Summer on Anchor Road: Sights, Smells & Sounds

Your life is a poem,” says Naomi Shihab Nye.

And as the world tilts toward the dog days of summer, that’s how I see it too: tiny images of poetry seen through the prism of my childhood, remembering summers in the Longenecker back yard and inside Grandma’s house. Louis Macneice expresses these sentiments vividly in his poem, “Soap Suds”

Soap Suds

Soap Suds 1a

Vintage Lawn Croquet with wooden mallets and balls - Google Advanced Image
Vintage Lawn Croquet with wooden mallets and balls – Google Advanced Image  (The Longeneckers had one almost identical.)

 Soap Supds 2a

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Soap Suds 3a

Soap Suds 4a

Though Macneice reminds us there’s no going back to childhood after experiencing the realities of an adult, our younger selves can still exist in memory – as photographs preserved in sepia tone. And like the bubbles in soap suds, I recall a childhood that is ephemeral, fleeting:

I can see the nicked edge of the croquet mallet, as it strikes the striped ball with a “thwack” sending it on a scrolling roll . . .

. . . taste the root-beer float Mom made from Hires concentrate, laying the 2-quart Ball jars side by side on the cellar floor to “cure.” . . . hear the straw suck of the cool drink like the sound of sudsy sink water draining.

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. . . feel the cool water as I splashed in the tub on a hot summer day in August.

* * *

Only one piece of playground equipment was a fixture in our back yard, an iron swing painted glossy silver. Here Daddy, probably at Mother’s prompting, posed with me in his plain coat and black bow tie before or after church at Bossler Mennonite. He has a tentative hold on his firstborn daughter, perhaps still feeling awkward as a parent. The calendar must have shown April because I was 9 months old. No roses or peonies bloom yet in the garden behind us.

SwingDaddyBabyMe


Credit: Globe and still life. The antique globe above comes from Norwood Elementary School where Cliff first taught school. He composed the still life painting next to it during his Master’s degree studies at Florida State University.

Did your family have a croquet set? Do you still use it?

What other pictures or stories of childhood summers did this post spark in your memory?

How as an adult, have you tried to retrieve child-like wonder and playfulness?

Coming next: School Daze – They Ain’t What They Used to Be

My Word, it’s 2016!

Have you started a diet? Renewed your gym membership or decided to walk more? Maybe you have resolved to cut down on Facebook time this year . . .

Along with such New Year’s resolutions, some of my friends each year choose a guide word to help navigate the unknown paths of the next twelve months. Last year I began my own tradition with the word Advance. You can read about why I chose it here.

My Special Word

This year my word is Whole-hearted!

A few months ago I heard Brené Brown’s TEDx talk on expressing vulnerability. Though I’m generally not a fan of  self-help books, her presentation piqued my interest enough to read The Gifts of Imperfection, her short book (130 pages) labeled “Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life.”

Credit: Goodreads
Credit: Goodreads

 

On the first page appears her definition for such a life:

“Wholehearted living . . . means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

Dr. Brene Brown, author/researcher/professor, has collected thousands of stories in the course of her qualitative study on authenticity and wholehearted living, which she describes as an act of faith that “requires believing without seeing.” (91)

This description sounds very much like my definition of faith, fueled by grace and joy, a faith I tasted first as a child hearing the blessed words of an old hymn at Bossler Mennonite Church: True-hearted, Whole-hearted, in which the men and women in the chorus belted out antiphonally: “Peal out the watchword, silence it never / Song of our Spirit, Rejoicing and Free . . . King of my life, my Savior will be.”

 

Quotes on Wholeheartedness

Maybe stories are just data with a soul. ~ Brené Brown

Never shy away from opportunity and wholehearted living. Never be fearful of putting yourself out there. The courageous may encounter many disappointments, experience profound disillusionment, gather many wounds; but cherish your scars for they are the proud emblems of a truly phenomenal life. The fearful, cautious, cynical and self-repressed do not live at all. And that is simply no way to be in this world.”
Anthon St. Maarten

Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.    ~ Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.     Deuteronomy 6:5, King James Version

 

A Look in the Mirror

Last year, my good friend Sandra Cornelius gave me a mirror for my birthday. A survivor of many serious health challenges, Sandra took up the practice of placing mirrors in various rooms of her home during her recuperation, declaring with an inscription that she is beautiful even though she may have felt otherwise at the time.

