7 Things I Do that Remind Me of Home

Over forty years ago I left Lancaster county and my Mennonite life. Though I have visited dozens of times since then, Jacksonville, Florida, has been my home. Nonetheless, every single day I notice myself repeating rituals that reveal the imprint of my early training.

1. Eat pickled eggs – Usually reserved for Sunday dinners and picnics, I eat them for breakfast almost daily now.

Hard-boiled eggs pickled in beet juice
Hard-boiled eggs pickled in beet juice

2.“Outen the light” – I don’t use that Pennsylvania Dutch expression any more, but when no one is in a room, I make sure the light switch is turned off. “Don’t burn a hole in the daylight” is a saying that has burned into my psyche.

3. Wash dishes – Mother never had a dishwasher, except her own hands. Though I’ve had a dishwasher most of my married life, I often wash dishes by hand: fine china, big kettles, forks. Sometimes warm, soapy water is soothing.

Daddy drying dishes - Only on Sundays after church!
Daddy drying dishes – Only on Sundays after church!

4. Re-use aluminum foil –  I never use Reynolds Wrap only once. It is cleaned off, folded and stored for multiple uses. (But I don’t scrape the residue from the wrapper of a stick of butter anymore unless it’s a big hunk. )

5. Tidy up – After retiring from full-time teaching, I dismissed my cleaning lady, so cleaning the house is in my domain once again. Dusting is the bane of my life, but I can’t abide dirty floors. Mother’s house was cleaned stem to stern once a week on a Friday with deep cleaning heralding the spring and fall seasons.

6. Water the maiden-hair fern – Grandma Longenecker loved ferns. She loved the misty, floaty, lacy aesthetic of ferns. My sister Janice has kept alive some off-shoots of Grandma’s. Here’s my maiden-hair fern:


7. Go up and down stairs – The Longenecker home place has 2 floors and an attic. The staircase between them has 18 steps. When it was time for bed, Mother would say, “It’s time to go up the wooden hill!” Now at almost 96, she still uses her stairs, once in the morning and once at bed-time. Bowed with age into an L-shape she ascends, fiercely defending her independence.

Our tri-level has a pair of stairs, 7 steps each. Good for keeping those calf muscles in shape.

If you don’t know what to do, just take the first step. “To take the first step in faith, you don’t have to see the whole staircase.”    Martin Luther King, Jr.



Are any of these points similar to those in your life?

What can you add to the list from your own experience?



35 thoughts on “7 Things I Do that Remind Me of Home

  1. That is a neat picture of your parents. I remember your Dad quite well. And your Mother, well, amazing. We usually have red beet eggs at Easter. The grandchildren enjoy them and I don’t think they get them at home.
    And, yes, I reuse aluminum foil.


    1. It’s always nice to “talk” to someone that has shared experiences from our younger years. I have enjoyed seeing old family pictures on your Facebook page, including your plain Mom and Dad. Precious memories!


  2. This was a trip down memory lane thank you Marian! I’m still smiling! In our old home, I would count the stairs going up – and down. I also re-use aliminium foil and ALWAYS switch off lights when not in use to save it! The dishwasher works – though sometimes I’ll do the dishes.
    *I boil just enough water to make tea or coffee – I honestly don’t see the point in filling it. And very little water to cook veggies and what’s left over after draining, I drink!
    *Because my late mother always made the gardener of the day a full and delicious lunch, I now do the same for mine. (Sometimes I serve it to my husband if there’s nothing in the larder).
    *I save plastic containers
    But let me leave now before I go a wandering!
    Garden of Eden Blog


    1. I love your wanderings down memory lane, Susan. I can tell you observe healthy habits, even drinking vegetable broth, nutritious and tasty. Both of us have been so blessed by having good motherly mentors. Thanks, Susan.


  3. I do enjoy pickled eggs for breakfast after Easter but why don’t I make them year round? I guess I’m not that Pa. Dutch. 🙂 It is great your mother can still do the stairs. My neighbor woman works in her yard and garden in the L formation (upside down) all the time and while it is painful to see, I guess it is good for her too at 85 or so. Our pastor emeritus still sails his boat in that L formation, hanging on to the deck ropes. He’s a native of Tallahassee and the sea is so in his blood. Nice that your dad wiped dishes at least on Sunday. What a great photo.


