Last Week Joe Schrock of TIP TOP Window Cleaning announced his arrival by knocking lightly on my door. I spotted his truck on my driveway.
I had contacted Joe about cleaning the windows at our new house. They were dirty when we moved in and got even worse when wind-whipped rain lashed the panes during October’s hurricane Matthew.
The name Schrock sounded Mennonite to me, or at least Pennsylvania Dutch.
When I inquired, Joe told me,
“Yeah, my Amish ancestors came to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the 1730s. Then they moved to Ohio. My dad’s from Sugarcreek, and my mom from Kent. You’ve heard of Kent State, haven’t you?”
Of course I had.
“I guess you know about the Amish newspaper, The Budget.” Oh, my goodness! I had never heard of it. Noticing my startled expression, “Yes,” he said, “it comes out of Sugarcreeck, Ohio.”
“I bet I can find it on the Internet.” I walked over to my laptop resting on the kitchen island.
There it was: Home page of The Budget newspaper with a close-up view of a goat with a big-eared welcome.
The newspaper also had a Facebook page. I quickly found the About page which read: Serving the Sugarcreek area and Amish and Mennonite Communities throughout the Americas since 1890. (The pages reminded me that many plain folks have settled in South America, particularly in Paraguay and Bolivia.)
There was a pause. “Golly, I had no idea the Amish did computer stuff!” he smiled.
Later he told me, “I was born in Miami but have lived in Jacksonville, Florida, for a long time. I started my window washing business in 1982.
* * *
Though two friends had recommended him highly, my first-hand experience as a former Mennonite confirmed some expectations I had of him, some sterling qualities that many plain people possess:
1. Right Equipment He came with all the right tools, chemicals, buckets, and squeegees. I detected a faint whiff of tobacco.
2. Fair price His price appeals to the budget conscious. He was at my house for six hours and presented me with a bill that looked like it came from the 1960s. I gave him a nice tip.
3. Cleanliness As soon as he walked into my house, he put on blue booties and never tracked in any dirt.
4. Thoroughness He went far beyond what was expected. I gave him the green light when he suggested that he could scrape off an old security company sticker. “It’ll come off just like that,” he predicted. Of course it did!
5. Pleasant He didn’t whistle while he worked, but I believe he could have.
6. Strong work ethic He kept at it until he was done. He didn’t take any breaks although I would not have minded if he had.
That evening, I remembered a book on my nightstand, Wisdom of the Plain Folk: Songs and Prayers from the Amish and Mennonites, compiled by Donna Leahy, photography by Robert Leahy
Work begun is half done. ~ Amish woman’s proverb (33)
I know some sloppy Mennonites; maybe you do too. A few may be lazy, but probably not many. And you certainly don’t have to be Mennonite or Amish to uphold integrity in the workplace. Or appreciate fine workmanship.
Even so, I’m glad my first-ever encounter with a window washer (Yes, I’m frugal!) gave me clearer vision: clean windows and a re-visitation of the values of my own ancestry.
As the new year begins, I need some sparkle in my life. Clean windows did it for me.
How about you? Are you anticipating anything sparkly in your new year?
No, this is not my new car. But Focus is a well-known member of the Ford Motor brand.
Drivers know that if they point their steering wheel in the right direction, four wheels will turn and the car will head toward a specific destination.
Announcing My Word for 2017: Focus
Focus is a Latinate word, which I don’t much like the sound of. It doesn’t have a pretty sound, like say, filigree or dulcé. But it does the job of describing my intention to complete my memoir writing this year.
Dictionary.com defines Focus – a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity; a target or point of convergence
In a way, “focus” complements last year’s choice, Wholehearted, a word which suggests passion and energy, all of which help fuel focus and concentration.
I am no longer young, but this lovely little girl is, pictured in one of Grandma Longenecker’s antique postcards (1912). Her body pulses with life and energy, just like this new year, my tabula rasa – a blank slate on which to write a fresh new story.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth. III John: 2
My Word Gift to YOU
I discovered this word on Rebecca White Body’s fine blog last year. Here’s what she says:
I recently learned the word “entelechy” from reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. As I understand it, it’s the force that drives things to become what they were meant to be, the spirit that makes the acorn into the oak–or, more relevantly to my case, a tiny handful of seeds into a welter of burdock.
May you be all you can be in the new year, my friend!
You are the beating heart ❤ of this blog, responding as you do by reading and commenting here. For this I am deeply grateful – thank you!
History buffs and Downton Abbey devotées know that 1912 is the year of the sinking of the Titanic.
What Else Happened in 1912?