With this object, granddaughter Jenna is learning the concept of self-acceptance, which is vastly different from pride or self-importance. Just as Aibileen, the maid, praised Elizabeth’s young daughter Mae in the novel The Help, Jenna is also hearing that she is kind, smart, and important.

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In the month of January, named for the ancient Roman god Janus, we look two ways, with gratitude and perhaps a sense of relief for having survived 2015, and with anticipation and hope for the new year ahead.

Thank you for being my companion this year. I hope 2016 will be your best ever.

Happy New Year!

Have you made a resolution or chosen a special guide word for 2016? Looking back, what are you particularly thankful for this past year?

Coming next: Moments of Discovery, Keys to a Riddle

Quiet Lives Matter: My Brother Mark

My brother Mark was my first baby. He was born when I was 12, and I soon became a mother to him. I even have a picture to prove it, a blurry movie still from one of Aunt Ruthie’s 16 millimeter camera shoots.

Holding brother Mark as my sister (age 7) Jean zooms on by
Holding brother Mark as my youngest sister Jean (age 7) happily zooms on by

I most certainly bottle fed him and changed his diapers. When he was a few months old, my sisters and I made up a little ditty often chanted repeatedly when we played with him:

De honey and de sweetie and de hon-ey boy

De hon, de hon, de hon-ey boy . . .

Practicing our Latin, we would refer to him as “Marcus -a -um” when he got a little older. Looking back, I wonder now how much the age difference and his being our longed-for brother played a role in such playfulness.

Mark passed through the usual boyhood stages, going to school at Rheems Elementary (here pictured at age 8) and learning to ride a bike.

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MarkBikeFence

Like most boys this age, he climbed trees and played with his beloved dog, Skippy, butterscotch colored and 3-legged.

Mark handing walnuts to his sister Janice, 1964
Mark handing walnuts to his sister Janice, 1964

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In the doggy photo, Mark is already wearing shop overalls and shop shoes ready for work at Longenecker Farm Supply, our family business in Rheems, Pennsylvania.

Eventually, his work at the shop translated into industrial arts credit at Elizabethtown High School, where he earned a certificate of attendance.

Here painted and sealed in polyurethane is a cartoon of Mark on a Deutz tractor which certified his skill at the wheel and gave a nod to his service with the Rheems Fire Department.

Stool art courtesy of Cliff-Toon Stools by Cliff Beaman, 1985
Stool art courtesy of Cliff-Toon Stools by Artist Cliff Beaman, 1985

Later, he worked at our dad’s shop full time, from where he was often sent out to fix machinery when farmers were stuck needing repairs in the field.

Mark in front of shop beside soybean extruder, 1984
Mark in front of shop beside soybean extruder, 1984

As family members aged, he kept the home-fires burning at the two houses on Anchor Road, first ministering to our Aunt Ruthie’s increasing needs as her memory loss progressed. Because of Mark’s care, Ruthie was able to stay in her own home at the bottom of the hill for four years longer than would have been feasible otherwise. He occasionally took her dog Fritzie IV for walks, a dog variously dubbed vicious, feisty or protective depending on whom you asked. Out of respect for Ruthie and her devotion to her Schnauzer, he took care of a dog he didn’t particularly like and certainly didn’t love.

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Simultaneously, he helped take our Mother Ruth to doctor and dentist appointments and often shopped for groceries, enabling our mother to stay in her own home at the top of the hill until she died last year at age 96.

When we realized we would be selling Mother’s house, Mark’s contacts from the shop along with his extended group of friends in the area enabled us to sell the property without a realtor’s assistance and accompanying fees.

Every Sunday now he takes Pearl Longenecker in her nineties to church at Bossler Mennonite Church.

