December is for Barbara

My friend Barbara disappeared in early December four years ago and is still one of Costa Rica’s cold case missing persons. I know that December is for religious holidays and our dark solstice. But December is also for Barbara.

Remember Barbara is her story according to me, as close to the truth as I know it to be. I call it fiction in a fading hope that it is–and because although I have no doubt that Barbara is dead, there is no proof. I don’t know what happened, only what might have happened. I know she vanished without a trace and was never heard from again.

There are five Mondays in December and I have divided the story into five segments, and I will post one of them each Monday.

All of the names of people and most of the names of places have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent-until-proven-guilty and others close by. Make no mistake: I will never stop hoping that everything I have supposed is wrong. Everyone in this story is a friend I have lost.

Barbara and me on November 7, 2010, three weeks before she disappeared.

Barbara and me on November 7, 2010, three weeks before she disappeared.

http://codygear.com/cold-case-missing-persons-in-costa-rica/

 

Ice Age

if I were a planet, this
would be my ice age
my interminable winter of
a thousand years
who would believe the
flowers that bloomed here?
who would believe the bees?
the dinosaurs are all dead and
glaciers creep downward toward
my belly
everything has starved for lack of
fruit except the
woolly mammoths hunkered in ice
caves huffing hot breath

May 1980: The last of the little red diary

 From the red diary of the little girl who tells the tales in
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From a Mennonite Childhood.

***
The little red diary ends there and the rest of the diaries begin.
I invite you to continue exploring old diaries with me in my new Diary Experiment which is still incubating and is due to hatch the first week of January 2015.
Hold on to your hat.

***

May 20

Yesterday I was doing a big picture and I needed to color some of it light black and Neil came up to me. He said it was good, and helped me just a little bit. Today our class went to Indian Eco cave. It was really neet! There was lots of flow stone and colores and a pool about 3 to 4 feed deep and a nother pool was 10 feet deep and there was a five foot wishing well. At the suveneer shop I got a small caraseen lamp and a big lolly pop. At last reses I had to stay inside to do my progect. And I was painting and I spilled the blue paint all over me and my new colot dress. My teacher was mad. But mommy wasn’t.

May 27

Today in school we had music class and we had a very crabby music teacher. (She was a substitute.) We had a contest at 4-H last night our teem won we got cowboy hats mine was more of a cowgirl hat, it was pink. I got new sandels today and they’re size 4. A couple of strawberries are ripe but not all of them.

 

img004One of our third grade class projects was to make a book.  The last page was our “about the author” page.  Each of us were photographed in the library with a book and we could write whatever we felt was important for readers to know about us.  At some point I must have ditched the book, but I’m glad I salvaged this!

May 7, 1980: Ponysitting

Straight from the red diary of the little girl who tells the tales in
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From a Mennonite Childhood.

May 7, 1980

Yesterday I got a pony his name is Sparckey, but he’s not mine, he’s Julie Hoffer’s. Her mom and dad are going on a trip and Julie and her brother Gary are going to her friends house, so I get to take care of him until they get back. Last night I went to ride Sparckey and he almost threw me off. But he seems to like when I brush and comb him. And when I comb his mane. I took Sparkey for a walk in the medow (he had just been in the crall).

May 9, 1980
Early this morning Matthew’s Grandpa died and when Matthew came to school he looked as if he would cry and when we were about ready to start singing he burst out crying. Today I had my first peano lesson it was fun. I had to do a hard finger exersize and play two songs that were stupid and one neat one.

img023This photo is from a few years later when I am in sixth grade and have my first horse.  Pictured with me are Missy Miller and Karen (Longenecker) Carter.  Dandy met an unhappy fate after he bit me on the leg and sent me into the house crying.

The next post from my Red Diary will be the last one.  The Red Diary ends there and others continue.

I am working on a new diary project to be announced next month and launched at the beginning of 2015.  If you liked this ride, hold onto your hat because the next one is even more fun.

 

The Day of The Dead

Yesterday, November 2, was The Day of the Dead.

