Friday, January 1, 2010

Mennonite in Costco jeans reads ...

... and loved it.
If you were born in the '60's, have a last name that rhymes with schmeizen, schmause, schmoerksen, or schmebert ... you will probably enjoy it too.

Rhoda was raised in a Menno community in California, that seems to me, could just as easily be on the outskirts of Winkler, Manitoba. Her parent's lifestyle seems more like my grandparent's lifestyle, but whatever. Her and I are roughly the same age; OK she might be a year or four younger than me but what's 48 months? Nothing in light of eternity.

She has a wicked sense of humor, is divorced, has a phd but no children and wrote her memoir while on an extended visit to her parent's place in California. (I'm guessing Fresno.) She took a cooking course in France, sews her own jeans, brings hollapse (pronounced hull up see) to potluck dinners, and ends up dating a 27 year old Friesen boy who drives a crotch rocket and banters with her about his Oma (who set them up). (I have just spent the past half hour searching the internet to see if she is still dating him. Absolutely NO information on her personal life anywhere. What a useless research tool this intraweb thing is.) I tempted to ask her to be my friend on facebook. Maybe she and I can wall talk.

Rhoda (I'm calling her that because it's her name, and I feel like we're sisters) left the Mennos behind when she went to grad school. She hooked up a bi-polar atheist and supported him through 15 years of marriage until he left her for a guy named Bob that he met on (I just checked. There is such a site.) By the way, this is all from the first paragraph of the cover sleeve - I'm not spoiling the story by telling you this.

Know what I love about her? The way she makes fun of the Mennonites. And I'm OK with her doing so because she loves us and IS one of us. Someone named O'Leary could not pull this off. O'Leary would come across as mean spirited if he were to write, "As a people, they are pale as porkchops, flavored by centuries of inbreeding and shame." But when she says it, "As a people WE are pale as pork chops..." see what I mean?

Because I was reading my mom's copy of the book, I couldn't underline my fav parts. So I posted sticky notes on the pages I loved. I used a whole pad of yellow sticky notes, so the last chapters are decorated with pink post-its.

Here are a few:

What is it about being Mennonite that teaches little girls not to challenge authority?
Show me a Mennonite woman, and I'll show you a woman who sucks at asserting herself in her personal life.

(Rhoda and her sister Hannah were talking about Rhoda's 15 year marriage to a fella who behaved badly through most of it. She is saying, now, in retrospect, she should have said, "No matter how I feel about him, I will not expose myself to his damage." He refused to take depression or bipolar meds and consequently had horrific rages.) I'm wondering if we stay in bad marriages longer than we should because of the whole "for better or worse" thing we promise at the altar? When we end up with 15 years of "worse" we cloak ourselves with the martyr jacket.

Regarding being told by a teacher that she was to dance in the school's talent event:
As appalled as I was, I would have done whatever Mr. Handwerker had asked. I didn't know how to resist. I wasn't even aware that resistance existed as an option.

I love Rhoda's mom. Mary. Mary Janzen. When Rhoda noticed that her two brothers, who stayed Mennonite were far more conservative (read judgmental and critical) than her mom, she asked her about that. Her mom said, "They will mellow over time. When you're young, faith is often a matter of rules. What you should do and shouldn't do, that kind of thing. But as you get older, you realize that faith is really a matter of relationship - with God, with the people around you, and with members of your community."

Here are the first three paragraphs of chapter nine:

I was making myself a tuna salad for lunch in my parent's kitchen, draining the can of tuna into a small bowl. "Hey," I said, "are there any cats in the neighborhood who would appreciate this juice?"
My mother looked at me as if I had entered the final stages of dementia. She swiped the bowl, chugged the tuna juice, and said, "Schmekt gut!"
Then she asked me if I would run to the grocery store for corn on the cob and heavy cream. You can never have enough corn on the cob and heavy cream is what I always say, and it's a pleasure to provide them for a mother who does tuna shooters.

Tuna shooters.
Love that.

There you go.
First book of the new year is a gooder.


My Thots said...

Sounds like a book I'm going to have to read.
Have you read Unlikely Angel? It's the book I'm looking for now. It's about a real life account of the woman who was taken hostage and ended up alive and walking her captive out to the police the next morning.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to talk to you about the book. Mixed feelings....her dad was my favorite professor in college, Edmund Janzen. There was NOBODY like him...even Rand, the pentecostal preacher kid, had such admiration for him and what he taught us. Students waited to get into his classes. Anyways, he has been torn apart by the book, as well as the family. Her brother and I were good friends.