April 17, 1980: It’s not fair!

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.

April 17, 1980

Today I was sad and mad because in line I was behind Neil and Karen and I were pretending to fight about who was behind him. And Neil said to us, “One thing, just stay off my back.” And that did it and so from now on I’ll just act normal so Neil doesn’t hate me, and maby some day he’ll change his mind about me. And who says I don’t like him? Well I do like him. I went fishing today. In the evening we played Rook. Daddy won. I don’t think it’s fair that Wanda, Yvonne and Roger can mouth off to mommy and daddy all day and neighthor of them bother to say any thing about it. And after the Roock game I asked If I could have a cookie mommy said “No”.  I asked again if I could have a cookie and I got mommy after me yelling.  I went on my way to the lundry and I said, “Come on you guys!” Then I had mommy and daddy yelling at me. Karen can’t stand to be pushed around a little bit, but she can be yelled at all day, Well I can stand to be pushed around all day, but I can’t stand to be talked mean to or yelled at even just a little bit.

April 21, 1980

Today I got a letter from my penpal on the out side it said Do Not Bend. Inside where 2 post cards from the Neil (drawing of heart) Armstrong museum. Wanda’s cat, Cinnimin had kittens and so did another wild cat. I tried to make a wheel barrel today, but I didn’t get very far.


Celebrating my 9th birthday about 4 months before I started keeping this diary.  Around the table clockwise are:  Yvonne, Wanda, Grandma Zimmerman, Mom, Grandpa  Zimmerman, Great Grandpa Horning, Great Grandma Horning and me.  Dad is taking the picture.  You can’t see it all that well, but I am wearing an infamous coloutte skirt with flaps, explained in When the Roll Is Called A Pyonder.

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.

First Soup

From The Riotous Walls, work in progress

I do not know how to eat the soup.

There is an enormous bowl on the table in front of me with fist-sized potatoes, gristly chunks of meat, yucca, whole carrots, halved ears of corn. And a spoon. My mamá named Hilda smiles at me because she is pleased to have made me something special and “Coma,” she says. “No le gusta la sopa?”

I like soup and I am hungry but I don’t know what to do. The soups I know have small-cut meat and vegetables, not these ingredients boiled whole. I look again but she has not given me a knife. She stands there smiling at me in confused expectation as I look helplessly at my plate.

I must look for words in this language and I have so few.

“No entiendo,” I say. “Como?”

“Ai mamita,” she says through an accidental giggle and asks me if I’ve never eaten soup before. “Asi,” she says, and taking my spoon, she slices off a piece of potato and offers it to me as if I were a giant 20-year-old baby.

“Ah,” I say. “Gracias.” I take the spoon.

Mama Hilda disappears into the kitchen and then joins me with a steaming bowl for herself. The delicious broth is scalding hot and I spill it onto the table as I chop clumsily at the carrot and then at the corn.

“No no,” she interrupts me. “El maiz, no. Ai mamita. No sabe tomar la sopa,” and she giggles again. “Mire,” she commands. She dips her fingers into the boiling broth, fishes out the ear of corn and bites the kernels from it in the way of every summer.

“Ya?” she asks me, meaning do I need more help or do I finally get it.

“Si,” I say. “Ya.”


“Gracias. Igual.”

I know nothing, not how to eat, not now to speak. All my life I have heard people talk of being born again and although this is not what they meant I see that this is its truer meaning.

When we are finished our faces shine with sweat and soup.

April 13, 1980: Worm Hunting

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
Get it now by clicking on the title.

April 11, 1980
Today Roger and I got up early and went fishing. It was really good. I moved my pigoens from the top rabbit pen to the empty fox pen  Its alot bigger and  I can sit inside it with them.

April 13, 1980
Today after church and dinner Velda’s came to our house. We had fun! Then Wendall, Reagena, Mell Martains and Carl Zisets came over after supper. Larry, Jeff, John, Sharen and me went to hunt night crallers. They are giant worms that come up out of the dirt and you need a flashlight.  We got a bunch!

April 15, 1980
Today in school we had a substitute her name was Miss Barthold. She wasn’t that mean but she was weard!

Making Christmas cookies with mom and Wanda in the old kitchen.  Looks like peanut blossoms which are still my favorite.

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

Mary Katheryn’s Silver

I would like to apologize to
Mary Kathryn about the silver.
I am sorry. I saw it sitting there on
the table at your son’s garage sale
beside some ugly lamps and a
mantle clock.