Mark continues to live in Aunt Ruthie’s house with his daughter Shakeeta (Kiki) who moved in recently, caretakers of the Longenecker homestead we hold dear.

MarkKiKi

* * *

From my point of view, Mark does not suffer from the effects of striving, the bane of modern existence. It’s safe to say he has never slavishly checked off items on a to-do list or reached for the benchmarks of fame and fortune as many do. In other words, he hasn’t made a big splash in this world. But my brother Mark is a helper, living a quiet life that matters.

Stephen Post, Hidden Gifts of Helping

We eat because it keeps us alive, and we help others because it keeps us human.  (29)

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water . . . , verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.     Matthew 10:42   King James Version


Are there unsung heroes in your family or among your group of friends and acquaintances? Thank you for spicing up our conversation here with your story!

Coming next: Help! A Vintage Photo in Need of a Caption

Ray & Ruth: A Sparkling 40th Wedding Anniversary

True Love

This month would be the 75th wedding anniversary of my parents, Ray and Ruth Longenecker had they lived. True, they bickered from time to time, but I knew their love was deep and abiding. I rested in the assurance that they would never divorce. There were signs: Before Daddy left for work down at his shop after the noon meal, he often played a little game with Mom, chasing her around the house to get his hug and kiss, as she pretended wanting to escape him. Daddy dried dishes once a week, on a Sunday somewhat unusual for a culture with strict divisions of labor between husband and wife.

They celebrated their 25th anniversary with the attendants at their wedding, Howard and Pearl Longenecker, also married twenty-five years.

When their 40th came along, we had a big shindig in early November, a week after their actual anniversary date of October 26, 1940. My sister Jean sent out fancy invitations:

40thAnnivCardFront

The table was set just so with the “tulip” design wedding silverware, a florist’s bouquet, and finger food with cake the grand finale.

40thAnnivTable

All four of us, my sisters and brother chipped in money to buy a chiming clock that sat for years on top of Mother’s buffet in the dining room, the ticking heart of the home. Our son Joel has inherited this clock.

40thAnnivClock

And there were sparklers – and smiling faces on this happy day when I heard Daddy say, “I could never have found a better wife!

40thAnnivCandle

How It All Began

October was a favored month for weddings, at least among Mennonite couples in the 1940s-1960s. Farmers had harvested their corn, wheat, and sweet potatoes. The sowing-hoeing-harvesting cycle was slowing down. The land was preparing to lie fallow for the winter. Thus, plain weddings were often celebrated amid the riotous colors of fall.

I was born in July — 9 months, almost to the day, from my parents’ honeymoon night the previous October. When I got older and could figure out such things, my mother simply said, “Nothing happened before we were married.” Because she said it, it must be true, I reasoned. In those days, abstinence was the professed norm for engaged couples, and a white dress almost certainly meant the bride was a virgin. A couple whose first child arrived too soon after the wedding date had to appear in front of the congregation and confess their sin of fornication before they could be restored to church fellowship. I saw it happen once.

That was not the case for my parents, of course. I was born right on time, a honeymoon baby, possibly conceived right here within this idyllic, stone cottage.

HoneymoonNiagaraCottage

My parents were married by the bishop of Hernley’s Mennonite Church and then returned to the bride’s home on Charlotte Street in Manheim, Pennsylvania where these pictures were taken. My father was wearing a plain, Mennonite “frock” coat with bow-tie paired with a natty fedora hat on his honeymoon. My mother too sneaked in some fancy touches on her dress. Another, of course, a large, fancy bouquet on the lawn.

WeddingMomDadFlowers

And though Mother wore covering strings attached to her prayer veiling and her dress was plain with no collar or lace, tiny buttons covered in white crépe traced a vertical line on the snug cuff of her sleeves. They don’t show on the photograph, but as a child I remember seeing them all in a row, sewn on her dress then draped on a hanger and pushed to the back of her clothes closet. Were there five? Seven? I don’t know or remember, but in my mind’s eye I can see them attached there. And I thought they looked pretty!