    1. My Aunt Ruthie used to quote the late Queen Mary, or so I remember: “Keep going – When you stop you’re done!” Being upright, even if it’s in upside-down L posture, is what counts these oldsters are telling us.

      I honestly don’t remember my dad wiping dishes at all, not even on Sunday. But we have a picture to prove it, and I, the oldest, probably snapped it. It make me wonder about my memory. I remember my eyes bugging out when I found this last year in Mother’s album. Thank you for sharing more memories, Melodie.


  4. Good memories. What is it about the dishwasher? I practically wash the plates before putting them in. Glasses and cups too. I rinse the flatware. I wash all the posts and pans and some serving bowls by hand. My dishwasher is a glorified sanitizer.


    1. You are so right! My son-in-law tells me it’s actually counterproductive to rinse dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. His explanation: The soap adheres to the dirty dish and cleans it better than if it were rinsed to begin with. Like you, I rinse everything. Old habits die hard. 🙂


  5. These are great memories, pictures, and quotes. As always, I resonate with every paragraph.

    The one that connected most powerfully was “up the wooden hill!” My father was the one who would use this phrase when I was a child, initiating the climb up oak treads that his family had trod for six generations.

    When we were in Montclair with our little grandchildren the last time, I told Owen we were going up the wooden hill. The next time he asked, “Is this the wood mountain?”

    These little phrases and daily practices connect us — to each other and to the past.

    We are just spindles inside the railing on the stairway to heaven.


    1. Ach, now here I thought my mother made up the “wooden” hill phrase. I suspect it was an expression brought over from the old country, persisting in an English translation.

      You are passing on our common heritage to your grand-children too. Owen’s comment is touching. He’ll never forget his Grandma ‘s equating the stairs to a wooden hill or mountain.

      I always appreciate your keen insights and clever ways of expressing them: “We are just spindles inside the railing on the stairway to heaven.” Love that!


  6. My mother had a plethora of little pithy sayings, that just pop out of my mouth every now and then. How we become so much like them as we get older! They included such things as “full as a tick” which turned my husband green the first time I said it…having migrated to the south it’s taken on a whole new meaning! or, “he’s a tall drink of water!” She also had a love of ferns and I too have a descendant of her maiden fern in my garden, as well as, a cinnamon fern. I retrieved a lilac and a hydrangea from my Dad’s yard before he died and they still keep me company. I learned so many things from their simple lifestyle that I carry with me today. Lights off, for sure; cloth napkins, as paper is wasteful; re-using foil and plastic bags; milk/cream always in a pitcher; no TV during the day; cut fresh flowers from the garden whenever they are available; so many little things that I watch my children continue to do. I also prefer to wash dishes. I find it a wonderful time for mediation. Thank you for this walk down memory lane and the reminder that we are forever connected to those who have loved us and whom we have loved.


    1. My grandmother used to say “full as a tick,” and my mother and I both shuddered! We intentionally chose to purge that saying from our family legacy even though we loved her dearly 🙂


      1. Dorothy, I like how you mention that plants keep you company. And also how you continue your parents thrifty, frugal ways, conserving energy and material things. Traci, thank you for chiming in. Until today, I never heard the expression “full as a tick” but I can guess its meaning. 🙂


  7. Marian, I love that you notice these details and how they connect with your childhood. Domestic details are NOT trivial.

    I also love that you can name them “rituals,” because this gets to an essence of why they are not trivial. Our Mennonite ancestors hesitated to call things rituals or sacraments, instead, for example, using the word “ordinances” for our footwashing, communion and baptism practices. To me, this is sad….though I can see that “ordinance” might also connect with being members of the priesthood of all believers.


    1. Words have such power. As you imply, the choice of word adds or detracts from the value of some thing. And I wholeheartedly agree: Domestic details are not trivial. On the best of days, I think of my kitchen counter as an altar of sorts. Thank you for speaking out today. Amen, sister!


  8. I cultivated my love of tea by watching my mom have a cup (or two) each morning while reading her Bible. It symbolizes rest and relaxation for me, so I typically have one every Saturday and Sunday morning.


    1. I think of coffee as a beverage for motivation and tea for reflection. It works for me. Yes, when you come to Jacksonville, we’ll have a cozy bit of tea.

