Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Morning Thoughts andThe Old German Bible

Stumbling around this morning, getting ready for work in the dark and cool house, I had to wonder about my life and how I live, and how very easy it is. Well, when you get up at 5 in November it will always be kind of cold and dark. But I just turn on the light, turn on the stove, put the bread in the toaster and presto-changeo I have breakfast.

I've been reading a little about Mom's Mennonite forebears. They started out back in Flanders in the Netherlands in the 1500's. The book sums up their migration to Danzig area in a small paragraph. It was about a 600 mile trip, as the crow flies, and I suspect that as the ox walked it was much longer. It's possible, but we don't know, that they went by boat.

I'm sure the author didn't mean to trivialize their lives and accomplishments - he probably just didn't have much in the way of documentation. No stories, no names.... just a general history.

And so in the dark of the morning, I don't know anything either. But I wonder a lot. They probably got up before the sun, but I imagine that the dad and the boys went out in the cold and the dark to take care of the animals. The mom and the girls lit the lamps and built the fire up, heated water, made a breakfast - but they got up, there was work to do. I imagine that it was often cold and rainy and the boy's feet would be wet before they got to the barn. The wind would be bitter, and it would be with relief that they would close the door behind them and breathe in the warm smell of cows and hay.

The dad would take the lantern and hang it up on a rafter to give a feeble light that left the walls in shadows, but allowed the cows to be fed and milked. The dad would probably milk three cows and each of the boys would milk one. In less than an hour they would be back in the house, now lamp lit and starting to get warm, at least by the fire. The cats, at least were happy for the morning milking as they gathered around the milkers and waited for a squirt of warm milk into their mouths.

Breakfast would probably be oatmeal, or cooked wheat with cream, and they would all be hungry. They would ask a blessing on the food, and probably the boys and girls would tease one another. Kids will do those things. I wonder if it was good natured teasing that would bring a smile to the parents faces and a kind but unmistakable look to keep it in bounds, or if it was mean spirited and made the parents exasperated to where they would send some children out to find a switch..... Since it is morning in my world, and I'm not ready for a bunch of hate and discontent, I will make it good natured teasing, and I'll make the mother shush them a little and the father bring out the old bible.

Wait. It's in the early 1500's. It is likely that not many can read. Likely that there is no bible or any book in the house. But again, this is my morning mirage, and maybe it is the early 1600's and their bible looks a lot like the bible that Annie got at her grandma's estate sale. This one would be in Dutch probably, although if it was in Swahili it couldn't be harder to read than Annie's German bible. But they can read it, and today's story is ......yes, The Flood, in honor of the pounding rain outside.

And so a day of labor would begin. Sewing, spinning, weaving, tanning, carving, preserving, butchering, feeding, building..... the list is endless.

Well, I have spent so much time with my musings that I'm almost late to work. But little things will trigger these musings. Little touch stones in our lives. If that old bible could talk..... and it is probably about 1870 vintage rather than 1600's. Still, it serves as a reminder of the people who laid the foundations for the easy life that we lead.


Annie of Blue Gables said...

How I love your musings and your life.
I was thinking about you this morning as well. As I stumbled out of bed 2 hours later than you and found several things that prove you are alive. Your robe on the back of the chair and slippers on the floor beside it. A wonderful hashbrown left in the pan for me and a bottle of Fresca you thoughtfully got from the basement to refresh me.
You are such a kind and wonderful man and I know you have more than an inkling of what these pioneers went through, as you did the same type of chores for years back when we lived on the farm.
I'm so glad you are mine, Best Friend.

pixiestylist said...

funny i was just talking today to someone about how i am glad to not have lived then because i cant handle raw meat from the store, let alone slaughtering the animals! and i was talking to someone else today who is looking to buy a farm (he's checked out "shmelta" and thinks its nice) and i told him about your backyard farm (minus animals) and he thinks its a GREAT idea! :)

Boo said...

I've been thinking about that stuff too. I love to wonder how things used to be.

Mike said...

You tell good stories! It makes me be thankful for our lives, and helps me have better perspective on life.