Thursday, November 26, 2015

Angry Mennonite


Continued from Tipsy Mennonite

When I saw those cowboys standing there in front of us I thought, “Okay, what the heck am I drinking that I would imagine this to be so real?”  But then one of them said, “Anna? Ha li dietschjat, dot kon ekj masnich gliven dot ekj di hea ha getrafen (Anna? Holy smokes, I can hardly believe that I have run into you here)”.

I looked at Sam, then George, blinked a few times, and said, “George, please tell me that there aren’t a bunch of cowboys standing there talking to me in Low German.” 

“Anna, you wouldn’t be that delusional from one drink. What you are seeing is in fact happening. Do you know these guys?”

My heart started pounding as I looked back and they were still standing there waiting for me to respond. Just like that my worlds were colliding again and I thought, “Oh crap, I didn’t bring a mason jar.” I knew all of those cowboys from Mexico, especially Aaron, whom I had had many mason jar encounters with.

 Aaron was one of the many reasons I was so afraid to be alone with a man. Back in Mexico, our family didn’t have any cows, and there was only one family that would let us get milk and cream without always paying for it right away. But they lived way the other side of the colony.

Our mom often sent one of us to that family to get milk and cream. My brothers and sisters thought that it was way too embarrassing that we couldn’t always pay for it, so they just wouldn’t do it. I was volunteered to take on that task because I was brave enough to do it.

I was just about thirteen years old when it all started. One day on my way home from that house with a mason jar of cream, it was almost dark. The family had been late milking the cows because they had gone to Patos shopping that day, and I’d had to wait until they were done milking before they filled the jar.

On my way home I walked as fast as I could in the middle of the street. That night when I was about halfway home, Aaron jumped out from behind a cement fence, grabbed me, and pulled me behind it. I’ll never forget what he said to me: “Stop fighting me, Anna. Sooner or later someone is going to do this to you, and you’ll never get away from it. Nobody does.”

I was scared to death and my heart was pounding out of my chest as I grabbed that mason jar, whacked him with it as hard as I could, and ran home like the devil was chasing me himself.

When I got home, my mom asked what had taken me so long and why I was out of breath. I explained to her that they’d been late milking, and on my way home I’d thought I had seen the jriese diesta (ogre of the darkness). I ran home because I thought that the jriese diesta was chasing me.  

That was the first of many encounters like that. I learned quickly that Aaron was only brave enough to do that at night or if he was alone with a girl. Luckily, he wasn’t that much stronger than me, and I usually had a mason jar with me.  I always managed to get away from him.

I often felt sad and wondered if other girls were able to fight him off because I knew that there were many other girls. Often ‘the bunch’ (the youth group) would meet up at his house on Sundays, because his sisters had a really nice room where we met up with everybody.

I often heard Aaron’s mom say “Schmock senn (Be good)” to him on his way out the door. He would laugh and say, “Oh, I will be great, especially to the girls I meet today.”

One Sunday when we girls met up at Aaron’s house I was wearing my new favorite green dress that I had made myself. I was so proud of this dress because I had even ironed the pleats into it myself. I had made matching green bows for my hat, hair and socks. I thought I was so stylish, sitting on that wooden bench looking a bit different from all the rest of the girls in Aaron’s sister’s room.

I never wore those green bows again after that Sunday. Aaron had come and sat down beside me. I knew he wouldn’t try anything because there were too many people around. He moved really close to me and asked, “Do you have a green bow on your underwear, too?”

I was so embarrassed I turned beet red and all I could think of was, “Man, I could really use a mason jar again right now.”

I was especially shocked to see Aaron at that club in Canada because his parents were so against coming to Canada. They were respected Old Colony people who followed the rules in the way they dressed and in most other areas. It was known that they thought going to Canada was wrong and none of their kids would ever be allowed to go.

I remembered how many times I lay awake at night saying all of my memorized prayers in my head, over and over, in hopes that that would rid me of my hate for Aaron. That never worked -- at least not in the way I hoped it would. When I saw him that night at the club, I wanted to throw up.

I had thought that I would never have to see him again. But there he was, standing right in front of me, and beside him stood another cowboy of a well-respected Old Colony family.       

This cowboy just got out from serving a five year sentence in a Texas prison. The stories that went around the colonies were that this cowboy drove someone else’s car across the border into the U.S. The cowboy had had no idea, but apparently the car had had something illegal hidden in it, and the border patrol found it. But he couldn’t prove that it wasn’t his and had to serve the time in prison.