      Again, best wishes as you end the term. Come to think of it, summer times you can have a slow cup of tea every morning, Traci. Thanks for posting!


  9. Marian – Ohhh, this was a delicious post of lovely reminiscences. In reading through your reader’s comments, I haven’t seen any of the sayings I inherited from my mother; my two favorites:

    It’s raining pitch forks and little green frogs.
    Slower than a herd of turtles in a jar of peanut butter.

    I love your oh-so-accurate observation about the difference between coffee and tea: “I think of coffee as a beverage for motivation and tea for reflection.”


    1. Laurie, I will have to remember that choice bit: Slower than a herd of turtles in a jar of peanut butter. Whoever thought that one up is a genius.

      As to the beverages: Have yourself a cuppa tea and get some rest. You and Len have been on a marathon. I’m glad you now have a happy nest. Thanks for the Tweet today!


  10. As a young woman, I followed in the footsteps of my Dutch grandmother and learned to bake. I went for whole grains, something she never used. I live in the country and garden just like my grandmother. My mother loved salad with dark leaves (she used spinach mixed with iceberg in the 1960s when no one else did). I love salad and growing tender lettuce all summer. My mother did not garden or grow anything, so my love of plants also comes from my father and his Dutch mother. Yes, we carry them along. Thanks for the memories and great photos.


    1. You come from good, hardy stock, Elaine, and I can tell from reading your posts that you love the healthy life, including nutritious recipes. Thanks for adding to the conversation.


  11. Growing up as a kid in Spokane, WA our house had a several wooden steps leading up to a dark, scary attic. My siblings and I would have to be more careful descending the wooden steps leading to our basement since the stairs were more open and I’m not sure it even had a hand rail. These stairs also seemed to be my Dad’s favorite place when I needed discipline. I shuddered many a time when he pulled out his leather belt. Ouch!

    Even though washing dishes is not on my resume as an artist, I am glad to lend a hand to this task.

    Marian, don’t be surprised when some morning you wake up and look in the mirror. Your face may have turned purple from all of those pickled eggs!


  12. These sayings do remind me of my early years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania when we boarded at my Grammy’s house. Yes, we practiced some of the same rituals, and I also love deviled eggs. For breakfast? Hmmm. Sounds wonderful.

    One Pennsylvania-Deutsche saying I recall is: “The barn door he locks after the horse is all.” Also “readying up” (cleaning or picking up) before company arrives.


    1. Pickled eggs – just the right amount of “sour” to start the day. Ha!

      PA-Deutsche has, to us, crazy-sounding syntax, most likely a translation from the original German-Swiss. I’m curious: What was your Grammy’s maiden name?

      Thanks for clicking and posting a comment today. I always learn something from you.


  13. Loved this post. It brings back memories of both of my parent’s instructions. Dad’s had little to do with home management. His were life lessons he’d learned and practiced. Such as, “holding onto grudges will make you sick.” And my mother, what a character!–Her lessons related to social graces and looking good in public. For instance, soon after her third husband’s death my sister and I met her for lunch at a restaurant. A song played over the sound system which reminded Mother of him. Tears filled her eyes. She slid on her dark Van Rays. Then looked smugly at my sister and me. “This is what sunglasses are for.” She said. Her words dripped with pride.


    1. I’ve poked around in your blog too. What a tale you have already told, planted in a bed-rock of faith. When story-telling and faith intersect, sparks fly. Thank you for visiting and commenting today.You may want to read the story of my conversion while still a Mennonite girl: https://plainandfancygirl.com/2013/07/31/night-of-joy/

      I post Wednesdays and Saturdays. This Saturday my post concerns my parents’ involvement with New Life for Girls, a ministry to youth in crisis.

      Thank you for introducing yourself today. I have a feeling we will get to know each other better.


      1. My heart is warmed by your note both here and at my blog. Thanks for sharing the link to your conversion experience; I look forward to reading it.

        “7 Things I do that Remind Me of Home” inspired my writing flow today to share a similar theme with my readers and to invite them to reminisce about their moms.

        It will be a blessing to get to know you through your writing.
        Warmest Regards,


        1. It’s always gratifying to know that something I wrote has inspired other writing ” . . . as iron sharpens iron” scripture says. Thank you for the comment, Pamela.


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