My mother, Mary Maendel was born in the spring of 1931 at Old Rosedale Hutterite Colony near Elie, Manitoba. Practically speaking she was not the most welcome baby in the world. My grandparents, Katherina and Joseph Maendel already had 12 sons and 3 daughters (Birth control was forbidden on the colony in that era, except when recommended by a doctor). At 45 my grandmother (hoht sich Gergit) was a little embarrassed to be giving birth at the same time as her eldest daughter Sana who by then was married with 2 children of her own.
In an effort to humour my grandmother, the colony midwife held my mother aloft and announced, “at least it’s a girl” to which my grandmother is said to have replied “throw her out the window!”
Like all good mothers, Katherina Maendel got over it and on with it and the newborn quickly had her reluctant parents wrapped around her little finger. Tragically, less than a year later my grandmother died of a gallstone attack. It was a great loss not only for the family, but the entire community. My grandfather eventually remarried a widow with 6 children of her own. Soon after he succumbed to cancer severing the important bond between natural parent and child. My mother was 5 years old and with so many children in the combined family she often felt lost and neglected.
The back drop of her childhood affected the way my mother raised her own 9 children. She was an attentive and devoted caregiver with endless energy for her offspring.
Despite her divergent workload, mother was a very stylish Hutterite. I loved the way she smelled and dressed. Mother took great pride in dressing us and herself with care. I can still see her slender frame bent over her ironing board. Puffs of steam expelled miniature white clouds from her hot iron. To have us looking our best was important to her and she pressed our everyday clothes with such attention to detail you’d think we were getting ready to meet the Queen. While the rest of the world may have thought we looked odd in our Hutterite outfits we always felt special and beautiful.
When our family left the colony in 1969 it was my mother’s wonderful sense of humour and stories that saved us. Leaving a Hutterite colony is painful and the transition difficult. Mother kept us connected to our culture by keeping Hutterite narratives and the Hutterisch language alive in our hearts and home. She insisted on going back to the colony on a regular basis to visit her remaining siblings. Bluet is kah Wosser, “Blood is not water”, she often told us. Maintaining ties with my Hutterite family and culture greatly influenced my writing career.
Today, reading is one of mother’s great pleasures, especially works of non-fiction. Whenever she comes for a visit I try to have a book ready that she won’t be able to put down and its lovely to see mom the “energizer bunny” off her feet and draped over one of my couches, reading. She still loves fashion, a passion we share. We also love garage sales. Last year she forgot her purse at a garage sale and the proprietor accidently sold it for 50 cents. Thankfully it got purchased by an honest soul and was recovered.
Above all, my mother is a spiritual person. If I would ask any of my siblings what our mother’s #1 prayer for us would be, they would all say the same thing. Her abiding wish has always been that we love God with all our heart and live honourable lives.
I’m glad the midwife didn’t throw Mary Maendel out the window! I’m proud to call her my mother. I am equally grateful for my wonderful mother-in-law, Gwen Kirkby. I am blessed on both sides to have these two exceptional mother’s in my life.
I know that true mother’s come in all kinds of configurations. They may not even be related to you, but they have been there for you. Happy Mother’s Day to all those kind souls! We bless you and thank you!
For books and speaking engagements visit Mary-Ann Kirkby’s website www.polkadotpress.ca or www.facebook.com/maryannkirkbyhutterite
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