My Life as a Mennonite

When I was young, I can’t say how old, really, I found a door. This door was at street level without a porch or anything. It went in to a Mennonite church. I began to go to this church. My parents did not question me on this. I remember that on your birthday, you would put pennies into a pail as a donation and the other children would count off your age as they clinked in.

I was told that I had won a prize one Sunday. This was a weekend trip to a farm, a Mennonite farm. I didn’t know that Mennonites were well known for being farmers. I had a small leather suitcase and was dropped off by my parents at this farm some distance from the city.

I was a city boy though and through. I had never been to a farm. There were a number of children who welcomed me. I remember they offered me a drawer to put my things in. I kept them in my suitcase under the bed because I thought if I became too connected here, I would become part of this farm.

The kids were all barefoot as they showed me the animals and how they fed them. I did not join in this barefootedness. I was not having a bad time but I began to think that I would never leave. I would be forgotten by my family and become a Mennonite farm child. My parents would give me up and let me become a Mennonite. I was not in despair but thought that my parents might even forget how to get to this farm having been only once.

I sat on the porch with my suitcase at the appropriate time to be picked up. I never voiced my concern of being abandoned. I did imagine myself, a bit sadly, going back into the farmhouse to join in the dinner. What would life be like? Did they go to school out here?

My parents did arrive and I bid the family goodbye, thanking them. I was silent during the ride home. It was so funny that my parents never questioned me about attending this church. The Mennonites were trustworthy in their eyes. I felt I had escaped a new lifestyle which was foreign to me.

I have never warmed up to farms and have always kept an eye on our car whenever we went to visit an obscure aunt who lived on a farm. Animals should only be in a zoo, I felt. I don’t think I ever wondered where food came from.

Later, as a teen, my dad took me to a turkey farm. He had ordered a fresh turkey and while he was inside, I examined the turkey farm through the fence. What a hellscape, I thought. Hundreds of turkeys wandering around not knowing that Thanksgiving was looming closer and closer.

I have always felt that a farm should only be viewed from a speeding car as you past it.