my aunts didn’t get a chance to team up with my mom to convince me to go back home. Then my mom came out of the bedroom. I got up, boiled water, and made us each a coffee.

As we were drinking our coffees she asked me so many questions, including, “Do you really like living like this?” Meaning the life I was living in a small apartment, all by myself in Canada, going to school.

“Yes, I do, Mom. It hasn’t been easy, but living like this gives me hope. I mean, I miss you and my family all the time, but this is the best thing for me right now.”

I asked her the same question, knowing the answer and that it was disrespectful to even ask her, but I thought, “We are beyond this.” I took the chance since it was no longer a secret that I was brave.

“Do you really like living like this, like last night for example?” I braced myself for what was coming.

“Well, life isn’t just about having fun and being happy all the time. Most of your uncles have nerve problems. That’s why they drink, you know.”

“Yes I know, but what about ours -- the women’s -- nerve problems?” I asked.

“We don’t have a choice but to be strong, accept life the way it is, keep our families together, and live in our colony like people have done before us,” she answered.

“Yes, I know. But what about when things turn out like what Grandpa did? Don’t you think we need to work out our nerve problems before we end up there?”

“Well, yes I do, but we don’t need to leave and change to do that. We can still live the way we have been and work them out.”

“Why couldn’t Grandpa do that?” I asked.

“I just don’t know, Anna. Are there any second-hand stores around here? I would like to go there yet.”

That was her way of saying, “Drop it, we will never get anywhere with this conversation,” and she didn’t want to talk about it.

We ate breakfast, got ready, and went to the thrift stores in town. At the thrift store, I had a really hard time staying interested in what she was looking for. I was way more interested in looking for clothes. 

After we finished shopping at the thrift store I took her on a drive past the factory I worked at and the school I was going to. I explained my routine to her, how much homework I did every day, and that my teacher told me that I wasn’t a hard learner.

I just watched her, to see the reaction that she might have. She said, Okay, and I realized that she had long forgotten that I had been a hard learner at the Mennonite school in Mexico. It wasn’t a big deal to her that I was learning to let go and overcoming that. It was only a big deal to me.

It made me sad that that was all I got from her. I had to give myself a little pep talk and remember that she was not accustomed to this kind of life. Everything was so foreign to her. If I would have had lots of baked goods and made a dress out of the fabric she sent me, I would have gotten proud praises from her. Especially if I had hung all the calendars on the wall that she had sent me.

I realized that she had not had a chance to learn what I had. I had learned over a period of time that if I wanted to get anywhere in life I had to go to school. I had seen for myself the opportunities it would bring me. All she saw was that I was changing and that was what she didn’t want.

December 23 2014 Nuevo Ideal Durango Mexico aka Patos.

I just had to accept that it was way more important to her that I kept my Old Colony ways than getting over being a hard learner. I already knew that, but I had hoped that she might see my point. I knew I didn’t have enough time to convince her so I just let it go.

When we got back to my apartment George was standing at the entrance, freshly shaved, his hair pulled back. He was wearing dark jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. He just stood there and smiled showing off his perfect teeth. You couldn’t see any of his tattoos. I thought he looked amazing.

My heart started pounding as we got closer to him. My mom asked, “Wuaromm kjikje dee maun soo schaftijch too die? (Why is that man smiling so much at you?)”

In Low German, I said, “Mom, this is my neighbor, George. He is the man that you and everyone in Mexico are calling a schwien-noagel.” I just watched her reaction as I said, “George, this is my mom.”

He put out his hand and said, “It is really nice to meet you, welcome to Canada,” and all I could do was hope that she would shake his hand. I was just about to pass out when she finally reached out, smiled, shook his hand, and said, okay, after she stared at him for a while.

George said, “Here, let me take those bags up for you.” My mom looked at me as I handed the bags to him then she handed hers to him too. She waited for him to go but he waited for us to go first. My mom wasn’t used to that, just like I wasn’t in the beginning. I went and my mom followed me. When we got up the stairs he walked in between us, carrying all of our bags for us.

“Thank you, George,” I said.

“Your welcome, sweetie.” He turned to my mom and said, “Enjoy your visit and have a safe trip back home to Mexico.” He turned around and walked away. We both just stood there and stared at him until we couldn’t see him anymore.

When we got into my apartment my mom said, “Dee maun haft an sea schmucket je'biss (That man has very nice dentures).” I just started laughing as I explained to her that he didn’t have dentures, that those were his real teeth. She couldn’t believe it. I said, “Yes, that makes the two of us.”

In Low German, she said, “He doesn’t even look that much like a schwien-noagel.”

I did a little happy dance in my mind when I heard those words and said, “Didn’t I tell you that on the phone the other day?”

“Okay, yes you did.”

“The reason people think that is because he has tatuajes (tattoos), but that doesn’t mean he is a schwien-noagel. I know people who don’t have tatuajes that are schwien-noagels,” I explained.

“Yes, I know that,” she answered.

I thought, “Oh good, now we are getting somewhere,” and said, “George is not a schwien-noagel at all,” to really drive home the point.

The way that George made that happen made me so happy. I felt incredible relief after that. I thought, “Whatever happens from here on, I don’t care. That was just perfect.” The way he handled himself just grew more butterflies in my stomach for him.

My mom hadn’t forgotten that it was Saturday and on Saturdays, we baked and cleaned with Pine-Sol. She made tweeback dough, put a pot of beans on the stove, and asked me how to turn on an electric gas stove.

In our colony everyone refers to a stove as a gas stove because we didn’t have electricity -- a stove was always called a gas stove. I had an electric stove therefore to us it was an electric gas stove.

After I showed her how to turn on an electronic gas stove safely, I cleaned the bathroom, bedroom, and floors. She wanted to wash some clothes for her trip back to Mexico. I took her down the hallway in perfect peace now that she had met George, I didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

I showed her how the washing machine worked and she was impressed at how easy it was to do the laundry in Canada. I couldn’t help myself and asked, “Why don’t you just move here and every Monday would be this easy?”

“Hah! Your dad would never move here, you know that.”

“Yes, I know.”

I began to really enjoy my time with her. I had never had an opportunity to be completely alone with her and talk to her the way I had. We baked tweeback, ironed, and folded her dresses, ate beans and tweeback for supper, and then she started the dreaded talk about going to church.

She wanted to go to church and see what it would be like to visit the Old Colony church in Canada. And that’s when things took a downhill turn. She wanted me to go to church with her. Click here to continue reading my story.

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