I liked her wedding shoes too, black suede with a vamp that reached almost to her ankle, very modish, I thought. When I saw Nine West with a similar vintage shoe and a button on the strap, I knew they had to be mine.

ShoesVintage9West

When we cleared out Mother’s house after her death, we discovered a saucer I had never seen before with a charming pink & blue imprint, a prophecy of things to come. They would have a baby, a girl, in fact three daughters and then a son.

NIagaraFallsSaucerNiagaraFallsSaucerDetail

Marian_as baby_5x5_72 19-05-17

Sparkling or not, what anniversaries (or other milestones) can you recall?

Coming next: Halloween Advice from My Good Witch of the North, Aunt Ruthie

Oh Happy Day!

I am sitting with my three friends, Gladys Graybill, Hazel Garber, and Millie Zimmerman near the pulpit in front of Bossler Mennonite Church to be baptized. At the prompting of our Bishop Clarence E. Lutz, we kneel, and as we kneel I hear the crinkle of the skirt of my caped dress. Mother and I have chosen a taffeta fabric for this special day – a dress made of tiny checks of navy, silver and white to set off my dark-haired braids now covered with a prayer veiling. The dress has a tiny collar with navy piping. I love that navy piping. Besides the silky fabric, this tiny decoration is the only fancy thing about this plain dress with a cape overlaying the bodice.

Since I made a spiritual decision in June, I have been wearing my hair in pigtails topped with a covering. For the first time since then, my braided hair has been pinned up around my head with hairpins in accordance with church rules. But today my prayer veiling has strings dangling from its two corners. Before the service, we have met in the church basement with the Bishop’s wife Elsie Lutz, who has requested that we girls wear strings of white satin ribbon attached the two corners of our coverings, I suppose for an extra measure of plainness. “Oh, you girls look so nice!” she gushes as she inspects our apparel, especially our heads, before we ascend the steps to the main sanctuary.

This girls' cover strings are black. Mine were white, but attached the same way.
This young woman’s covering strings are black. Mine were white, but attached the same way. (Bicentennial photo, Bossler Mennonite Church)

 

We three girls are ushered to the front where Bishop Lutz and Deacon John Kraybill wait with a basin of water and a white linen towel ironed smooth. We have been through a kind of catechism entitled “Instructions to Beginners in the Christian Life,” which includes a review of the tenets of faith, nonresistance to evil and nonconformity to the world, and the ordinances of Communion, Feet Washing, the Devotional Covering, the Holy Kiss, Anointing with Oil, and Marriage. The first ordinance is Baptism, which we are now ready to participate in with two “I do’s” and “I am (sorry for my sins), with a final “I do,” promising by the “grace of God, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, to submit [myself] to Christ and His Word, and faithfully to abide in the same until death.”

Instructions to Beginners in the Christian Life_2 pages together_300

After prayer, we remain kneeling. And the Bishop, assisted by the Deacon who is holding a basin of water, takes a handful of water from the basin and pours it methodically three times in succession on the head of the applicant intoning the words: “I baptize thee with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This statement is followed by the Bishop taking us by the hand and saying as we rise:

In the name of Christ and His Church I give you my hand. Arise! And as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so thou also shalt walk in newness of life . . . 

The wives of the Bishop and the Deacon then give us the kiss of peace, and thus we are received into the church fellowship. The congregation in four-part harmony happily joins in the tradition of singing “O Happy Day” from the Mennonite Church Hymnal with shaped notes.

Happy Day_Bossler Mennonite Church Hymnal_ 5x7_300

I remember this day so well. It was September 29, 1951, my sister Janice’s birthday.

*  *  *

Earlier this month, our oldest grandson and only grand-daughter, Patrick and Jenna Dalton, were baptized at Highlands Baptist Church. Their family attends a Lutheran Church, which like the Mennonites also baptizes by sprinkling, but since their parents wanted their Uncle Bill to baptize them, they complied (happily I might add) with baptism by immersion. Words similar to those spoken at my baptism accompanied their immersion in the water: “Buried with Christ in his death . . . raised to walk in newness of life.”

