On Making Butter…and Memories {Lessons from My Amish Family}

Butter Churn by Lehman's

Butter Churn by Lehman’s

One day I was driving down the road and a random commercial about butter played on the radio.

Waves of memories crashed over me, as I suddenly remembered a time my Grandma Lydia taught me how to make butter. I recalled standing on a stool beside her, as she explained the process, and showed me just how to turn the little handle on her glass churn.

As I remembered the sweet time with my Grandma, tears welled up in my eyes, began leaking down my cheeks and suddenly I was crying so hard I had to pull off the road till I could compose myself.

I realized something that day. My Amish family taught me that beautiful memories are not made of superficial stuff. The best memories are formed from simple and meaningful experiences.

Cousins having fun at Grandma & Grandpa's house

Cousins having fun at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

My grandparents never took me on fancy vacations, bought me clothes at the mall, or gave me the latest electronics. They never sat me in front of a television, or put the remote control for a gaming device in my hand.

Instead they invested time and love into the lives of those they cared about, just by being with us and living life alongside us. The memories I have with them are humble and modest, but powerful just the same. They were fully engaged and attentive in the everyday moments, creating meaningful, rich, and significant experiential memories that last and shine on for lifetimes.

Grandpa Jonas & Grandma Lydia's House in Churchtown, PA

Grandpa Jonas & Grandma Lydia’s House in Churchtown, PA where my parents live today

“In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.”
― Marge Kennedy

I have many precious memories of times with family in the dear old house pictured above. Experiential memories. The kind money can’t buy. Memories that formed the way I see the world today. I’m thankful for my grandparents. They were rich in the things that matter. Character, wisdom and love. And they took the time to share it all with me.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number 21 of a series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Click here to read more! 

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender

 

 

The Mennonite Game

The generations gather at the family reunion

The generations gather at our family reunion

One of my favorite things about being born into a family with Amish-Mennonite roots is the deep appreciation of family history and belonging which you are given. As a young child with Anabaptist ancestors,  you quickly learn there are two things of great importance.

The family reunion

Aunts at the family reunion

Lesson one – your family genealogy. My father is a brilliant steward of our family’s history and stories. One year he purchased the most recent edition of something we call “The Fisher Book”. (A record with thousands of Amish-Mennonite relatives.) My little brother was so excited to find his name in the new printing of the “Fisher Book” that he circled the text in dark black ink – not something you typically do in a very expensive and significant ancestral document. I’m sure someday his descendants will enjoy seeing the mark he made on history!

Reminiscing at the family reunion

Reminiscing at the family reunion

After you gain a basic understanding of your family line, you learn a second critical skill – how to play the Mennonite game. This quote explains the activity nicely.

The goal of this game is to see how quickly two Mennonites, meeting each other for the first time can get to know each other’s family ancestry and establish how many of each other’s relatives they know. While some participants may play this game reluctantly due to peer pressure, others seem to play for the sheer fun and challenge of it. In any case participants likely believe that knowing something of another person’s familial ancestry helps to understand that person better. – Bruno Dyck

Game time at the family reunion

Game time at the family reunion

When two people of Amish-Mennonite descent meet, this phenomenon never fails to surface. I don’t often have the opportunity to play it as I’ve lived in Texas (which is well outside of “Amish country”) for most of my life. But I love brushing up on my skills any time I’m around someone who may be related to me.

I’m closing this post with a video that sums up the Mennonite game perfectly. It may not be particularly interesting if you have no experience with Amish or Mennonite culture. But if in fact you do know about this “game”, I can assure you that you’ll be laughing in a matter of seconds.

Click here to read more posts related to lessons I’ve learned from my Amish family, in my #write31days project.

Links:

Playing The Mennonite Game 

Exploring Congregational Clans by Bruno Dyck