I descend from a long, long line of Mennonites. My father’s family is Russian Mennonite, and my grandfather arrived in Canada about 1925, fleeing civil war in Russia. My grandfather, his parents and siblings lived very simply when they arrived, in a one-room sod house on the Saskatchewan prairies.
My grandfather went to another town to find a wife. He met her through the local church, and they got married quite quickly. She was a German speaking Mennonite as well, and they began to build their life together. My aunt tells me how my grandparents used to refer to the neighbours as “English.” As a child, my aunt thought maybe they were from England, but I have a feeling it referred to the language the families spoke at home, in the same way the Amish use the word. My grandparents spoke Low German, and they used it to have private conversations away from their twelve children.
My grandfather with some neighbours, eating lunch while working the farm.
By the time my father came along, my grandparents were living on a farm in British Columbia. By the time my father graduated high school, his father had passed away, and the family lived in a little house in town. However, my father did the unthinkable–in 1975, he married a Catholic girl!
That was a big deal for my conservative MB grandmother. A very, very big deal. She’d expected her son to marry a good Mennonite girl, and she refused to attend the wedding. You’ll notice that theme of outsiders vs. insiders in my Amish writing, and that comes from my own family’s experience of trying to retain their unique Mennonite identity in the new world. Sometimes they adjusted gracefully, and other times, they missed weddings because they couldn’t make the leap.
That scandalous Catholic girl ended up taking care of my grandmother for a couple of years before she died. My parents love each other dearly, and have stood by each other through thick and thin.
And that is where my Amish writing comes from–a small amount from my own family history, and a healthy imagination wondering what it felt like being so different in the middle of a world that sped on ahead of them.
I hope you’ll check out my books, and maybe you’ll find your next read!