Reading #3 from “When The Roll is Called a Pyonder: Tales from a Mennonite Childhood”

Birthday month rolls on, and here’s another short reading to celebrate!  In this segment, learn about the danger that geese pose to little girls, discover my brief drumming career and find out how I resolve the dilemma of which is worse:  risking going to hell for having stolen something, or getting spanked for confessing it.

 

Happy Birthday!

The other day, I had the most awesome idea.  Oh man.  It was a great one.  It was such a great idea that it pains me to tell you about it.  But I’m going to.  My book, “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales from A Mennonite Childhood” turns one year old this month, and I thought we should celebrate, somehow.  Somehow that does not involve me jumping up and down, trying clever new tricks to get you to buy my book without realizing that it was a clever trick.  Something that might feel like a celebration.

So, I decided to read to you.  How awesome is that?  Man, I am smart.  I decided to video myself reading from my book–the best and funniest parts–and post it right here.  One, each week through the remaining weeks of August.

I picked passages from the book, divide them into 4, and sat down to video myself reading.  It’s really cute.  I make funny faces when I read that I don’t generally make in the mirror, so it kind of cracked me up to watch it, myself.

Too bad you’ll never see it.  Wordpress won’t upload it.  It says it doesn’t upload that kind of file.

I’m smart enough to get good ideas, but I’m not smart enough to trouble-shoot their technical problems.  There’s probably a way to make it work.  But I don’t know what it is.  So–sorry about that.  I guess I get to keep the birthday present I made you.

As a consolation prize, the following is the short segment from which the title is taken, since everybody wants to know what a Pyonder is.  :)  So do I!

 

I don’t know what a Pyonder is.  We have a song we sing in Church about When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder I’ll Be There.  A roll is sometimes called a bun but I never heard anyone call it a pyonder.  Or there are rolls like toilet paper rolls or rolls like rolling down the hill and I don’t know which one you’d call a Pyonder.  It’s kind of a funny song.  But I know it’s about Jesus coming back and I know we have to be ready for that any minute.

–from “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From A Mennonite Childhood” by Diana R. Zimmerman, eLectio Publishing, 2014

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The Laundry Experiment

From The Summer of the Riotous Walls, a work in progress

Before we even ran out of clean underwear or decided something had to be done about the bedding, the kitchen towels presented a problem. At least to me they did. How do you clean up a mess with something that’s dirty? Believe me, I tried. But no matter how careful you are, you only make the mess bigger. We started the summer with three towels, but there were only two left since Sheila accidentally set on one fire. They had to double as hot pads for removing boiling pots from the flames of our gas stove—an excellent way to set their little fringes ablaze, burn yourself, nearly set the house on fire, and destroy a perfectly good kitchen towel.

A coffee spill or two, cooking oil that missed the pan and has to be mopped from the stovetop, milk that landed outside the bowl, then a quick rinse in the sink, and soon the dish towels were crusty, molded, greasy rags, unrecognizable as anything intended for use near food. The classic trip through the washer and dryer wasn’t an option. We didn’t have a washer, nor had we received the revelation that we were living practically beside a laundromat. And yet something had to be done.

Finally a thought pecking at the back of my brain hatched itself into daylight and I knew what to do. The obvious is everywhere you look. Laugh all you want. Nothing I could do was going to make it worse.

In Los Rios, where I woke up on sunny mornings a few weeks ago, my mamá Hilda didn’t have a washer. She had soap, water and a cement wash sink against which she scrubbed our clothes to a fierce cleanliness never produced by an agitating tub of suds. I clicked off the list in my head: I didn’t have laundry soap, but I had various other kinds of soaps. I had water. No cement wash sinks anywhere, but there’s a cement slab at the base of our wobbly steps. Why wouldn’t that work? I filled a bucket with water, and grabbed a small plastic bowl to use as a scoop. I never did this in Los Rios. My mamá did it for me. But I watched, and how hard can it be?

“What are you doing, loca?” Beth asked when she saw me heading toward the door with my bucket of water and supplies.

“An experiment.”

“What kind of experiment?”

“A laundry experiment.”

“I hope it works!”

“Me too. These towels are terrible.”

“Can I watch?” Sheila asked.

“Sure. Don’t laugh. I’ve never tried this before.”

“Did you learn it in Costa Rica?”

“Sort of.”

