My maternal grandfather was of the Old Order Mennonite variety (horse and buggy and black clothing) until he was 6 years old. His family switched to "our" type of Mennonite because his parents wanted their kids to go to Sunday school, and my great-grandfather wanted to ride a bike to work.
So I feel like I have a secret inside of me sometimes - this connection to the past, but also to a people living in the present.
This photo was taken on a gravel road near our house. The boot is me; the car is mine; the buggy is in front. I don't usually drive with my foot up like this.
But it shows parts of me. The boots, which I love. The car, which I drive. The buggy in front, a connection to a part of my family in the past. I don't question that I'm where I should be (in the car, not in the buggy), but there are pieces of me that want to be in that buggy. Very small pieces, but they're there. The parts that romanticize a lifestyle: growing and eating local produce, living in ways that don't harm the earth like I do right now with my planes trains and automobiles, more simple things that bring pleasure, entertainment that doesn't depend on computer or TV, Monday laundry days, and a strong community of support.
Which parts of the past do I bring to my present? What pieces of my history and my ancestry inform who I am today?
A few weeks ago, I saw a conservative Mennonite couple at the Starbucks at the Toronto International airport. They looked very out of place. I wanted to tell them: I know you. I'm one of you.
But I'm not at all. I recognized them, but they didn't even see me. I didn't know who they were, but I knew the people they belonged to.
They have sacrificed much in terms of their lifestyle and choices. Me? Have I sacrificed anything? It's doubtful. They are visible because of the way they get around and the clothing they wear. I just fit right in. Nothing distinguishes me as having a shared ancestry. I am invisible, one of the masses - peopleless, potentially, in their view.
I wanted to claim my Mennonite-ness in that instant - to reach out to them to make them feel at ease (they looked a bit uncomfortable) and also to belong. To claim them as part of my larger family. But I didn't say anything. I just got my chai latte and lemon-cranberry scone and sat alone. Because that's part of the larger culture that I've learned - individualism.