Rev. Bill Caverly baptizing Grand-nephew Patrick Dalton
Rev. Bill Caverly baptizing grand-nephew Patrick Dalton

 

What special sacred ceremonies have you observed or participated in yourself?

 

Coming next – The Potting Shed: A Magical Place

Moments of Discovery # 5: Mother’s Quilts

 

Page from On Market Street, Anita & Arnold Lobel
illustration from On Market Street by Anita & Arnold Lobel

Bossler Mennonite Church was the hub of the Longenecker family’s spiritual life and the school beside it, Washington School, the place where the Women’s Sewing Circle fabricated comforters, baby clothing, blankets and quilts to help clothe the needy of the world. Some of these gorgeous quilts are displayed on a previous blog post. You can see and read about them here.

quiltSchoolhouse

Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church
Quilts exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church

Even more than quilting I think Mother loved knotting comforters. For her, it was easier to see progress knotting a comforter. She liked the warm fluffy texture, and she could work on it by herself at home.

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Last fall, on one of our trips to the attic cleaning out the house after her sudden death, we opened the yellowish, grain-painted blanket chest with turned feet where we knew we would find some of Mother’s prized quilts.

1999_0900_Mother L_holding up white quilt w circles

 Can you identify the design above? I need help with the name of this pattern please!

Crazy Quilt design, 1999
Crazy Quilt design, 1999.  Each of Mother’s grand-children received a quilt. This one now belongs to our son, Joel Beaman.

 

Joanne Hess Siegrist, one of my former students at Lancaster Mennonite School, has published a story in photographs from 1855-1935 entitled Mennonite Women of Lancaster County. In this pictorial overview of Mennonite life from this era, Joanne, who can trace her family back eleven generations, depicts the many facets of Mennonite women’s lives in chapters like these: The Tone of Their Lives, Motherhood and Children, Farm Life and Work, Faith and Family Outings.

Here is an excerpt from her chapter entitled “Quilting and the Arts”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mennonite women of Lancaster County spent many hours doing elaborate, colorful needlework. Young women worked especially on their dowries.

 

With a frugality that was part of their spirituality, these women often created handwork out of remnants and half-used materials. They crocheted exquisite lace tablecloths from the cord strings used to tie feed bags. They made hooked rugs using the unworn sections of old winter coats. They designed quilts with fabric from colorful feed bags found in the barn. . . .

 

Mennonite Woman_Quilt_p193

In a photo dated 1948, Joanne showcases Anna Huber Good as she adds tiny stitches to a Grape Vine appliqué quilt. Author Siegrist adds, “Anna quilted all her life; in fact, after rearing eight children, she became even more intent on quilting. Anna got up at 4:00 a.m. and quilted until 6 a.m. Then she made a large breakfast for her husband Daniel and sent him off to his market work. After doing a few cleanup chores, Anna returned to quilting. She quilted all day long until about 9:00 p.m., stopping only for meals.”

Anna’s retirement years were even more productive, making “forty-two quilts for her children.” Amazingly, she charged only 15 cents per yard of quilting thread if she quilted for people outside her family.

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Here are four friends quilting in the dining room of Enos and Annie Lefever’s home (1915). Their intent expressions (uh-oh, I see one smiling!) and nimble fingers are caught on camera by Annie’s son Harry, whose photography did not interfere with his membership at Mellinger’s Mennonite Church (Mennonite Women of Lancaster County,194). Just a mere ten years earlier, Mennonite farmer, John Kreider Miller, lost his church membership for running a photography studio (The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, Friday, May 10, 1996). Photographs, apparently, at the turn of the twentieth century, spoke of pride, a cardinal sin in the Mennonite system of values. (Mennonite Women of Lancaster County, Siegrist)


Amish and Mennonite hand-made quilts are now marketed as a luxury item and often used as decorative wall hangings. There are numerous websites advertising such handiwork for thousands of dollars.

