Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mennonite steps through many doors

Continued from Misunderstood Mennonite

Door image courtesy of Susie Peters Van Hoeve
I felt a nervous sensation traveling all the way down to my toes as I turned around and saw George standing there, with the biggest smile on his face, showing me his perfect beautiful teeth again.
“Hey, how are you?” he asked.
I quickly looked down as I said, “Ah… I’m happy today. Happy that the holidays are finally over and I get to do what is most important to me again.”
“You must be the only person here who is happy that the holidays are over. I’d be careful, happy people can get seriously hurt on a day like today. I have experienced nothing but f#cking misery in here today.”
“Okay,” I answered. Just then Bree came walking in and shouting, “THIS IS A F#CKING SHITHOLE, I WISH THIS PLACE WOULD BURN TO THE F#CKING GROUND!”
I looked at George and he winked at me as he said, “You see what I mean? You might want to steer clear of her today.”
“Okay,” I replied and laughed as the butterflies began dancing around in my stomach while the bell rang. It was time to go to work. I was happy that I got to talk to George even though it was only for a few minutes. I was so relieved to know that he still treated me exactly the same as he did before saw me in that skimpy dress at that New Year’s party.
I listened to George, keeping my joyous feelings to myself, and stayed at my sewing station during the breaks. I just studied for my citizenship test to avoid everyone and learned that John A. Macdonald was not the first president, but the first prime minister of Canada, and memorized the difference.
While reading about the current Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, I began to realize that I hadn’t seen any of the Low German people leave at the end of the day shift and thought: I wonder why none of them came to work today? Then I remembered that it was January sixth and that it was actually a Low German holiday.
I felt bad for not even remembering and working on a holiday. I knew that that was a big sin and I shouldn’t be working, but I thought: It’s too late anyway, and the last thing I need is another holiday as I continued working and studying.
At the end of my shift, I went home feeling happy and accomplished. When I got home I had a message from Sergio in Nuevo Porvenir, Mexico, that my parents had tried to call. I went to bed thinking I’m not even going to get into trouble for working on a holiday because no one who could call Mexico knows about it. I giggled out loud thinking that I had gotten away with it.    
The two weeks leading up to my court date, I was a nervous wreck. I felt that knot growing bigger in my stomach again as I finished up my upgrading class and began to prep for grade nine. I couldn't eat or sleep again.
I decided that shopping for new clothes to wear for my court date was a bad idea. I didn’t want to end up with some ridiculous outfit again. Instead, I decided that I would wear the same skirt I wore at my award ceremony.
The morning finally arrived and I was a complete disaster. Everything I touched fell to the floor or got knocked over and spilled while I was trying to get ready. I couldn't even enjoy my usual cup of instant coffee -- I kept spilling it too.
By the time I had finally gotten dressed I was completely exhausted and just gave up on everything and sat down. As I sat there, thinking I am not going to make it through this day, there was a knock at my door.
I ran to the door, hoping it would be George. And sure enough, it was. When I opened the door and saw him standing there smiling his perfect teeth at me, I knew that the day would still be hard but manageable with him around.
“Good morning, sweetie. How are you doing?” he asked.
I lifted my head up, shook it side to side as I made eye contact for a split second, then dropped my head down again. He walked through the door, closed it, and said, “Oh, Anna, come here,” as he put his arms around me. And just like that, everything was better for a moment.
“So, are you ready? Have you practiced swearing for today?” he laughed.
I didn’t know where to turn my face as I turned all red and I said, “Ah… nooo, no more swearing for me,” in a low, serious, disappointed voice.
“Ah… shit, I’m such an idiot. I’m sorry, Anna. I know that isn’t as funny to you as it is to me. I shouldn’t have asked you that.”
“It’s okay. I am just a big mess today.”
“I can’t even imagine what you are feeling. You want to tell me about it? Ask me anything, anything you want to know. How can I make this day better for you?” he asked.
“You already did by coming over and offering to come with me. You have no idea how much better you have already made my day.”
“I’m glad to hear that. It’s the least I can do. I forgot to ask you the last time I saw you, how is school going for you?”
“School is great. I finished upgrading and I’m starting grade nine on Monday.”
“Holy shit, Anna! That’s amazing. You worked so hard for that, you should be proud of yourself.”
I wasn’t sure where to turn, how to act, or what to do with myself as he was complimenting me on my accomplishments. I just smiled and nodded my head and said, “I know that it’s going to get a lot harder now.”
“You're right, it probably will, but I have no doubt that you will be able to figure it out. Just like you did when you started school. Remember how frightening that was for you?”
“Ah… yeah, I sure do.”
“Did you think you would be able to do all of that in such a short period of time?”
“No! No way, I thought I was going to be in kindergarten my whole life,” I said as I began to feel better and even started giggling.
“So did you go shopping for new clothes for today? I’m just curious because you were all worried about that the other day.”