The girls standing guard hawked,
“It was our great grandma’s!
It’s never been used!”
when they heard me gasp and saw
my hand shoot out to touch the
tiny flowers.

I am a good woman, I promise you,
with a clean house and
a clear conscience. Your son
is kind; he feeds our cats when we are gone
and brought us a cheddar cheese ball
at Christmas.

He told me it’s your wedding
anniversary silver. I am sorry
I bought it for 40$ at his garage sale.
I am sorry for your great granddaughters’
pimply skin and that no one made them
get braces.

I am sorry for your grandchildren outside
on the porch grumbling loudly to their dad about
a dog and a guy named Fred.
I am sorry not one of them
slapped the box shut saying, “Sorry. This is not
for sale.”

“What was your mother’s name?”
I asked him as I handed him two twenties for
your silver. He looked at me in plain
surprise that I would want to know and
then replied, “Her name was
Mary Katheryn.”


Mary Katheryn's silver


What The Teacher Expected

Of all the emotions that I experienced in February when I got the email from eLectio Publishing stating that they wanted to talk about my manuscript “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder: Tales from A Mennonite Childhood,” there is one in the mix that you might not have guessed: relief.

Fifth graders from all across the Manheim Central School District recognized by our teachers for our writing ability participated in a special workshop, the details of which I have completely forgotten in the ensuing 33 years. I have a vague memory of the delight of being chosen, of getting to attend an important activity that not all of the students could go to, of kids I didn’t know from other schools and unfamiliar teachers hovering over us. I found it all terribly exciting and loved the recognition of having been singled out as extra special.

Although I’ve long lost the details, what I took away from that activity was a green-covered spiral-bound book of writings we produced; printed and presented to each of us with the signatures of the teachers who lead it and words of encouragement for our budding talents. And I saved it. For a very long time. In spite of all the times I almost threw it away—I didn’t.

But I wish Miss Carol Steiner had used a different word. “Never stop writing,” she penned in curly cursive. “Someday I expect to see you as a published author, Diana.”

If you’ve read “When the Roll Is Called A Pyonder” you know that the little Mennonite version of me was no stranger to adult expectations and none of them were optional. You to go church on Sunday. You don’t lie. You eat the potato soup. Keep your legs down. Recite your Bible verses before dinner. Be nice to your sisters. I’m not saying this makes me unusual; I’m just saying. When you are a child and an adult tells you that they expect something of you, this is serious business. Failure to meet these expectations in some cases equals disobedience and in many cases will produce punishment.

There’s another meaning to the word expect. It doesn’t so much imply a requirement as hope or an anticipation of what one imagines the future may hold. You expect a baby. You expect that May will be warmer than April. You expect to pass the test you have studied for. Or not.

I imagine that the second meaning of expect is the one Miss Carol Steiner had in mind when she wrote that in my book. But those words hung over my head glowering like an imperative for thirty some years. They were supposed to be words of encouragement, not of admonition. I told myself that over and over again. But they scowled at me from behind their green cover in the back of my mind. No matter how deeply I buried that book in the pile, no matter how far I moved away or how many other expectations from my childhood dissolved, those words stood there with their arms crossed waiting for me to comply: I expect to see you as a published author, young lady.

Then ten years passed.

Then twenty.

Then thirty.

And I was very disillusioned by this failure. Not that I had stopped writing. But I wasn’t a published author. Not that I had really tried. But clearly, as I was not even able to meet the expectations of an elementary school teacher, I had grown up to be profoundly disappointing. Or she was wrong about me. Or she meant the other kind of expect. But that didn’t make me feel better at all. That stupid book just sat there, taunting me.

So when eLectio contacted me proposing to publish “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder,” an enormous weight dissolved from the center of my chest and a tidal wave of relief washed over me.

Whew. I made the grade.

I went looking last night through the boxes in my shed for that green book. I wanted to check which grade I was actually in and find out what Miss Carol Steiner’s real name might have been before I throw that thing away once and for all. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I already tossed it, after eLectio called and I finally felt absolved. Could I have purged a skeleton like that from my closet and not remember it? Or maybe I just put it away a little better last time. Maybe I’ll come across it someday tucked in the box with my first stuffed animal and that Children’s Bible with color pictures and the bead necklace Aunt Joyce brought me from Africa.

It’s kind of ironic that if I’ve thrown it away it boomeranged right back and if I still have it I don’t even know where.