I love The Day of the Dead. We don’t really have The Day of the Dead in English (as my different lives are divided in my mind); I didn’t learn about it until I got to Costa Rica. Then when I heard it named, I thought it sounded awful. I’m already not a huge fan of Halloween (gasp) because I don’t like gory/scary things—and now we have ANOTHER day about dead people on its heels? Great.

But, lucky for me,The Day of the Dead is just the opposite; it’s a fiesta in the cemetery. And maybe there’s a clue as to why it isn’t celebrated where I come from: November is not exactly picnic weather in most of the northern hemisphere. That and to celebrate it properly you have to believe or at least tolerate the idea of saints and souls and other non-Mennonite/Puritanical stuff.

On The Day of the Dead in Latin America or where ever it is celebrated, people take flowers (real, cloth, plastic, home-made) to decorate the graves of their dead. And streamers and bows and every cheerful colorful thing you can imagine. They take food and gifts and in some countries spread picnic blankets on the grass and have meals with their deceased loved ones. Children run around and siblings squabble about how to place the decorations on grandma’s grave and dogs are constantly being scolded and ants crawl on the sandwiches and everybody is wearing their colorful best. Forget ghosts and goblins and fake bloody hands poking out of the grass.

I didn’t have very many dead when I first came to appreciate the celebration, and none at all in Costa Rica.   Now I have them everywhere.

* * *

I cannot take flowers to all of my dead or even name you all anymore. You are from too many times and in too many places.  But I am having a fiesta for you in the place I have buried you in my heart.  It is covered with flowers and streamers and there is cake for everyone, including:

Janelle
A high school classmate who died in a car accident while we were still students. She is the first friend I ever lost.

Jenna
A few years older than I am and I worshiped the ground she walked on in high school and college. Everyone expected her to recover from Hodgkin’s’ Disease in her early 20s.

 Grandpa Zimmerman
In his mid-seventies when he died of complications from a stroke or of a heart attack.

Great Grandpa Horning
Died in his sleep in at age 105.

A girl in college whose name I forget. I didn’t know her.
Disappeared while she was driving to her mother’s house and was found much later, murdered.

Jorge (Papa)
My Costa Rican father and he died of liver failure. Or that is how I remember it.

Randal
A friend in Costa Rica who died driving drunk on his motorcycle.

Oneida
My friend’s perfect 10-month-old perfect baby who flew out the window during a car accident and the angels took him away.

Uncle Earl, my dad’s brother
He was struck by a car while he was getting the mail out of his mailbox.

Jon
A close friend in high school and then we lost contact. He died a few years ago from complications of brain cancer surgery.

Chuck Cook
A father figure in Costa Rica who died of cancer.

Martin (Saul)
My ex-father-in-law who was kind and I loved him. I don’t remember the name of the disease.

Rafaele
A neighbor in Costa Rica, a butcher from Italy who was always joking and smiling. I did not expect that he would hang himself.

Lucho
We had Christmas dinner together in Costa Rica the year before he went to prison where he died.

Grandpa  Brubaker
Starved to death as a result of advanced Alzheimer’s in his early 90s.

Grandma Brubaker
Died a few days after a massive stroke in her early 90s.

Lara
Crazy guy who used to cut my hair

Grandma Tina
Saul’s mother who lived to be 100. She called me her granddaughter and told me the best stories I ever heard while her mind was clear.

Grandma Paula
My other grandma in Costa Rica, matriarch of matriarchs.

Nazim
My friend in Costa Rica who always called me “Lady Di.” He died of a degenerative disease I cannot name.

Barbara
My dear friend Barbara disappeared a month after I left Costa Rica and is still missing.

May 4,1980: Too High For the Bugs!

Straight from the red diary of the little girl who tells the tales in
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From a Mennonite Childhood.
Click the title for the link to buy.

 

May 3, 1980
I was outside almost all day. Roger caught a lamb so I could pet it.

May 4, 1980
This afternoon we hiked up the Gouvener Dick mauntin and we climbed up the tower, I like it on top of the tower because we got all the air the whole way up there and it was too high for the bugs. It was neat!

May 5, 1980
We watched little House on the Prarie. Almonzo said he wanted Laura to be his wife. But Pa said “No.” Almonzo was cross at Pa. Then Almonzo went to Sleepy eye (another town) and later Laura went there when Almonzo was there. We also got our sheep sheered and Oh are they scroney!