I had to fetch the broom and sweep the dirt from the cement slab before anything had hope of getting clean on it. I dumped a scoop of water on it to wet it, then spread the immoral dish towels out and poured water over them, too. I squirted them with a generous amount of dish soap. Then, I commenced scrubbing them back and forth against the rough cement, which—of course—produced more mud, even though a minute ago, it had appeared clean. I rubbed and scrubbed, slopped and scraped, dumped more water, squirted more soap.

“Cool!” Sheila admired.

Not terribly. Two of my knuckles were bleeding. My mamá’s knuckles never bled, whether because they were so toughened by the constant necessity of repeating this task, or because she had learned to do it without scraping them on the cement, I can’t say. I had to keep washing the blood away so that I wouldn’t make the towels worse, instead of better.

Getting the soap out was the hardest part. I had to send Sheila up to the kitchen for another bucket of water and I was making an enormous mess. I somehow managed to soak my shirt, and a puddle of mud had formed around my bare feet. I wrung and rinsed, twirled and twisted, beating the suffering towels up and down against the cement with one hand while attempting to pour water over them with the other. Mamá made it look a lot easier than this. If I had to wash bath towels and work jeans this way like she did, I think I would cry.

The dish towels looked a heck of a lot better, believe it or not. They weren’t exactly white, but they were a lot less brown. Sheila had to get me another bucket of water to wash my feet, and then I walked up the steps and draped the dripping towels over the banister in the sun.

“There,” I said, when I walked back inside.

Beth looked up at me over top of the book she was reading.

I shrugged my shoulders and went to look in the medicine cabinet to see if, by chance, we had any band-aids.

Swashbuckling Through the Daisies

I’ve decided that I’m done with “The Open Book Test.”  For anyone who was enjoying it:  (graceful bow).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about–don’t worry about it.  I was going to continue it for the whole of 2015, but I changed my mind.  That’s the great thing about having a blog.  It’s yours.  You can change your mind if you want to.

In place of that project exploring the past, I’m going to try come up with occasional posts about what’s going on in my mind in the present, and hope that they are reasonably interesting.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular kind of annoying person and how I fear I might be turning into one.  The ones I’ve met are usually ex-missionaries of some sort–people who once did something awesome and unusual, but then proceeded to live totally normal boring lives but continue to define themselves by the one interesting unusual thing they did 20 years ago.  I hate that.  It drives me crazy.  The other day I realized that I think I might be turning into one.  I felt like kicking a hole in the wall.

So.

So?

Well it seems like there are only two possible ways to avoid this or change it.

1.  Do something interesting and unusual now (take it out of the past and put it in the present)

2.  Redefine yourself (as in: use the mirror and not old photo albums)

I wish I could think of another option, but I can’t.

I’d like to do the first one.  I am dying to do the first one.  Honestly.  And I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell is stopping me.  It’s not like I have kids in school or anything.  I am married, though, to a wonderful man who is about as different from me as a person can be.  He’s unusual and exciting by nature.  If you know him, you know what I mean.  He’s also older than I am–not a lot, but enough–he’s had a significant number of health problems in the last several years, and he’s an Aries.  All of these things add up to: he’s not in the mood to do exciting, unusual things that don’t involve full health insurance and regular paychecks.  All things considered, I don’t blame him.  And then there’s this:  he IS doing something exciting and unusual.  He’s an Italian living in America.  This, for him, is as awesome as it would be for me if he took me to live in Italy.  So, there you go.  You get it.  We were all amped to join the Peace Corp a few months ago, and for about three precious hours I felt like I came to life again.  Then I discovered that he can never join the Peace Corp because he’s not an American citizen.  So I let that go, too.

The second one is not as fun.  It’s sad–or it makes me sad.  How do you do that?  I mean, how do I do that?  I don’t want to be a middle-aged community health worker living in a redneck town in a cold desert when the world is full of places with oceans and languages and sunshine and open windows.  In my mind, I am ready to take my surfboard and paddle out, but instead I take my scissors and walk around the house snipping off the heads of the roses that have bloomed.  Again and again.  Instead of packing suitcases I switch purses a lot.

It’s not easy.  That’s all I’m saying.  It would be a lot easier to do something hard, than to keep doing easy things over and over.  I’m standing here with my machete, ready to swashbuckle through the jungle, and then I realize I’m in a field of daisies.  It’s disappointing.  Tennessee Williams said something about that.

I can’t tell you how I’ve resolved this, because I haven’t.  I’m just posing the question.  That’s the difference between me posting from the past or posting from the present.  I can’t tell you how it turned out.

 

Gardening with a machete:  Outside my house in Costa Rica, 2010

Gardening with a machete: Outside my house in Costa Rica, 2010