“I can’t believe my eyes. You look a bit older, but I could spot you from across the dance floor even through the smoke. You look the same as I remember you, Anna,” said Aaron.

I looked at George and thought, “Oh great! I really need to change my look and get a tattoo or something so people don’t recognise me that easily, especially these people.” George looked back at me and made some confusing facial expressions I hadn’t seen before, followed by a smiled.

I thought, “Mason jar, mason jar, and mason jar,” as Aaron moved closer to me so the others couldn’t hear him as he continued in Low German, “Anna, do you remember Diedrich? You know the one who went to ‘life school’ in Texas?”

“Yes, I remember, and I remember many other things, too.”

“Oh, me too, and we will talk about that another time. Diedrich is really shy around so many people because he just got out of… you know, ‘life school,’ in Texas three days ago. He thinks you turned out pretty hot, and he hasn’t schmunjed since he got locked up five years ago. He wants to talk to you alone,” he said.

My blood began to boil when I realised what was happening. He was trying to pawn me off to his cowboy buddy. My anger meter reached its limits. I imagined smashing a mason jar against something.

Image courtesy of High-speed photography


I thought that I had left all that behind me and I was living in a completely different world. But the world I thought I had left behind had followed me all the way to that club. On the one night that was supposed to be my special night, to celebrate my learning success. My Low German anger meter busted.

“Really, he wants to talk to me, alone? And he thinks I’m pretty hot, does he?” I asked in Low German.

“Yes.”

What ticked me off even more was that I had never learned how to handle that. Lying awake at night and saying all the prayers I knew hadn’t help them to stay away. I thought, “I am a really bad person for thinking like this, but I need to figure something else out.”

I was so glad that George didn’t understand a word of what was going on. He noticed that I was starting to act strangely different. He put his arm on my shoulder and asked if everything was okay.

I put my hand on his and moved closer to his ear so the cowboys couldn’t hear what I was telling him and said, “It will be, as long as you stay here with me.”

He winked at me and said, “You got it. I’m not moving.” I was so tempted to just grab George’s face and kiss him right then and there, just like I had imagined it many times. To show those cowboys that I was brave, that I had a say in what was happening to me, and that I was making my own decisions now. I got so nervous just thinking about it I got all shaky because I know I didn’t have it in me.

I thought, “Okay, forget that idea. I need to buy myself some time to think about what to do and how to handle this in a way that they will never forget. And that I am braver than they think.”  I got up and told the cowboys in Low German that I would come over to their table a bit later to talk to them about where I would meet Diedrich alone.

They looked at each other, nodded their heads, and walked back to their table on the other side of the dance floor.

I began to feel like I was going to have a heart attack again from all my emotions being yanked around like that.

Sam said, “I’m guessing you know those guys from Mexico?”

“Yes, Sam, you are really good at guessing,” I answered.

“Do you want to talk about what just happened here?” George asked.

“I need to go to the bathroom first,” I answered.

“Okay, Anna.”

I went to the bathroom and splashed my face with cold water again. I went into a stall, locked the door and sat on the toilet. As I was talking myself out of crying again, and in the midst of all my anger, I had a lightbulb moment. I thought I had finally figured it out.

I thought, “I know what the problem is. These guys have learned how to treat girls from watching cattle. They are treating girls exactly like the bulls treat the cows.” That thought was immediately followed by, “Wow, take it easy Anna! These are probably your nerve problems talking.”

After I told myself how terrible I was for thinking that, I thought of a perfect plan to trick these cowboys. I got so excited and nervous at the same time as I thought of what exactly I was going to do.

I took a few deep breaths as I walked out of the bathroom with my plan in mind. I went straight over to the table where the cowboys were sitting. I turned around and waved at George so he could see where I was. One of the cowboy friends in his broken English asked, “Why don’t you just ditch that schwien noagel and sit with us? Since you wouldn’t marry someone like that anyways.”

Me fua die wut nenn (That made me so mad), I worked up the nerve to ask, “Really? How is he the schwien noagel in all of this? And what are you guys?” They all looked at each other, started laughing, and Aaron said, “Just look at him.”

