By RHODA JANZEN
Cosmic forces have a way of turning up the heat to make us change. Nothing gets your attention, for example, like being ditched by your husband for a guy he met on Gay.com, or having your car totaled by an inebriated youth six days later. Had I done anything to deserve these things? Nothing. I ran six miles a day and made my own yogurt! But when your husband is out canoodling with a dude, the thing to do is pack your bags and head home for a while, even if home is a Mennonite community 3,000 miles away in California and at 43 you’re no longer a practicing Mennonite.
Mennonites, by the way, are not the Amish, although both espouse simplicity, nonviolence and cabbage. And unlike the Amish, most Mennonites drive cars. Which is how my mom and I got to Circuit City one afternoon a few days after my arrival in late 2006.
We were in the customer-service line. Weary consumers clutched their disappointments, but my mother was in her usual cheerful spirits. The presence of strangers eight inches away notwithstanding, she suddenly said, “If there aren’t any single men where you are, I know someone for you.”
“Your cousin Mark — he’s a professor in Nova Scotia,” she said earnestly. “And he has a beach house.”
According to Mom, Mark (his middle name) and I had something in common: I teach college, too. And we had something else in common: grandparents. “Mark is my first cousin,” I said. “That’s both incestuous and weird.”
My Mennonite mother considered this. “Well,” she said, “I think it should be fine if you don’t have kids. You can adopt. Mark would make a terrific father. You should see him with his nephews.”
I had no idea how to reply. Maybe now was a good time to mention that, with my husband gone three months, I had already been out on a couple of dates. This new guy wasn’t the love of my life, but I had lowered the bar, see. He wasn’t Mr. Right, but he was Mr. Straight.
Mom was disappointed, but she took it in stride. “What’s your fellow like?”
I was too emotionally battered to utter polite fibs. “He’s a slacker, really. A relaxed pothead. He wears pajamas to Target.”
“Oh.” She nodded supportively. “A relaxed pothead sounds nice.”
It made sense, I suppose, that a woman who would promote endogamous marriage would not blink at a pothead. “Maybe my cousin smokes a little weed,” I said speculatively (although I’d bet my few remaining assets that he does not).
“No,” Mom said. “Mark would never do weed! He drives a tractor! In his spare time!”
“How does driving a tractor prevent you from smoking weed?”
By now several people in line were eavesdropping.
“If you drive a tractor in your spare time,” my mother said firmly, “it means that you have a strong work ethic, which is probably why Mark has had the gumption to earn himself a nice beach house.”
“Surely he doesn’t drive his tractor on the beach?”
“No! He drives it at his parents’, of course! He gives the nephews rides.”
“Oh! I thought that he was working on the tractor!”
“Mark works very hard,” Mom said. “You know perfectly well that a tractor can be hard work and fun too. Like marriage.”
One of the best things about Mom is that she will follow you anywhere, conversationally speaking. “Mom,” I said, “would you rather marry a pleasant pothead or your first cousin on a tractor? Both are associate professors.”
“You marry your pothead if you like,” she said, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
“Hey!” I said, indignant. “How do you know the pothead doesn’t serve the Lord?”
“I think that the Lord appreciates a man on a tractor more than a man smoking marijuana in his pajamas,” Mom said earnestly. “I know I do.”
“O.K., O.K.,” I said, as we neared the counter. “I give up. I will marry Cousin Mark. Just as soon as he asks me. You’ll be our first guest at the beach house in Nova Scotia. But I’m warning you now, there’s gonna be a little weed on your pillow. Instead of a mint.”
She chuckled comfortably. “That’s O.K. I don’t like mints.”
Rhoda Janzen is the author of the memoir, “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress,” which is being published next month. This essay is adapted from the book.
Alan Davidson is the founder of ThroughYourBody.com and the author Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 bestselling Health & Welness book and winner of two National Book-of-the-Year awards.
Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at www.throughyourbody.com
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