Until recently, the Quilt Museum at the People’s Place in Intercourse, PA exhibited cleverly crafted quilts from all over the United States.

The Mennonite Central Committee, providing aid to the world’s forgotten and neglected, often sponsors quilt sales and auctions beyond Lancaster County borders. Here is a link to one in Ohio.

*  *  *

Buy Joanne’s book here!

 

Is there quilting in your family history? Has a quilt been bequeathed to you of quilt-essential quality? Are you a quilter?

 

A Grief Observed – Missing Mother

We’re having lunch at Mother’s house today: home-grown tomato sandwiches, Silver Queen corn on the cob, and fresh tossed salad with a wrapped-up cucumber found left in her refrigerator. There is also a boiled egg she cooked recently, but Mom is not here. She is gone, left this life on July 28 just five days after her 96th birthday.

We (my sisters, brother and I) were together in June and had a high old time with Mother, eating out, making butter, playing Uno. In her boxy, blue l989 Dodge Spirit she drove herself to the July Christian Women meeting at The Gathering Place in Mt. Joy, went to the drive-through at her bank and wrote out checks to pay her bills. She attended the Metzler Reunion at Lititz Springs Park shortly before her birthday. A church bulletin in her Bible is dated July 20, 2014. Mom was even up to having lunch on July 23 with Nan Garber from church, who shares the same birthday week. But after that, she began feeling un-well, attributing her sickness to possible food poisoning. However, a pernicious bacteria was taking over her body, which no medical treatment could touch. Her death has stunned us all. We are in shock.

BedroomEmpty

Yet we are grateful that after a long life of good health and sound mind, her suffering was brief though her influence eternal.

Indeed, the quality of her life was A+ up until the very end. Some snippets from her 3-day hospital stay:

Optimism: “We are having a sunny day today.”

Acceptance: “Whatever the good Lord wants for me . . . .  I am ready to go.”

Wit: As she is moved from her hospital room to ICU she quips: “I want my glasses on, so I can see whether I’m going in the right direction.”

Gratitude: “It’s nice to have a loving family.” And finally . . .

Love: “I love you too!”

Among the songs sung at her funeral a cappella in 4-part harmony at Bossler Mennonite Church was “The Love of God,” a song she requested as she planned her memorial service years ago.

For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                    Romans 8: 38, 39

MarianMotherCrista's

* * *

Psychologists tell us grief involves several stages. According to the Kübler-Ross model, they include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–eventually. These stages are not always experienced in linear fashion, and they are usually recursive, cycling through body, mind and spirit in relentless waves, unpredictable and strong.

But the death of a father or mother hits its own particular nerve in one’s psyche and heart as I observed traveling to see Mother for the very last time in this life:

Sad poem

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” notes C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.

Jane Howard, in A Different Woman probes the pain inherent in one’s separation from a beloved friend, partner, father or mother:

The death of my mother made me feel like a deck of cards being shuffled by giant, unseen hands.  Parents, however old they and we may grow to be, serve among other things to shield us from a sense of our doom.  As long as they are around, we can avoid the facts of our mortality; we can still be innocent children.  Something, some day will replace that innocence, maybe something more useful, but we cannot know what, or how soon, and while we wait, it hurts.

 

How about you?

Have you experienced loss, gradual or sudden? How have you adjusted to it?

 

Do You Know Your Ethnic Mix?

“Your DNA has a story. It’s time to discover it,” invites an ad on the back cover of the February 10, 2014 issue of The New Yorker. “It’s easier than ever to discover your ethnic heritage – and possibly find new cousins along the way,” the advertisement continues. Simply send in a small saliva sample, the key to revealing your DNA strands, which will unlock the secrets of your ethnic roots and disclose where your ancestors lived up to a thousand years ago.

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Genealogy, roots, ancestry . . . In my Pennsylvania Dutch family tree, names and dates were often written in the family Bible:

Longenecker Family Bible with German BIble at right
Longenecker Family Bible with German New Testament at right

Eight generations ago, Ulrich Langenegger (1664-1757), left his birthplace in Langnau, Switzerland, because of religious persecution, and moved to the Rhine Valley in Germany and subsequently immigrated to America from Rotterdam on the good ship Hope.