“Just look at you guys.” I was bursting with anger because I just couldn’t get them to see, or give a damn about how wrong they were. I thought, “Okay, they leave me no choice. I just have to go ahead with my plan.”  Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tipsy Mennonite



My arm was shaking, it felt incredibly heavy as I lifted it and reached over to place it in his hand that was patiently waiting for me to accept the dance. I just look down at my feet and thought, “Oh, no, no, no, this is going to end badly,” as he guided me to the dance floor.

He walked me all the way across the dance floor as far away from Christina and her friends as possible. He stopped, put his right arm around my waist, and hugged me right up against him. He put his head right up against my cheek and repositioned my hand in his left hand.

He slowly began moving and guiding me around on the dance floor. As I felt his cheek sliding against mine toward my ear, I thought, “Oba, Anna, what are you doing? You shouldn’t be doing this.” He whispered in my ear, “Just breathe, Anna.” I took a breath, closed my eyes, and just focused on my breathing. I allowed myself to get lost in the words of the song flowing through the air.


I felt so warm. The words of the song led me to imagine that dancing -- or George dancing me -- was what I imagined it would feel like to float in the middle of the sea and feel the warmth of the summer breeze blowing over my skin instead of being afraid of drowning. 

I caught myself imagining it so much that for a moment I had forgotten where I was.

That was until the next song started playing -- it was Free Fallin. George kept dancing me as my thoughts flew across the United States to Mexico straight to the memory of that hopeless Sunday in my colony, when I heard that song the first time. I went back to feeling awkward and that what I was doing was wrong, especially when I heard Jesus being mentioned in the song.

It had been such an emotional day I had been fighting the tears back all day and they were right there, ready to burst at any time. I managed to push them back down again while I forced my thoughts back to the present. I talked myself into just enjoying the moment as George’s muscular arms were wrapped around me, moving and gliding me around that dance floor.

I closed my eyes and went back to imagining that I was floating in warm ocean water and that I wasn’t afraid of drowning. And my thoughts drifted off to “How is it even possible that people who aren’t even that different from me live such different lives? Stop it! Go back to floating, Anna!”

When that song ended and a fast song started, Christina and all her friends came back to the dance floor as George and I walked back to the table. I went to the bathroom, splashed my face with cold water, and had a little talk with myself in the mirror: “Anna, don’t even think about crying here.”

I walked back to that table, cool as a cucumber, and sat back down beside George. I took a sip of my water and dared to look up at him, he winked at me as he asked if I was okay. My coolness melted away and I thought, “Crap, he can see right through me. I can’t hide from him.”

“Yes, I am okay, how are you doing?” I asked, to try and talk about him, not me.

“Oh, I’m great.”

The waitress came back to take more orders as Christina’s friends came back from the dance floor. They ordered all kinds of shooters. George ordered water and when I looked at him he said, “Two beers is my limit.”

Everybody else was drinking shooters, laughing, shouting and dancing to the music. The club got really crowded, groups of beautiful women dressed in short skirts and high heels came walking in like they belonged there.

A few of them waved at George and gave me a strange stare down. I began to feel like I was way too under- yet over-dressed in my long skirt and shalduak-looking ensemble that I was wearing. I looked over at George and said, “Wow, they are so beautiful. You know them?”

“Yes, I went to highschool with them. Don’t let their looks fool you, it’s only from the outside,” he said.

Those girls were on the dance floor for fifteen minutes before a couple of guys got into a fight over them. I had never seen anything like it. These two big guys dressed in black suits jumped out of nowhere, grabbed the guys who were fighting, dragged them to the door, and threw them out.

I just sat there and watched what everybody was doing. Some of Christina’s friends were getting really drunk. One of the guys fell down on the dance floor, got up, dusted himself off, and walked over to our table. He grabbed his beer, held it up and yelled, “Let the f#cking weekend begin!” He chugged the whole beer, slammed the bottle on the table and yelled, “Yeaaaah man!” as he was hitting his chest.

I looked at George and he tilted his head, raised his eyebrow and asked, “You see what I mean?”

I laughed and said, “Yes, now I do.”

“Just let me know when you have had enough and we can leave.”

I said, “Okay,” and asked, “How long are you allowed to stay here? I mean, until what time do people stay?”

“Around one or two o’clock, when they stop serving alcohol, turn the lights on and the music off,” he answered.

“Wow.”

A group of people from work showed up including my supervisor and the guy I was supposed to call if I wanted to experience the time of my life. It was so strange to see them outside of work, they looked so different.

I thought “Oh no! Oh crap! Oh no!” as my supervisor come walking over toward us. He shook George’s hand then looked at me and said, “Hey Anna, how are you doing?”