 

img05919721972
Daddy and me riding Ringo in the yard

 Get When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder from Amazon.com or if you buy it directly from the publisher, eLectio Publishing, a free e-book comes with the purchase of the paperback.

“Are you still Mennonite?”

“So…are you still Mennonite?”

That’s a question I am asked almost as often as I reveal the truth of my roots and it is coming to me with a new frequency since the August launch of my book When The Roll Is Called a Pyonder: Tales From A Mennonite Childhood.

I can see that I am going to have to come up with an answer.

For most Mennonites where I come from, the fact you even have to ask would be the answer in and of itself. My light is evidently under a bushel and we all know what that means. Or at least Mennonites do.

But my last name is Zimmerman and I have a Mennonite pedigree that doesn’t stop, including surnames like Brubaker, Neff, Martin and Horning. I went to junior high at Manheim Christian Day School, high school at Lancaster Mennonite High School and college at Goshen College. When I was thirteen years old I was baptized on my knees by the bishop and for several successive years, pinned a round white doily to the top of my head every time I went to church or grandma’s house to symbolize my submission before God and men. And I was proud of it. I can sing 606 without the book and I know all three verses of “Heart With Loving Heart United,” the soprano line and the alto. I make pork and knepp on New Year’s Day like Grandma Brubaker did wearing an apron with blue rick-rack that Grandma Zimmerman wore over her cape dress. I wash my kitchen floor on my hands and knees with a bucket and a rag and my fail-proof recipe for pie crust comes from the Erisman Mennonite Church’s cookbook. So of course I’m Mennonite.

But I moved far away for a long time and I’ve fallen in love with dancing: salsa and merengue. Can you remain a Mennonite after you learn to move like that? I spent so many sunny years in a bikini on a surf board that I have lost all ability to feel the shame prescribed for immodesty. So I don’t know. Now what?

I consider myself a pacifist and like to believe I am non-violent. I believe in being nice to everybody; does that count? Military vehicles and anyone dressed in military clothing scare the crap out of me—I can’t help it. I’m down with the priesthood of believers and concur that the significance of infant baptism appears to be lost on the infants. So obviously I’m a Mennonite, right?

But I haven’t been a member of a Mennonite church in twenty years. I haven’t been a member of any church in twenty years. I’ve barely entered a church in the last twenty years until I recently started unfaithfully attending a United Methodist church. Why? My town doesn’t have a Mennonite church. Oh, you mean why have I gone back to church at all? I don’t really know. I just got in the mood. Is that my age showing?

I’ve been married twice (divorce, not widowed), both times to men who had never heard of Mennonites and didn’t believe I was serious until they saw with their own eyes. I’ve broken all of the 10 commandments except for the one about killing and I only feel repentant in a handful of instances. The fact that I would even make a statement like that—what does that make me?

I don’t pray before meals or before bed or at any other specific time of day. I pray spontaneously—almost accidentally—as if I have an invisible friend inside my head. I don’t read my Bible, really. When the mood strikes, I like Ecclesiastes and Matthew and Ester. But I know Psalm 23, Psalm 139, the Lord’s Prayer, I can almost recite Luke’s version of the Christmas Story from the King James Version and at one time during my teenaged years I committed to word-for-word memory the first 11 chapters of the Book of Acts. Does that mean anything?
I don’t think I believe in the traditional heaven and hell. I’m not sure what to make of the Holy Trinity, to tell the truth, because I suspect the church got poor Jesus all wrong as his toes were disappearing into the clouds.

Can you be a Mennonite if you question whether or not Christianity is a crock? If I say I am Mennonite, do I ruin the meaning of the word? If I say I am not Mennonite, does my blood laugh out loud in my veins? Is being Mennonite about espousing The Mennonite Confession of Faith? If you can start being one by espousing it, do you stop being one if you take issue? Even if you obediently wore skirts and dresses throughout the entire 4 years of high school? What about if you have a private moment of glee every time the clock says 6:06?

So tell me yourself: am I still Mennonite?  In one word you will define both of us.