A Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family
Book by Darla Weaver
Another Way for week of November 9, 2018
A Gathering of Sisters
Darla Weaver is an Old Order wife, mother, expert gardener, and author. She and her husband have three children, but she grew up in a family of five sisters and four brothers. The sisters all live in the hills of southeastern Ohio near her parents’ house where they grew up.
Darla and her sisters have the marvelous tradition of spending each Tuesday with their mother (their father joins them for lunch, from his work in their home-based greenhouse). And the little ones of these sisters absolutely love Tuesdays before they begin formal education (usually from age six through grade eight in typical Old Order or Amish parochial schools), playing on the farm with cousins, eating, and “reading” books in their grandmother’s “library.”
I had edited a previous book of Darla’s, a devotional called Water My Soul. When she happened to mention this unusual gathering to me—spending all day each
Tuesday with her sisters, mother, and their younger children—what came to my mind was Mitch Albom’s unforgettable book Tuesdays with Morrie. What if Darla would write something like “Tuesdays with Mom.” She pretty much jumped at the chance—while also presenting the idea to her mother and sisters. Would they be willing to be put under a microscope and have their weekly conversations, activities, joys, triumphs, as well as the skirmishes of their children shared with the entire world?
I think it took some processing with her family—especially the spouses—but Darla has now produced a delightful new book. Eventually the Herald Press team decided on Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family as the title, and it is an inside, detailed look at the daily Old Order life of one extended family.
Darla uses a typewriter to write, so we took her pages and used special software to scan them into files the computer could read. Darla writes with a self-deprecating bent, with jokes about her cooking, and consternation over the new silicon cupcake “papers” that are lovely until it comes time to individually wash those modern cupcake holders, which frequently seem to turn up when it’s Darla’s turn to wash. And oh yes, no one can remember who washed the dishes last Tuesday. The children get into tangles the mothers try to sort out, and there’s an extended thread about a brother getting married in another state and chartering a bus to get the whole family there.
In September of the year her youngest son Matthan starts school, Darla reflects on the near universal ache parents feel as their children first scamper off to school: “When Cody (oldest son) went to the store to buy a pair of shoes, he came home with elevens. What’s more, they were the right size. Those were not the feet that fit so snug into the palm of my hand, or when I helped him begin to walk, just the day before yesterday or so. Now even Matthan had grown up and gone to school. The last lingering bits of babyhood always vanish forever in that first-grade aura.”
So Darla arrives at her mom’s on Matthan’s first day of school, no children in tow. She has to kick open a stubborn door. Her mother teases her that she “looked so old, coming up the hill without any children along. One sister chimed in smiling, ‘You looked almost like a grandma with your children all in school.’ They were all smiling so I smiled too—so wonderful is the consolation of sisterly sympathy that I cheered right up” (p. 199-200, Herald Press).
I grew up with two sisters and a little brother and even though our “modern” Mennonite family was much smaller, the community of siblings and especially sisters is something to treasure—even when we tease each other or become downright irked at times. Darla’s strong faith runs through her book, bringing moments of reflection amid both momentous and ordinary days.
Perhaps someone you know would enjoy this book for a Christmas gift or anytime. I’m snagging several for loved ones as well!
For more about Darla’s new book Gathering of Sisters check here, or write to me and I’ll send you information by regular mail. Send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.