What Lights Your Fire?

My mother wore many hats both literally and figuratively. Most of her head coverings were prayer veilings worn every day. As a young woman, her coverings were large, decreasing in size as she got older and church rules had progressively relaxed.

Mom+Marian_2 mos_5x9_300

 

Mother wore a sunbonnet in the tomato patch in Bainbridge, PA. As far as I could tell, Mennonite women in the 1940s and 1950s, paid no attention to Coppertone ads. (Remember billboards with that sneaky cocker spaniel pulling on a little girl’s swimsuit bottom, exposing her pale cheeks?) No one that I knew then wore sun tan lotion regularly, except maybe to the shore at Atlantic City or Ocean City. Country women, including my mother, wore bonnets in the garden and fields to protect their skin.

MomBonnetTOMATOES

The details are fuzzy here because this photo is another movie “still” captured from Aunt Ruthie’s 16 mm camera (circa 1955).

I look at this image of Mother’s sunbonnet worn in the tomato patch with two lenses, viewing the blurry film now and remembering the scene vividly then as an eyewitness:

I’m looking at a film clip of Mother in rows of the tomato patch just now, humped-over body bending toward a flush tomato bush facing the camera, her blue and white speckled sunbonnet sewn with three tiers of matching ruffles, a row along the bill, a row at the crease, another row near the crown of the hat—come to think of it now, headgear much fancier than her everyday prayer cap.

 

Figuratively too, she wore many hats:

Sister

Wife

Mother

Friend

Gardener

Tomato Picker

Cook/preserver

PTA/Treasurer

Dresser of chickens

Sewing circle seamstress

Volunteer – MCC Gift and Thrift

Volunteer – Choice Books in Salunga, PA

Mother particularly enjoyed her last volunteer job, stamping the Choice Books logo onto inspirational books for display on kiosks in stores around the country. During her “morning away,” she got to see her niece Dotty Metzler Martin often, met her friend Bertha, and ate lunch with other friends. She always sounded thrilled to describe this excursion when we talked on the phone Saturday mornings.

MomChoiceBooks

Even in her early nineties, she got excited about this bright spot in her life. I thought about her experience and examined my own passions when I read this verse from Psalm 39:3

My heart grew hot within me . . . and as I meditated, the fire burned. (NIV)

If someone asked Mother, “What lights your fire?” She would probably answer, “Serving others,” a motto she lived by.

The 16 x 22 inch poster created for her 90th birthday party and later, displayed on an easel at her memorial service, shows flash points of service, including her stint at Choice Books.

PosterMom2008

 

How would you answer these burning questions?

  • What lights your fire?
  • What burns “hot” within you?

“When God gives you an 11-by-17 mindset, you’ll never be happy living in a 3-by-5 mental framework.” Daily Devotional: The Word for You Today, April 10, 2016

 

Hearing from you lights my fire. Thank you for commenting here!

 

Coming next: All Creatures Great & Small: The Power of Pets

 

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A Scrapbook: Bonnets, Bandannas, and Sex Ed

Bonnets

“Tie your head shut!” – An oft-heard admonition from my mother, my Aunt Ruthie, and Grandma Longenecker. Translation: If you tie your head shut, you won’t get sick with colds, sinus trouble, what not. And so our heads are tied shut with bonnets and bandannas and then adorned with the Mennonite prayer veiling. In other words, there is usually something besides my hair on top of my head or around my ears from babyhood on up.

My photo at 10 months old features a machine-sewn miniature version of a bonnet that I remember my Grandma wearing in the garden.

Marian_Dad_10 mos_150

On billboards we see the little blond girl advertising a fake way to get sun-tanned. “Don’t be a paleface,” she says.  But we don’t need to buy Coppertone lotion to make our skins dark. We get our tans the honest way. Our skin turns brown naturally in the summer playing outside or working in the garden or tomato patch. To tell the truth, we depend on the sun-bonnet or the grace of God to not scorch our tough Swiss skins.

Bundled up in snowsuit
Bundled up in snowsuit
Another hat - on tricycle
Another hat – on tricycle

More Bonnets & Bandannas @ Work

Like Mildred Armstrong Kalish in her must-read memoir Little Heathens depicting rural life in Iowa during the Depression, we in Pennsylvania Dutch land are not offended or shocked by four-letter words that are part of our daily life either: cook, bake, wash, iron, dust, pick tomatoes, sweet corn, beans, or sweet potatoes.

