Tuesday, November 06, 2007


The crunch of a rental van meeting the bumper of a honking car is a disagreeable sound. I experienced that early Sunday morning when I was driving back to New York from Pennsylvania with Jennifer and her sister Bethanie. Profuse apologies, 45 minutes of waiting, and the sirens of two arriving New Jersey police cars later we were on our way, no one hurt, mirrors adjusted, and lots of comments on how “it could have happened to anyone” and “what a good driver” I am coming from the back seat. I like having Bethanie around.

We had a nice weekend in Pennsylvania. The place is crawling with Mennonites from the looks of things – three thousand of them at Christian Aid Ministries Open House. Every variation of pleated “coverings” and sharply slicked suspendered boys was available. “Beachy” ushers with carefully center-parted hair, button-free “straight-coats,” and hip-holstered pagers directed us to our folding chairs in front of one of the six screens which projected images simultaneously. The pictures rolled on – narrated by “brethren” who were not all men. The poetry of the event seemed to be from a recording played in slow motion: the audience from the 1950s and the woman next to us the human equivalent of the sound a gate makes after 80 unoiled years. I liked it. It’s nice that photos of widows in Nicaragua and orphans in Liberia inspire people to park in the Hinkletown Mennonite church parking lot and ride a shuttle bus to a huge warehouse that’s usually full of stuff for people in the Third World.

It was nice also to play dollies with my niece Anastasia and sister Sophia and eat an early supper with Al and Ada Longenecker – Jennifer’s aunt and uncle. The beef loaf in Blue Ball is good and Al’s prescient questions even better. My newest niece, Nadia, can cry really loud but most of the time she sits quietly – a sharp contrast to her siblings who move non-stop: a story being told or some scrap of supper to be scooped up off the floor. On the rare occasion when all three of them are quiet – it's nice to talk to Rich and Shannon about life’s persistent problems and acknowledge that there is no perfect solutions that any of us can think of. I’m begining to master the half-way hug farewell and starting to like it – it was nice to have so many of Jennifer's relatives around to practice it with last week.

Hans washed our dishes and bought us Cheerios and milk. He’s quite the guy. There is no one else I can think of that I would rather welcome me home at 3 in the morning than the surgeon general of all crass jokes and camera phones. Our apartment seems postpartum without him.


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