Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ohio: Connections, Identity, Exploring

One of the cool things about the Mennonite world is that it's large enough that you don't know everyone, but small enough that you can almost always make a connection.

I don't know what you'd do if you were Amish or Mennonite and didn't like connections. Leave, I guess.

So there I was, at the ladies' brunch at East Union, and at my table was Verda, who had been at Stirland Lake with us way back when we first went up North. And Verda's sister, whose son owns the house that Emily is living in in Colorado. And Verda's mom, with whom my dad boarded for three months back before he was married, and used their horse and buggy to go around the Plain City neighborhood selling Herald Press books.

See? If you didn't like connections, you'd run screaming from the room and the whole community.

I really enjoyed the different functions where I spoke. I'm used to those events. I had a harder time, a mini identity crisis in fact, with being The Special Meeting Speaker's Wife.

Ok, so I know what it's like from this end, and I have served supper to Speakers and their Wives on various occasions, and at times found the wives a bit humorless and intimidating, capable women who engaged in polite conversation and then leaped up from the table and bustled around to wash the dishes for me.

So it was very eye-opening to be on the other side of the picture. I found that you don't have much choice but to wade through polite conversation, that you have to get to know someone a bit before you know it's safe to have a sense of humor.

Of course I offered to do dishes, because I was trying to fit the Speaker's Wife mold, and blessings be on Elsie the hostess, who said, "Oh, I'm just going to leave the dishes till morning." Not because I got out of doing them, but because there was something liberating about hearing a Mennonite hostess say such a thing.

I could explore Northern Ohio for a month I think. I was a gushing tourist driving through Amish country, yapping about the buggies and the two-horse/one-bottom plows in the fields. Paul and I had a fun afternoon nosing around Wayne County, especially at Orrville, where we saw the Smuckers jam factory and went through the Simply Smuckers building. There they had every Smuckers product you can imagine and an information area besides. And it was an odd sensation to watch the information video and hear:

Quote of the Day:
"Our company's philosophy is best expressed by these words from Paul Smucker. . ."


  1. Son #2 reads paragraph 3 and says, "And that's cool how?" He's one that leaves when we have these discussions! Pauline

  2. No, I didn't leave, but conversations taken up with "connections" do annoy me. It seems to me there are mmore valuable things to talk about than if your second cousin was my neighbor growing up. Or perhaps I just fail to see the "so what about it-ness" of such connecting? -Angela

  3. Well, I do like the "connecting." It amuses me sometimes, but I still like it. I think it's a part of my heritage that is just woven into me somehow. Even though I no longer attend a Mennonite church, I think I'll always be one in some ways! =) I work at a doctor's office and I catch myself trying to do the connection thing with patients..."Oh, you're a Bradley, do you know Eleanor?" (Our town is crawling with Bradleys)
    "No, I don't know Eleanor." I always find this amazing somehow. If they were a Yoder they'd find a connection SOMEHOW! =D

  4. I like the connecting, too, but I try to be considerate around people who do not have generations of connections that many of us do.

    I don't want to make them feel like they don't belong.

    Linda Rose

  5. The connections are the tapestry thta God is weaving, intertwining our lives and saying that He IS in control and DOES have a plan for us. I think it would be fun at this point in life, to take a thread of my life and follow it back and see how many people I came in contact wtih before that I now know...seeing them in crowds at football games, or in class with me, but I never knew them....

  6. We're a long ways from Mennonite country -- we live in a South Asian city of 20 million. But I can still play the game. I'm married to Verda's sister's daughter, so your daughter's landlord is my brother-in-law. :-)

  7. My dad's side of the family has Mennonite connections, and also lived in the Orrville area, including Wooster. I personally don't know any of these still-living relatives, but I spent happy hours at my grandparents house in Orrville, and then in Wooster, when I was young.