On the world scene
Woodrow Wilson elected President
Japan sends 3020 cherry trees to the United States
First neon sign appears in Paris advertising a barber shop
Lysol disinfectant manufactured
General Electric invents and distributes plastics
Electric blanket invented
Whitman’s Sampler creates one of America’s best selling chocolates
Toy surprises are put into Cracker Jack boxes
Lane Company begins manufacturing cedar chests
On the market in 1912: Sun Maid Raisins, Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise
“When Irish Eyes are Smiling”
“My Melancholy Baby”
First Kewpie doll
First Lionel racing cars
A Page from Longenecker History
Vagabond poet Vachel Lindsay encountered the farm of John G. Longenecker, an ancestor who bucked Pennsylvania tradition geographically and moved to Kansas. Here is the poet’s impression of his experience with the Longeneckers, lifted from the pages of Pitchforks and Pitchpipes by Esther Longenecker Heistand:
What do you remember from 1912? (If you send an answer, I’m going to go hide!)
What is your most memorable moment in 2016?
When I was a little girl, my Aunt Ruthie painted this wooden dish with a lamb and the Bethlehem star. She made one for each of my sisters too. I’m sorry there is no date though I imagine we were in elementary or middle school in the early 1950s.
Christmas scenes always include animals. A donkey, lamb, and sheep usually surround the manger scene with the Christ-child as the focus. Sometimes camels too, though missing from this nativity scene . . .
Victorian postcards also pictured animals. Some in my stash include an adorable chocolate-colored puppy embossed by a floral-frame already imprinted with 2-cent postage.
A Flock of Birds
I was surprised to find a card addressed to Mrs. Samuel Martin, my Great-Grandmother. Mary Horst Martin, a robust, warm-hearted woman whose mother died in childbirth, and orphaned after her father died in a logjam on the Susquehanna River near Middletown, Pennsylvania.
My sisters and I wish we could have known Great-Grandma Mary, who never met a stranger. “Just put an extra board in the table,” was her motto when unexpected guests came to her door. She also had a practical streak and opened wide the “door” of her bodice if she got too hot in the kitchen. In the photo here I see some mischief playing in her eyes, her hands folded “just so” probably at the photographer’s prompt. And although she wore a covering, her white ribbon slightly askew, it probably did not put a lid on her free spirit.
The card she received featured large-breasted birdies in the snow.
Mary was a farmer’s wife with a rural delivery address (R. D.), and her friend Stella, probably from Middletown, gives instructions to “come up to the house” when she is in town.
A Designing Woman with Gifts
When she was in her twenties, my Grandma Fanny received this card from Barbara, who would be considered now a millennial, communicating through iMessage, Instagram, or Snapchat.
Her unedited message on the reverse side of the card (punctuation missing) appears in neat penmanship:
Hello Fannie times look very suspicious down here, from away up yonder you know. Ha! Ha! If I could only tell you the rest. You can imagine. How do they look up there? And sure enough you expect to entertain me on Xmas ha! A Merry Xmas and A Happy New Year to all.
And then on the face of the card above: “Yours you bet, Barbara!”
The untethered gifts that exceed the grasp of the young, demure woman on the card may suggest that the “treasures of dear remembrance” mean more than a gift wrapped up with a bow. But maybe not . . .
What do you imagine she is thinking?
Can you identify the breed of bird in the postcard?
What else stands out for you in Christmas correspondence?
MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, AND HAPPY KWANZAA!
Not Quite a Bar Mitzvah
Grandsons Patrick and Curtis, born 7 weeks apart in Chicago, both turned thirteen this fall. If they were Jewish, they would each have observed the bar mitzvah ritual: Bar = son; Mitzvah = law or commandment, able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life. Such a rite of passage usually culminates in a party with gifts.
Neither of our grand-boys wore yarmulkes. Nor did tefellin dangle from their heads or arms. Although these grand-boys have memorized Bible passages, during their birthday celebrations they did not wear religious headgear or black leather boxes (tefellin) on their fore-heads or near their hearts containing sacred scripts from the Old Testament.
What They Did Do:
After they turned thirteen, they read letters their Grandma and Grandpa Beaman had written to them when they were newborns and sent in the mail to their parents’ address with a postmark. These letters have been kept squirreled away until a special day.
At his party, Curtis opened a letter his NaNa had written to him with a December 31, 2003 postmark.
The letter was typewritten, so he breezed through sentences, smiling as he read in his emerging bass voice.
But he struggled to read another letter, which I had dashed off in cursive handwriting, now a dying art, and no longer taught in public schools.
Then he opened his gifts: a wireless mouse for his hand-constructed computer, and The DaVinci Code book.