“I am good,” I answered, looking at his shoulder because I was too afraid to make eye contact. The time-of-my-life guy made his way over toward us and said, “Hey, Anna, you’re here?”

“Yes, yes I am.”

“Awesome!” he said as he drank from his beer.

I had no idea what his name was. I would call him Dude because that was what I thought of whenever I saw him, since most of the time every other word he said was dude. Until Derek the supervisor said, “Take it easy on that beer, Sam.”

Christina saw that those guys were talking to me and came over to check if everything was okay. I instantly loved her even more because in spite of dealing with her own problems, she still paid attention and took the time to check on me to make sure I was okay.

“I have to go to the bathroom, you want to go?” she asked me.

“Okay.”

I got up and followed her to the bathroom and watched her fix her hair and put more lipstick on. “How was the dance?” she asked.

“Well, I didn’t really dance -- it was mostly George moving me around the floor. At first it was a bit awkward, but when I just listened to the words of the song I got lost in it. It was… warm.”

She laughed as she handed me the lipstick and said, “That’s great, Anna. I hope my friends aren’t too much for you. They can really get carried away sometimes, especially when they drink too much.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Just being here is strange for me, but luckily I have George keeping me company,” I answered as I took her lipstick and put some on.

“So am I. I’m sorry I haven’t been sitting with you that much, it’s just that there are so many people I haven’t seen in a long time and I think I am getting a little tipsy myself.”

“Don’t worry about me. Really, as long as I have George by my side, I will be okay.”

We looked at each other, both took a deep breath, and walked back to the table.

The club was so packed we had to squeeze ourselves through the crowed to get back to our table. I got worried when I got back to the table and George wasn’t there. I sat down hoping that Sam the Dude wasn’t going to come over while I was sitting there, alone, awkward and vulnerable without George.

I just stared at the dance floor. I began thinking about Sam’s offer and what exactly showing me a time of my life meant. I thought to myself, “Stop it, Anna! It can’t be anything good. These brave thoughts happening because of that drink. I think I need to go home now.”

“Where are you, George?” I thought when I spotted Sam and quickly looked away, holding my breath, hoping that it would help me seem invisible. But I could feel him walking toward me as I took a breath. I was beginning to feel light-headed again. I just looked around anywhere but Sam’s direction and took a sip of my water. 

Dios mio, I hope he doesn’t show me a time of my life right now. Nothing I was doing or hoping for was helping. He managed to make his way through the big crowd to that table, sat down right in front of me, and said, “Anna! You are here?”

“Ahhh… yes, I am.” I answered as I thought, “Dreiet mie daut soo sea fonn een drink (Am I that tipsy from one drink)? Or did he already ask me that earlier?”

“It’s so good to see you out. How are you doing?” he asked.

“Okay, I am okay.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.

As I nervously thought, “Oh, crap!” I said, “Ahhh… I’m not sure.”

He tilted his head and asked, “You’re not sure?”

“No, well, I do have friends who are boys. That I am sure of.”

He laughed and said, “Okay, okay, I’m guessing that this is the first time you have been to a club like this, is it?”

“Yes.”

“Wow, so what do you think? Are you having a good time?”

“Yes, the few minutes in between feeling like I’m about to pass out or I’m having a heart attack.”

He laughed and said, “I can only imagine. But with a boyfriend or friend like George around, you should be safe even from passing out or having a heart attack. He is a great guy, he would know exactly what to do to save you. He’s just that kind of a guy.”

I thought, “This is my chance to ask about George, just to see what he will tell me about him.”

“That’s good to know, and I think so, too. How do you know George?”

“I’ve known him for a long time. We went to school together, pretty much since kindergarten. He was always the smart one, telling the rest of us to ‘smarten up, don’t be f#cking stupid’ whenever we did something we weren’t supposed to do.”

I began feeling guilty for thinking that he might have ditched me. I hadn’t met one person that had anything bad to say about George. And I heard George’s voice from behind me. “Sam, what is going on over here?”

“Hey, George. Nothing, I was just talking to Anna, what’s up?” Sam said.

George sat back down beside me and said, “Sorry, Anna, I didn’t mean to take so long. I ran into a friend, but I knew you would be able to handle yourself no problem. Here, I brought you another drink, but with no alcohol.”