“No, I decided that I shouldn’t be allowed to shop for new clothes anymore and I am just going to stick with the clothes that I have until figure out my Mennonite sexy balance. Or how did you say that?”
He let his head drop down and said, “Ahhh right! Okay, well, you look great, Anna.”
I knew he was just being nice because I looked terrible. I hadn't slept or eaten in a long time and out of nowhere, the words just fell out of my mouth.
“You know, George, I felt terrible about buying that skimpy dress and wearing it to the New Year’s party. And you know what I thought to myself the day after?”
“What did you think?”
“I decided that it was too hard to be sexy like Christina and that I was just going to stay a hairy f#cking Mennonite and continue to only wear my pleated dresses from that day on.”
“Holy shit, Anna, that’s a bit harsh don’t you think?”
I regretted saying that as soon as I heard the words out loud, but it was too late. He heard every word I had said.
“Well, that should be your choice, whatever you decide, Anna. I can't imagine that it would be easy to drop the way you have dressed and lived for twenty years just like that.”
“I’m sorry if it had anything to do with what I told you at the party. It just bothers me when people act or dress a certain way for other people.”
“Okay, no, that’s okay,” I answered while I began feeling stupid for bringing it up.
We got interrupted by my phone ringing. It was Christina. She had offered to drive us to court. My heart started pounding out of my chest when she said, “I’ll be there to pick you up in five minutes.”
I hung up the phone and looked at George while I held my breath.
“Oh, crap! Breathe, Anna! What is it?”
I suddenly felt so cold and began shaking when it sunk in that it was time to go to court. “Christina will be here in five minutes,” I answered in a frightened shaken up voice.
George came closer, put his arms around me and I immediately started feeling warmer as I inhaled his scent again.
He said, “Anna, just breathe. This day will soon be over and I hope we can laugh about it someday. You are going to be just fine, you are an incredibly strong woman. You have experienced so many heart-stopping moments already and you are going to get through this too.”
I wished that I could melt away at that moment so the feeling would stay with me forever. But my thoughts wouldn’t allow me to enjoy that too long. Incredibly strong woman? No! This whole thing happened because I am an incredibly stupid woman!
But again, like all the other times, I didn’t melt away. That incredible moment in time also passed and it was time for me to go to court.
George took my hand, guided me toward the door, and helped me put my jacket on. He grabbed my keys, guided me through the door, and locked it. He gently took my hand again and we quietly walked down the hallway. All I could hear was my breathing and the echoing sound that our footsteps as we walked toward the second door I was about to walk through that day.
I just stared at that door as it appeared closer and closer. When we finally got to it, George opened it and put his hand on my shoulder to guide me through it. I just continued to stare at the next set of doors. The doors that exited the apartment building onto the street. Where Christina was parked and waiting for us.
George opened that door and guided me through it onto the street. Christina got out of her car, hugged me, kissed my cheek, and looked right into my eyes with a kind of compassion that just about brought me to tear up. George opened the car door for me, waited for me to get in, then closed it and climbed into the back of the car.
A song played on the radio while we drove to the courthouse that haunted me for a long time after: it was “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. I didn’t realize until months later how perfect that song suited my mood that day.
We pulled up to a building that had two big doors facing the street. Christina stopped and put the car in park. While George got out to open the door for me again, Christina placed her hand gently on top of mine, turned to me and said, “Good luck, and don’t worry so much, Anna. George is going to walk you through this. I will be back in about an hour to pick you up, okay?”
I just nodded my head as I fought back the tears and the horrible feeling that that might be the last time I would ever see her. My hand slid out from under hers as I stepped out of the car. George closed the door and we just stood there for a moment and watched Christina drive away.
I turned toward the courthouse doors, then looked at George as he put his arm around my shoulder and took the first step for me. I just followed where he guided me.
Halfway to the doors I stopped and looked up at the Canadian flag to the left of the sidewalk and the Ontario flag to the right. Both of the flags waved at me, standing tall and proud up in the cloud-covered sky.
I continued to follow George’s path by putting one foot in front of the other as the doors appeared closer and closer. A giant police officer walked through the right-hand door and held it open for me while George opened the left-hand door. I stopped and looked at the giant policeman. He smiled and said, “Anna,” and as he took off his cap, I recognized him. It was officer Mike Parsons.
I just stood there and stared at the giant officer, then at George, and back and forth again. I was frozen and I couldn't take one more step. That was until I looked at George again and pictured him in my mind saying, Come on, Anna! Just walk through the doors, we are freezing our f#cking asses off over here. Click here to continue reading my story.

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