Then it was Patrick’s turn:
Grandpa Beaman wrote Patrick’s letter with a similar postmark. It was typewritten, so there was no struggle to de-cipher looped letters. Before Patrick read his letter, Grandpa showed him a photo colláge he made for Patrick when he was a few months old.
An excerpt from Grandpa’s letter revealed his observations of newborn development:
When we feed you, you suck that bottle down pretty quickly. When it come time to burp, we hear it loud and clear! And then there’s often a big milk shoot-out which sometimes lands on my unprotected shirt and a big white splat a few feet down on the rug.
You are also making lots of cooing and other sounds. During the last couple of days when I made sounds, you tried your best to twist your mouth around in odd shapes to mimic some of my sounds. You REALLY want to talk. And someday you will for sure.
Patrick’s reading of the letter ended with these words:
He did not open a wrapped present. His birthday request was a gift certificate to Five Guys, a burger place in Jacksonville. Why such a present? Simple: His love for food is in his DNA – a “gift” from his grandpa.
It remains to be seen whether the boys, later as men, consider these “parchments” sacred, letters written to them as infants.
Bar Mitzvah – or not, we wish them Mazel Tov . . . congratulations and good wishes to both as they continue to develop into manhood!
And finally, our hope for them from The Shamá . . .
Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
What can you add to my description of the Jewish ritual, the Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah for daughters)?
What other rituals or traditions does your family observe with children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews?
Whoopi Goldberg is no nun, but she played one in Sister Act, where she befriended three other nuns all named Mary and made the convent’s choir into a rollicking, soulful act.
Dr. David Snowdon obviously is no nun either. He’s not even a monk. But he is an epidemiologist, who spearheaded a study to decode Alzheimer’s disease as he researched the lives of 678 nuns at the School Sisters of Notre Dame. All had willed their brains to research on death.
Aging with Grace could have been a deadly dull read, but I kept turning the pages because the author was able to intertwine the excitement of scientific research with personal stories. These nuns shared valuable life lessons about “Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives,” part of the book’s sub-title.
Here are the seven I gleaned from Snowdon’s book:
- Keep your sense of humor
Just before she turned 90, Sister Genevieve Kunkel marveled at her wellbeing. She said, “I have two good traits . . . I am alert and I am vertical.” 183
- Mingle with the young
When pressed about her other secrets for staying young, Sister Genevieve admitted, “Maybe it’s because I’ve always been with the young.” An educator, she had taught young people from grade school through college and was currently reading a Harry Potter book. She also read nearly every issue of the Sunday New York Times.
- Enjoy eating as a social occasion.
Share mealtime with others when possible. “The air in the convent dining room buzzes with laughter and . . . chatting.” 168
- Help others
Healthy nuns served themselves during mealtime. Then they took turns helping sisters in the assisted-living wing by pouring drinks, cutting their meat and helping them take their medications.
- Stay “With It”
Sister Clarissa, age 90, drove around the convent in her motorized cart dubbed “Chevy” and knew “as much about baseball as any die-hard fan a third of her age.” (She sounds a lot like my Aunt Cecilia!)
Sister Dorothy Zimmerman drew others into Scrabble games, often closely contested.
- Keep Moving
Sister Esther Boor, who lived until age 106, sat on her “exercise” chair and regularly pumped the pedals on a stationary “bike.”
- Wake up every day with purpose
Sister Matthia knitted a pair of mittens every day for the poor. Every evening she recited the names of all 4378 former students until her death less than a month before her 105th birthday.
- Pray and Meditate
Dr. Snowdon admits “while we cannot directly measure intangibles such as faith and social support, the Nun Study would be incomplete without acknowledging their powerful influence.”
Want to know more about these marvelous women? You can read my review here.
Here’s a link to the book!
Here is your invitation to add to my list of seven. You can also comment on the tips you find here.
Bright lights overhead illuminate a fun space. My eyes take in shelves with animal puzzles, bins with textured balls, sets of play tools, baskets of plastic fruit and veggies with pans for the play stove in our classroom. On my right – xylophones, bells and colored cushions. On the left side I see a box of string-a-beads, and on a shelf underneath – friendly-looking doggies and kitties that push or pull.
It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve entered the pre-school resource room at my church holding a white plastic basket for carrying items I’ll take to our classroom.
You see, two-year-old youngsters like to play. That’s how they learn. These children confirm the idea that “Play is the highest form of research.” (Unverified quote attributed to Einstein)
I continue circling the “toy” room and stop in front of the doll display now, dolls arranged in families: mommy-daddy-brother-sister. “Which sets of dolls should I pick out today?” I stop and wonder out loud.
Children who walk through our classroom door have family origins in Viet Nam, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria and Bosnia. Although our attendance records show Taylors, Elkins, and McCalls, the list also includes Biak, Torres, and DeVevo.