“Thanks,” I said and took a sip of the drink. When I looked up I thought, Oba ha li dietschjat. I was lost for words when I saw who was standing there in front of me in the flesh. Click here to continue reading my story.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brave Mennonite visits a night club


Continued from Mennonite Achiever

I met up with Christina and George again at the cake table where a woman served us each a piece of cake and a drink. As we were eating the cake George asked, “Well, how does it feel?”

“Great! Way better than what I imagined it would be like getting one of those perfect attendance awards from work,” I answered.

“What, you imagined getting one of those?”

“I sure did. I even imagined the speech Hilary would give before he gave it to me . . . well, mostly his voice. Please don’t tell Bree about this. She would roll her eyes right out of her head if she heard about this.”

He laughed so hard he almost choked on his cake and said, “Don’t worry I won’t tell her, but you are right about that, she actually would.”

I laughed and said, “Thanks. And you know something, it wasn’t so much getting that award that I imagined. I just really wanted one so I could hang it on the wall to show that I was good at something. But this was way better.”

“Well you’re right about that. This is so much better. This will actually get you ahead in life. That perfect attendance is crap! People come into work half dead, sick as a dog to keep their perfect attendance. And they don’t even get a raise or anything. All they get is a f#cking piece of paper.”

I just stared at him.

“Ah! Sorry, I got a little passionate there.” 

“That’s okay.”

“Hey, are you guys ready to go party?” Christina asked.

“Ahhh… I think,” I answered as I looked at George.

“I’ll go wherever Anna is going,” George said.

I went to say thankyou to my teacher one more time and that I would see her on Monday morning.

“You are most welcome, Anna. You are such a hardworking, intelligent young women. You should be so proud of yourself. Enjoy your weekend and I will see you on Monday,” she said.

And I had to fight back the tears again after hearing those words coming from my teacher while I said bye to her.

Christina parked the car on a busy street near the club. I was worried about leaving my papers in the car because I thought someone might steal them. George reassured me that no one would steal those papers. But after he saw the look on my face he suggested that we put it into the glove compartment and lock it. I thought that was the best idea ever.

“I shouldn’t be doing this. I should go home. This is not a place for me,” I thought at the same time as I felt the butterflies in my stomach come to life while we walked into the club. The music was so loud. There was smoke everywhere the bright lights shone.

George and I followed Christina to a table where some people were already sitting. After they got up and all hugged Christina, she introduced them to us and we sat down behind the table. When the waitress came to the table one of Christina’s friends said, “The first round is on me,” and everyone ordered a drink.

Everybody knew exactly what they wanted. When it was my turn I said, “Ahhh… what she is having,” and I pointed to Christina.

The waitress asked, “You want a brown cow?”

I thought, “Oh great! Why do I always get picked on?” and I said, “Ahhh… No! I don’t want a cow, I would like a drink.” 

She started laughing and then George came to my rescue and ordered me a piña colada.

I gave George a disappointed look and asked, “A brown cow, why does this always have to happen to me?”

He explained that a brown cow was a drink mixed with milk and kahlua.

“Ew, that sounds terrible, thanks for helping me again,” I said.

“Yeah, I didn’t think you would like that kind of drink. And you’re welcome, sweetie,” he said as he winked at me.

I thought, “I am just going to keep talking and pretend that that wink doesn’t affect me one bit.” But my cheeks felt like they were on fire. I quickly looked down so he wouldn’t notice and asked, “Have you been here before?”

“Yes, a few times. I only come here when I get invited by someone I like spending time with, but this is not really my scene. I don’t particularly enjoy watching people get shitfaced and act all stupid. But most people who come here think that’s the only way to have a good time. That’s just not my idea of a good time,” he explained.

Before I had a chance to respond, my heart dropped to the floor when I heard the same Celine Dion song blasting through the air that Christina had dedicated to Richard at his funeral. Everybody stopped talking and I held my breath.

Christina ran to the bathroom and a few of her friends followed her. I was relieved to know that her other friends were looking after her. I still had no idea what to say to her when she was having a hard time.

Everybody at that table just sat there in awkward silence. As the song ended the waitress came with the drinks. I had no idea what the drink was that George ordered for me. George looked at me with one eyebrow raised and held his breath until I took a sip of it.

I put the drink down and said, “Stop it George! You’re turning blue.”

He let out a big sigh and said, “Your behaviour is rubbing off on me. I was hoping that if I held my breath you would like the drink I ordered for you.”

