Mennonite Flashback I: Rings and Gloves


CareBear Cliff has given me a diamond ring for Easter, baked in a blueberry muffin with a plastic bunny-rabbit stick on top. It is my first piece of jewelry ever and I’m 25 years old. Imagining everyone is as thrilled as I am, I flash the sparkling stone in front of Grandma Longenecker.

“Look, Grandma!” I say ecstatically, offering my hand for her to inspect the glittering diamond solitaire in a silver setting.

She turns ashen-faced, at the sight. At the moment, she says nothing but her eyes communicate betrayal. I’ve betrayed my heritage and my family values, I quickly gather.

Though she knows I am straddling the fence between Mennonite life and something else, she still sees me as a plain girl, who once adhered to the strict teachings of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference rules of 1968, especially Article III, Section 6 on Attire:  “ . . . brethren and sisters shall not use not wear jewelry or other ornaments.”

My joy bubble has popped and I slowly withdraw my hand, which has figuratively been slapped.

Imagine my surprise and bafflement when years later, she sits my sisters and I down around the kitchen table and produces 3 ring boxes. “Now where did they come from?” I wonder. Apparently hiding in her dresser drawer for decades.

Grandma's ring in her fancy years
Grandma’s ring in her fancy years

Before her marriage to Grandpa Henry, she was fancy, and wore all the regalia of  a fashionable Victorian woman: hats with plumes, dresses with bustle and beadwork—and even a bracelet and RINGS!  Now Janice gets Grandma’s opal engagement ring, Jean gets her larger amethyst ring, and I am bequeathed a lovely one with a smaller amethyst and four seed pearls. Well, I declare.

Grandma before her marriage to Mennonite Henry Longenecker
Grandma before her marriage to Mennonite Henry Longenecker
Oil Paintings of Grandma Longenecker and Great Grandma Martin
Oil Paintings of Grandma Longenecker and Great Grandma Martin

And Gloves

Nowadays casual Fridays last all week long, Presidential candidates have ditched the white shirt and tie to look cool, and ladies don’t wear gloves anymore except for warmth in the wintertime. No longer a fashion statement, women’s gloves appear as curiosities in the dressy section of antique shops or museums.

My collection of old gloves
My collection of old gloves

In my collection of old gloves, the plain and fancy mingle. Guess which pair was worn by one of my attendants at our wedding. The choices are at 10:00 o’clock, 12:00 o’clock, and 3:00 o’clock.

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16 thoughts on “Mennonite Flashback I: Rings and Gloves

  1. I can just imagine both these scenes — feeling slapped and feeling included in an inheritance. We used to think the glittering stones were the definition of beauty. Now we know they can only point to deeper beauty. Lucky you got both.


    1. As our friend Sherrey Meyer would say,”Thanks for stopping by again,” especially since you are in the throes of working through that daunting list of 13 items toward the launch of BLUSH. All I can say is Bravo! for getting this far up the ladder to the top.

      When you get a free moment (ha!) you may also be able to relate to two recent posts:
      Mennonites and Uncle Sam and “It’s No Secret: The Life of Bees and Beamans”

      P. S. We think 3-year-old Crista wore the diamond on her tiny finger as she was going potty, and imagine it was flushed into oblivion. But that’s another story!


  2. I like “fancy” grandma best. Glad you decided to return to your grandmotherly roots. I like to hang out with “fancy” ladies and try on funny hats together. You are the best.


    1. Well, the last time I did that (trying on hats) calamity ensued. I still don’t know what happened to the little framed something or other that fell between the cracks. But I didn’t hear any glass breaking, so I wasn’t inclined to check further.


  3. My mother gave me the gloves she wore as a girl to wear to my junior prom. I made them my own by sewing sequins into a pattern that climbed up the arm.


  4. This post was awesome. I so love history and the way you write about it with such personal emotion.. I also remember insisting on wearing white gloves to my mother’s funeral as an eight year old little girl. My Aunt was furious, but I had only white ones and no black ones and my Grandma let me wear them anyway. I remember when it just was not proper to go out to Church without your Sunday gloves. The jewelry, such a special thing for your grandmother to share with you despite her convictions.


    1. Back then, there was a certain protocol to follow with little deviation from what was thought of as “proper.” I’m glad you can relate to my feelings then. Thank you for adding a reminisce of your own.


  5. I’m sure you were surprised at getting your grandmother’s ring. (And it is beautiful!) As I responded to you on my blog, I’ve always been a bit fascinated by the simplicity of Amish/Mennonite way of life. When I was in fifth grade, I read a book called “Plain Girl.” I believe it was set in Lancaster County (for sure it was in Pennsylvania). The book was about little Amish who wanted to be like the other girls and wear pretty, bright colored dresses. I think I still have the book packed away somewhere.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.


  6. “Well I declare” is an expression that I recognize from my grandmother and aunts, and it wakes up many old, dear memories. Plain or fancy, Marianne, your life is filled with wonderful people and events. Every time I see the women’s fancy old gloves, worn for dress up “go-to-church-or-meetings,” it makes me almost wish for the return style of gloves…almost, but not quite!


  7. Yes, I do recognize that I am blessed. I like to see women of a certain era wearing gloves in movies, but I have no wish to return to those days. Thanks for the comment, Marylin.


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