Sisters and I throwing wood for furnace
Sisters and I throwing wood for furnace
Cousin Janet and I say, "Rabbit for dinner!"
Cousin Janet and I say, “Rabbit for dinner!”
Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field
Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field

WIth skirts and scarves we plant, hoe, and pick tomatoes in Bainbridge, PA. For details, see Tomato Girl, parts I and II.

Proudly advertising DeKalb corn, no bonnet or bandanna
Proudly advertising DeKalb corn, no bonnet or bandanna

School and Sex Ed

Surrounded by girls with curls visiting the Elizabethtown Library, I’m the one to the left with a floral bandanna, keeping my head tied shut, just like Mother expected.

My class at Elizabethtown Library
My class at Elizabethtown Library

With all its books, this library is an impressive step up from the small bookcase at Rheems Elementary School. Yes, there is a library at Bossler Mennonite Church too, which is where I begin to get my sex education. In a blue and white book with a glossy, stiff cover, I discover that when a mommy and daddy “got very close” a baby was created. “Now what does “get very close” mean?” I wonder. Later I un-earth a book entitled Sane Sex Life with a red, black and white dust cover in my parents’ bedroom. Hidden in their wardrobe among sweaters, long-johns, and mothballs, this book adds a new dimension to my literary diet of Lippincott textbooks, church catechism, and storybooks. Whenever I think my mother won’t hear the sound of the wardrobe door open, I sneak a look at its realistic drawings (gasp!) and mind-boggling explanations, astonished that such a books exists.

Yes, I keep these strange revelations under my hat, bandanna, prayer veiling–whatever I am wearing on my head.

And Play

Picnicking with plain friends
Picnicking with plain friends

Prayer coverings take no vacations. Because a woman is apt to pray any time or any place, the Church (Lancaster Mennonite Conference) ordains that we stay veiled morning, noon, and night.

What special outfits do you remember from your childhood or teen-age years?

Did they make you feel attractive? Out of place?

Up and Down Anchor Road: Secrets

Home for me is bracketed by the two houses we ping-pong between: our parents house and Grandma’s house on Anchor Road. Her house is at the bottom of the hill and ours at the top.

1989RuthieHouse          HouseMom

Both houses are along side Anchor Road, between Elizabethtown to the west and Rheems to the east—centered between Harrisburg, the capital, and Lancaster, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Not long ago the road didn’t have the status of a real name. It was just Rural Delivery # 1 on the mailman’s morning route.

Why the name Anchor Road, so far inland and nowhere near water, unless you count the Susquehanna River? Years ago, Anchor Inn sat down the street, a welcoming grey hostel for guests with a barn and cornfield.

AnchorInn

In years to come, it would sprout legs and walk backward about 200 feet propelled by huge trucks, announcing its wish for privacy as a single family home.

At the edge of the nearby village of Rheems, a bridge of concrete separates the sprawl of Heisey’s Limestone quarry on either side.  On the bridge, there is a keystone-shaped metal insignia and below it inscribed the name of Rheems.

RheemsSign

Here the road makes a hard right under the railroad overpass and on around the corner to Grandma’s house, a turn-of-the-century Victorian homestead where the extension of our family, Grandma Fannie, my Dad’s mother, and Aunt Ruthie live. On these acres is a stately house with a slate roof, sloping lawn with oaks and a birch tree for climbing, two gardens—one with strawberries and vegetables, and the other for Silver Queen sweet corn. Between the house and the railroad tracks is a woods bordered by a hill my sisters and I climb up to for raspberries in summer and sled down on our Flexible Flyers in the winter. We come here to Grandma’s when my mom says it’s rime to “sca-doo!” Sometimes my dad brings home a big kettle of pot pie from his mom’s stove for our supper.

Halfway up the hill from Grandma’s is the Hoffer’s. The place seems like a dairy farm, but I think they have only two cows, one Guernsey and one Holstein, whose milk and cream they share with us. Granny Hoffer is plainer than we are: large prayer covering with silky ribbons tied under her chin but, oddly, tiny gold-loop earrings on each lobe.

GrannyCovering

Granny pours the just-drawn milk and fills my bluish jar to the very top. Cream always dribbles out because Granny doesn’t want to give us one fraction of an ounce less than two full quarts; she calls it gospel measure. I see their dog Queenie and a lazy cat Minnie. Mom says they don’t need any more animals around the place because Granny’s son Amos and daughter-in-law Bertha fight like cats and dogs. What secrets lurk inside these walls?

Secrets revealed next time:

1. How do Lancaster County women rein in their girth in the 1950s?

2. Why do the Rentzels have a red light glowing on the porch?

3. Why did Daddy have to pull a Rheems resident from the wreckage of his car?