“You know that holding your breathe won’t change the outcome, right?” I said.

“Hmmm, where did you hear that?”

“Ahhh… Oh you know, my scary neighbour told me that.”

“Oh yeah, tell me more about this scary neighbour of yours. Why is he so scary?”

As I felt my heartbeat speeding up I thought, “Oh I shouldn’t play along. I should stop before I say something really stupid and embarrass myself. Ahhh, what do I say, the tattoos? He swears a lot? The long hair? Just say something Anna! One of them!”

“Ahhh, because he swears a lot,” and held my breath until he started talking. I slowly started breathing so he wouldn’t notice and thought, “Smooth, Anna! Real smooth. This is going to end badly.”

“I know, he has a habit of real bad language sometimes, but he knows that there is a time and place for that. You know something? My neighbour holds her breath and thinks people don’t notice, but they do, just so you know,” he said, winked at me and drank from his beer.

I was so embarrassed I turned beet red again as we both started laughing. I had no comeback -- nothing -- and I thought to myself, “I should know better than to play along with something I know I won’t get out of. Great, Anna, just great.”

George noticed my awkwardness and rescued me from myself.

“I think holding in what you feel is worse than letting out. I think my neighbour should try it sometime. She might know that it feels really good to just let out what she really feels and call it what it is. But of course only at an appropriate time and place,” and winked at me.

I dug deep but all I could say was, “Well ahhh…”

“So how is that drink that your scary neighbour ordered for you?” he asked.

As he was sitting there, patiently waiting, enjoying himself, watching me sweat, I said, “Well…” and he held his breath again. I thought fast and hard before I answered. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I thought I might pass out before I got the words out. I took a deep breath and cleared my throat and finally, in a shaky voice I said, “This drink is f#cking awesome, I really love it.”

He took a deep breath and shouted yes! as he gave me a high five. We both laughed for a while then he asked, “How does that feel?”

“Ahhh… I am not sure yet.”

“Okay, but please don’t tell your mom that I got you to say that.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I answered, as Christina and her friends came back to the table and then there was that awkward silence again. Until the song Macarena came on and everybody went to dance.

Christina’s friends dragged her to the dance floor. One of her friends asked if I wanted to dance and said, “Oh no! I can’t dance, you go ahead.”

She looked at George and he shook his head and said, “Not a chance.”

“You don’t dance?” I asked.

“Not to this, anyways.”

I was so relieved that he wasn’t going to dance because then I would have stayed sitting there all by myself. I had never danced and I was not going to embarrass myself in front of all those beautiful, fancy dressed-up people.

The piña coloda was starting to kick in. I was feeling light, warm and brave. Out of nowhere I asked George, “Have you seen Bree lately? Do you think she will come here tonight?” And I realised that I should not have asked about her but it was too late.

“Oh f#ck, no, and I hope she doesn’t show up here tonight. I haven’t spoken to her since the day you ran for the door at work, which by the way I am still curious to know what she told you that made you do that.”

I thought, “Oh no, I knew it was a bad idea to bring her up, you are a real schlopmets, Anna.”

“It’s not a big deal, don’t worry about that. I can’t tell you. I would die of shame if I repeated what she said.”

“Oh crap, Anna, now you got me even more curious. But I guess I will just have to suffer because I do not want your death on my hands. The last thing I need is having your Mennonite peeps come after me.”

I laughed and said, “Yeah, especially one of my aunts, she would probably want to spank you.”

He looked at me with one eyebrow raised and took a breath. He was going to say something but he stopped himself and just started laughing as the waitress came back to take more orders.

He ordered another beer and I asked for a water. “Are you sure you don’t want another drink?” George asked.

“Yeah, I am sure, I think I am getting a little too brave here.”

“Okay.”

I took a sip of the water, put it on the table as I thought “I wish I could erase what I just said about my aunt but all I can do is hope that he won’t keep talking about that and steer this conversation in a different direction.|” I asked, “So what kind of music do you dance to then?”

“Well I would dance with you to a good slow song, since you asked.” 

My heart skipped a beat as I thought “What?”

He laughed and said, “No, I am serious, would you dance with me to a slow song?”

“Ahhh… I have never danced before. I am serious. I don’t know how to dance. I am not messing with you.”

“It’s not hard, Anna, can I show you when the next song comes on?”

The butterflies in my stomach were going insane as I began to get tempted to accept.