Why the Ethnic Dolls?
We obviously don’t point out differences with young children at play. I have never said to a two-year-old, “Look, this doll is hispanic (or black or white).
Of course not!
Then what’s the point?
When children see an image that looks like them, they can identify with it intuitively. We volunteer teachers aim to communicate to these impressionable little people that our world includes families with many different skin colors and facial features. The good Lord loves them all – and so, obviously, do they.
“Jesus Loves the little children” video + lyrics
* * *
Recently author, journalist, and lecturer Gail Sheehy asked the question, “Is Trump out to make America white again?” Recent developments before and after our contentious election in America may warrant such a concern.
Our answer as pre-school teachers: Not if we can help it!
You may want to check out a Mennonite voice, Becca J. R. Lachman, whose blog expresses a wish to keep “a welcome sign [to everyone] lit in neon.”
* * *
Your turn: An anecdote, an illustration, a contrasting point of view. All are welcome in this space . . .
Coming next: 7 Ways to Stay Young: Nuns Reveal Their Secrets
Before families went over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, a postcard may have appeared in their mailbox to mark this grand American holiday of gratitude in the early 1900s.
Grandma Fanny Longenecker saved three of hers.
In this card dated 1909 a brilliant oak leaf, an acorn cup and a fan-tailed turkey displayed “Hearty Thanksgiving wishes” though the celebration could not have ended well for this turkey.
(Incidentally, no filters or other photographic enhancements were used on these antique cards. Their brilliance remains after 100+ years.)
Again, in the card above postmarked 1910, edible and bucolic images warm the scene which included another cozy house by the roadside.
Someone had already begun using a nutcracker on the walnuts in this still life from 1911 with an expression of hope for a happy mealtime. The quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act iii, scene 4) is ironic: Macbeth and his wife, attempting to cover up their dastardly deed of killing King Duncan, host a dinner where the condemning ghost of Banquo is about to appear. Clearly, the postcard designer took this quote out of context.
Though no ghosts may appear during your Thanksgiving celebration, you may be saddened by the specter of empty seats around the table.
Again this year, there are empty chairs at our table too. Here’s one:
“Grah-ti-tood” is the title of my very first blog post published February 25, 2013. Although it was not Thanksgiving season then, I knew gratitude could be a theme that may thread itself through my postings. Only two former students and a church friend responded to this first attempt at blogging. You can read it here.
Thank you for joining me in many posts since then. Our conversations here keep me going.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton
Thanksgiving blessings with many happy memories!
Did you make construction paper turkeys and buckled hats in elementary school? I know I did. We elementary school-ers dug our scissors into orange, red, brown, yellow to create Thanksgiving art. And then we looked at pretty framed pictures that have become American icons of gratitude.
These pleasant scenes may trick us into thinking the world was a more peaceful place than it is now. However, the celebration has often been shadowed by discord and world war.
Conflict Coexists with Celebration
* The pilgrims fled religious persecution to find freedom in the new world. Though the scene above looks peaceful and full of plenty in 1621, many immigrants did not survive the winter.
* President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November 1863 during the dark days of the Civil War as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
* President Franklin D. Roosevelt, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the US into World War II, signed a congressional bill in December 26, 1941 moving the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November.
The True Story Behind Rockwell’s Painting
FDR was criticized for being too idealistic in his State of the Union address of January when he outlined his idea of the Four Freedoms: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom from Want.
Two years later, The Saturday Evening Post published essays on each of FDR’s 4 freedoms, each paired with a Norman Rockwell painting (February – March 1943)
Take another look at this painting. Three generations circle the table, the all-white nuclear family considered the ideal in 1943.
As Bob Duggan points out in his article for Thanksgiving 2013, if Rockwell were painting in this decade, surely the skin color would be more racially diverse. And, instead of a gathering of biologically-linked people, family may extend to include friends and neighbors of many creeds.
What is the Young Man Asking?
See the young man looking out of the setting to you, the viewer? His smiling eyes may be asking you to join and share the bounty spread out on the table – lots of protein, plenty of vegetables, and pumpkin pie, no doubt.
But is that all he is asking? Perhaps he is inviting you as onlooker (and possible guest) to participate in another kind of freedom: to free one another from all kinds of want beyond the physical — emotional, social, and even spiritual.
No doubt you are looking forward to a Thanksgiving gathering, either at your house or somewhere else. How can you help others to have something to be thankful for, finding a way to include sharing in your practice of thanksgiving?
That’s one way to smile back at the young man at the table.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
– William Arthur Ward
Quote contributed by my friend Jenn, a Canadian blogger, who reminded me that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Happy (belated) Thanksgiving greetings to all.