In America, his son, Christian Langenecker (1703-1759) settled in the rich farm land of Donegal Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where followed two more generations of Christian Longeneckers, with the initial “a” in the last name changing finally to an “o.”

Henry Risser Longenecker, my Grandfather, son of Levi Longenecker, listed in the family Bible.
Henry Risser Longenecker, my Grandfather, son of Levi Longenecker, recorded in the family Bible.

And so the family tree on my father’s paternal side continues:

Christian Longenecker, Jr.  1785-1855 buried in Bossler Mennonite Church Cemetery

John Longenecker  1817-1898 married Nancy Garber, my great-great grandmother

Levi Longenecker  1850-1931 married Annie Risser, my great-grandmother

Henry Longenecker  1876-1946 married Fannie Martin, my grandmother

Ray Longenecker  1915-1985 married Ruth Metzler Longenecker, my mother

On my father’s maternal side some of our history is recorded on the bottom of a chair given to me in 1975. Even then it had a 150-year-old history of Martins, Brinsers, and Horsts in the lineage of my Grandmother Fannie Martin Longenecker.

The Martin Chair, circa 1815
The Martin Chair, circa 1815

My mother’s story is a blend of other Pennsylvania Dutch Names: Landis, Harnish, Hernley, and Metzler. After attending the 275th Metzler reunion last June, I wrote a post entitled Another Valentine, A Different Romance, recounting the parallel history of Swiss-German Mennonites who also came to Pennsylvania at the invitation of William Penn to farm the rich soil of Lancaster County.

Because of their unique heritage as plain folks, focus on Mennonite ancestry is not unusual. But interest in tracing one’s ancestry has ballooned nation-wide in the last decade. “Finding Your Roots” the immensely popular PBS series by Professor Henry Louis Gates which aired in 2012 mirrors that trend. Using both traditional research and genetics, the series traces the family roots of such disparate celebrities as Condoleezza Rice, Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho, Robert Downey Jr., and Rev. Rick Warren. There are some surprising intermingling of genetic roots among the stories as I recall.

Thus, as our family trees expand and send out branches in many different directions, the fascination with our roots continues: Healthy roots, thriving branches, the tag of Homecoming Weekend at Eastern Mennonite University last fall, says it well.

*  *  *  *  *

Do you know your ethnic mix? Does it matter to you?

Is your story more complex because of adoption?

What fascinating discoveries have you made in learning of your ancestry?

Your thoughts matter to me! I look forward to hearing from you.

The Longenecker Christmas Tree & Charlie Brown

The Longenecker Christmas Tree.

Well, there was none. Not one. Not ever. Despite the fact that the Christmas song, “O Tannenbaum” is of German origin, most Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite homes of the 1950s and 60s did not light Christmas trees. Decorated trees were lumped together with other worldly pleasures like jewelry, makeup, and movies and therefore not permitted. At least the Ray Longenecker family did not have one. We were plain and I longed for some fancy.

One year I found a limb from our maple tree out front with little branches that looked as forlorn as Charlie Brown’s tree. I brought it into the living room and tried to find trinkets and a red ribbon or two for decoration.

It was a sad little tree. It looked something like this, only wedged into our living room radiator and anchored by balled-up newspaper no doubt.

forlornTree

Good grief! I know how Charlie Brown must have felt. But at least his had “a wooden trunk and soft green needles” with a red ball on the end of a branch instead of a timid little ribbon.

CBrownSadTree

Charlie Brown’s luck seems to change when Lucy appoints him as director of the Christmas play in which Linus reads Luke 2 from scripture. After the play, the performers migrate outdoors toward Charlie’s sagging tree. Charlie Brown eventually gets his wish for a fine Christmas tree as the gang “donate” the festive string of lights from Snoopy’s doghouse to the dress up the little tree. Charity in action.