“Ahhh… I shouldn’t dance. I ahhh… I don’t think that is a good idea.”

He looked right into my eyes and said, “Please.”

It went all quiet and all I could hear was my heart pounding. Everybody came back to the table and sat down, the lights went dim and a song called “Truly Madly Deeply” came on that I had never heard before. George got up, put one hand on his back, bowed in front of me and put his other hand out toward me.

I gave Christina a scared help me look, she just nodded her head and said, “Go, Anna, GO.” My heart was beating so fast, I felt really light headed. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Click here to continue reading my story.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mennonite Achiever


Continued from Dark Mennonite

“Would you?” I asked.
“If you think that that’s going to help you, then yes I will.”

“Okay,” I said as I took another deep breath and washed my hands to begin cooking.

“Anna, we could always just order a pizza or something. You don’t have to cook, you know.”

“I know, but I actually really enjoy cooking. I want to make komstborscht, I have been craving it again. Cooking food I used to eat at home makes me feel like I am still part of my family. It makes me feel a little bit less guilty for leaving.”

“Okay, Anna, then you should make that comestarch or whatever you call it.”

I half cried and laughed while I began chopping cabbage. He sat back down on the floor, crossed his legs, flicked his hair over his shoulders and began reading out loud.

It's important to know that the grieving process for a loved one who takes their own life can be dramatically different from most other types of death. While we understand how heart disease, old age, or car accidents work, the path to suicide happens largely internally.

The key is to talk about it and get every emotion: sadness, anger, and others off your chest.

He paused and looked up at me and I just gave him a blank stare. He cleared his throat and continued reading.

Remember that your loved one did not mean to upset you. They felt they needed to die to get away from themselves or a situation they could not control any more, not you.

He looked up again with one eyebrow raised and I still just stared at him. He pulled his fingers through his hair and continued.

Remember that it is okay to cry. Someone you loved has died it is natural to grieve them just as you would anyone else. The fact that they committed suicide is just an extra factor to your bereavement.

You should try to not think about how they died or time of their suicide at all. Thinking about it will only make you feel worse and the suicide will most likely haunt you in your dreams. Not being able to let go is most unhealthy. Remember to grieve, it's healthy.

Breathe, love, and live. The loved one would not like for you to be sad about them not being here anymore. They would want to see you successful and proud of where you have gone and done with your life.

He paused, peeked up at me with his eyebrow raised.

“What does bereavement and grieve mean?” I asked.

He put the book down and began explaining the concept of grieving to me. After he explained it in his own words I realised that I had done the right thing, picking up that book. It confirmed what I was feeling and that my nightmares were normal.

As we ate komstborscht and tacos he continued talking about what he read to me and told me that that book was written by a doctor who works with and helps people deal with this kind of stuff.

“Okay, thank you for explaining this to me. I understand it much better now,” I said.

I realised that in spite of being told all my life that I had severe nerve problems, it was perfectly normal that I was still having a difficult time letting go. Especially whenever I saw or heard a windmill. That sound brought me right back to the night after my grandfather hung himself. I realised that windmills would forever remind me of where I was with those feelings. 

He said, “You’re welcome, sweetie,” and winked at me as he continued eating. “You are an amazing cook, Anna. This meal is delicious, thank you for making this and inviting me to stay for dinner.”

I turned all red -- I wasn’t used to being complimented on something that was expected of me ever since I could remember. I was not sure how to respond to so many compliments, especially coming from a man. I had never heard a man compliment a woman on her cooking skill in my colony. Most of us girls in the colony were cooking meals, making big batches of dough, and baking on our own by the time we were seven years old.

“You really think so?” I asked.

“Absolutely, Anna, you are an amazing cook. I’m serious, I am not bullshitting -- you should be proud of that,” he answered.

I nervously laughed and said, “Okay.”

When we finished eating, as he began to do the dishes, he asked where I would hang my award.

I told him that I would like to hang it right above the bookshelf that he gave me for my birthday, but that I didn’t have anything to hang it with.

“I hope it stops snowing by tomorrow night,” I said.

“I’m sure it will, don’t worry about that right now. After I finish the dishes I will go grab my tool kit and put a nail in the wall where you want to hang your award,” he explained.

I lined up all the library books on the shelf while he went home to get his tools. When he finished putting the nail in I sat down on the floor opposite it and stared at it. I took a moment to imagine what it would look like hanging there.

George picked up the book and continued reading to me but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore -- I kept falling asleep. When he realised it he got up and told me that I should just go to sleep. He would read the rest of the book to me another time.

I slept all the way through until the next morning and didn’t even dream of drifting on the water to Posen Land. My alarm clock radio they said that it had stopped snowing but all the schools were closed that day. That news made me so happy -- I really needed that break.

Christina called to tell me that she would pick us up later on, and asked if we would like to go to a club after to celebrate. She told me that a bunch of her friends were going to meet us there.

I said, “Sure.”

I made myself a nice comfy seat with blankets on the floor and an instant coffee and started reading. I thought about how much I enjoyed reading and that I would never be bored again from that moment on. I decided that I would read every minute of my free time. I read the entire day until I had to get ready for the award ceremony.

After I put on dark purple nail polish that I got from Bree I tried on every piece of clothing that I owned. I finally I decided on a white tee-shirt, a black long vest type of thing that reminded me of a schaldüak, and long sporty skirt with white stripes on the sides of it.

I put my hair up into a messy bun, put on some lipstick and a necklace that was among the stuff Bree had given me. The necklace looked to me like a tattoo around my neck. It was important to me that I didn’t look anything like a Mennonite. I wanted to blend in with the crowd, especially if I was going to a club after.

I felt nervous, anxious and butterflies all at the same time, sitting on the passenger side while Christina drove. George talked to us the whole way there, sitting in the middle back seat with his elbows resting on either side of the back of our seats. I was shaking with nervousness as we walked into the building. There were a lot more people than I had expected, but then again, I had no idea what to expect.

We sat down in the front row. I was so glad that I had invited George because all I had to do was look at him and remember to breathe. When the principal went up to introduce my teacher, my heart started beating out of my chest. Everybody started clapping as my teacher walked up that stage. When she began talking about me my heart skipped a beat.

I thought “breathe, Anna; breathe.” 

When Anna Wall first came into my classroom, she made an impression on me because she had come to Canada only three years earlier, not knowing any English. She had no schooling other than her grade eight German, yet she was speaking English fluently. Anna was determined to work on her literacy and numeracy skills during the day, rushing off to her full time job after class.

In a number of months Anna successfully completed her basic skills and is entering a credit program. 

Anna’s ability to come to Canada without her family at such a young age and her willingness to immerse herself in the world of learning has demonstrated her courage and dedication despite adversity. She is kind and gentle with fellow students, showing friendliness and warmth while she diligently works.

With her usual determination and foresight, Anna speaks of taking more than the necessary courses for her future so school and job choices will be an open road.

I feel honoured to present you with this Life Long Learning award, Anna. You are certainly a most worthy candidate! Congratulations!

All I heard after that was the loud pounding of my heartbeat. It took everything in me to fight back the tears as I walked up to that stage to receive that award. On the way, walking up to that stage, I remembered the first day I walked to school, how I focused on putting one foot in front of the other, and did the same.

My teacher gave me a hug, shook my hand and said, “I am so proud of you, Anna,” as she handed me the paper with her speech written on it and award. I was speechless. I took the award and the paper, held it against my chest, and said, “Thank you,” in a shaky voice. I just couldn’t say anything else. I knew that the tears would start pouring down my face if I did.

I worked up the courage to look up at the people as they all began to clap. I just focused on George’s face as it reminded me to breath. I got weak in the knees watching all those people who had been strangers to me just a short time ago and now they were all so proud of me. I didn’t feel worthy of that.

“One foot in front of the other,” I thought as I walked back down from that stage. I got hugged by so many people that night. Even teachers I had never met before hugged me and said congratulations.

One teacher came over and introduced herself to me and told me that she was looking forward to having me in her grade nine class. I told her that I thought I wouldn’t be ready. She said that she was confident that I would be able to do it.

I asked her if that would be in the next year or so and she said, “Oh, no, Anna, you will be joining my class starting in four weeks. It starts in the middle of January.”

“Oh, okay. Wait, what?” I asked.

“Don’t worry, Anna, you will do just fine. We are so excited, we have never had a student in this school to go from being illiterate to grade nine in just three months’ time. It shows that you are eager to learn and you do the work that it takes to get it done, no matter how hard it is.” 
The way that teacher reassured me that I was ready for grade nine, I realised that I liked her as much as the teacher I had had up to that point and that made all the difference. She gave me the courage I needed to start thinking that I could actually do grade nine. Click here to continue reading my story.

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