CBrownHappyTree

No, there was no Christmas tree in our home or in the sanctuary of my family’s home church, Bossler’s Mennonite Church. But like Linus and friends, we heard the Christmas story from Luke 2 faithfully recited and at the end of the service, we received hand-outs of navel oranges every year, the orange orbs passed hand to hand down the rows.

Nowadays in the Longenecker-Beaman home there is a happy fir tree, bedecked with ornaments from several generations. And we all rehearse the precious old story of the nativity in the Bible passage Luke 2 on Christmas morning.

A wondrous story, plain and simple, read beside a fanciful tree.

O Tannenbaum! Longenecker-Beaman Tree 2013
O Tannenbaum!  The Beaman Tree 2013

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King!     Sung by Charlie Brown   and friends

Add a Christmas tree tale from your past . . . or present. Join the conversation and I will add my little bit as I always do. 

Merry Christmas~~Merry Christmas~~Merry Christmas!

Coming next: Purple Passages with Time and Tiny Tim

Mennonite Lexicon

Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church
Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial celebration at Bossler Mennonite Church

You won’t find the definitions for rumspringa or bundling, (often referring to the Amish) in this mini-dictionary of Pennsylvania Dutch words, but here are some expressions the Longeneckers and other Mennonite families in Lancaster County often used growing up in the 1950s and 60s:

The word “Dutch” is actually a misnomer. Many Pennsylvania Dutch settlers originated in Switzerland before migrating to Germany, not the Netherlands. Thus, “Dutch” may be a corruption of Deutsch (German for the word German).

(Spellings below are dubious, an amalgam of what sounds I heard and some expressions “translated” in modern media from the German.)

ach: variously paired with yes/no/not sure, meaning “yes, of course” and so on.

brutzing: as in “stop your whining, crying!”

dopplich: clumsy with yourself

daymedich: not too smart, slow-witted

ferhoodled: not neat, messy–as in a messy house

fire-ich-butz: one who “flies off the handle,” flares with anger

hipschick: snazzy looking, stylish in fashion. Referring to machinery: working well, no glitches

“It wonders me. . . .”  meaning, I wonder (Grandma Longenecker said this often.)

Kunst du Deutch schwetza: Do you speak Pennsylvania Dutch?

kutz: to vomit

nix nootz: mischievous child

rutschy: restless (something you shouldn’t be in church), squirmy. Also: “giegling,” as in “quit your giegling around,” wiggling on a chair at the table, or at a desk at school.

schmutzich: smeary, messy, or runny–like ice cream from a cone melting onto your fingers

schnickelfritz: troublemaker, usually referring to a child

schtrubelich: messy, uncombed hair

schuslich: in a hurry and leaving a mess behind

spritzing: raining lightly

shit-mo-link: Coined by my dad, a good Mennonite brother, who would never curse or use 4-letter words. His definition: Someone who caused him trouble in business; a crook. It’s only a guess, but his invented word could have originated from the Minneapolis Moline tractors he sold in his dealership, Longenecker Farm Supply:

Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge
Cultivating nearly 10 acres of land for our tomato crop in Bainbridge, PA with a Minneapolis Moline tractor

“Gay” (church): non-Mennonite church where people dressed fancy without coverings and cape dresses. Some daughters from the Alvin Longenecker clan got married in the Evangelical United Brethren Church, a dressy church in Elizabethtown, PA and wore lovely bridal gowns and shimmering veils at their weddings. As a plain Mennonite girl, I dreamed of having such a wedding. (Now “gay churches” often refer to churches who welcome alternative lifestyles.)

Interestingly, many of the words and expressions we used growing up express strong feelings. Many of them seem onomatopoeic to me now, the sound giving a hint to the meaning.

This listing is just a start. What words can you add to this lexicon? From the Pennsylvania Dutch?

From a different ancestry?

Join the conversation! I’d love to hear from you, and I will always reply.

*** Here is the link to my story set in Ukraine submitted to the My Gutsy Story Contest:

http://soniamarsh.com/2013/12/rising-above-the-pettiness-to-focus-on-the-positive-by-marian-beaman.html