The simple joys of time with family
Darla Weaver shares a year in the life of her Old Order Mennonite Family
Harrisonburg, VA — Darla Weaver grew up the oldest of nine children in a five-bedroom farmhouse her parents still live in to this day. The house was always brimming with life and laughter, and some inevitable sadness. All the children grew up, and the five sisters eventually all had their weddings there at the house. Home held a special place in the hearts of all of them, especially the sisters, and still does to this day. No matter how busy life becomes with raising children, chores and work, everything is set aside one day a week.
Once a week Darla Weaver hitches up her spirited mare, bundles her children into the buggy, and drives six miles to the farm where she grew up. There she gathers with her four sisters and their children for a day with their mother.
In Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family (Herald Press/September 25, 2018/ISBN: 978-1-5138-0337-1/$14.99), Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy Mennonite family and the weekly women’s gatherings that keep them connected.
“Our Tuesdays happened more by accident than by conscious planning. We never sat down and planned for Tuesdays, but after I moved six miles away to my own home, I gradually acquired the habit of going back to the old home place and spending a day each week with my family,” Weaver writes. It was a tradition that caught on and continued after all the other sisters married and started families of their own.
On warm days, the children play and fish and build houses of hay in the barn. In the winter, everyone stays close to the woodstove, with puzzles and games and crocheting. No matter the weather, the Tuesday get-togethers of this Old Order Mennonite family keep them grounded and centered in their love for God and for each other, even when raising an occasional loving but knowing eyebrow at each other.
As for the sisters, “We don’t exactly play, yet Tuesdays for us are also about relaxing. Of course, there is always work to do— just making dinner for such a group is a big job—but the day is more about relaxing, reconnecting, visiting, and sharing. We talk a lot, we laugh a lot, sometimes we cry. Tuesdays is about being sisters, daughters, moms. It’s about learning what is happening in each other’s lives. Every day is different, yet every Tuesday follows a predictable pattern that varies with the seasons.”
Over the twelve chapters of the book, Weaver shares the activities and time spent together spread over the twelve months of the year. Together the sisters cook, laugh over cooking disasters, share in the sewing, work in the gardens, swap books, work puzzles together and enjoy time as a family. She even shares some tried and true family recipes that didn’t “flop.” The rest of the week is full of laundry, and errands, and work that never ends. But Tuesday is about being sisters, daughters, and mothers.
When asked what her sisters thought about her writing Gathering of Sisters, Weaver notes their initial reactions varied. Her mom thought maybe she should change their names. One sister suggested, “Maybe you’ll have to Sunday-us-up a bit, make sure we all use our best manners when you write about us.” Another pointed out since she would still have to claim them as sisters she wouldn’t make them sound too odd or ornery. “I promised not to. One of my nieces, who at fourteen has graduated from eighth grade and is again spending Tuesdays with us, considered staying home for the entire next year to keep her name out of the book. But on a whole, no one really objected. Like Laverne and our children, Mom and my sisters are almost used to my compulsive scribbling. Almost.”
Gathering of Sisters is the sixth book in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press. Each book is written by Amish and Mennonite people about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith. Each book includes “A Day in the Life of the Author” and the author’s answers to FAQs about the Amish and Mennonites.
About the Author
Darla Weaver is a homemaker, gardener, writer and Old Order Mennonite living in the hills of southern Ohio. She is the author of Water My Soul, Many Lighted Windows and Gathering of Sisters. Weaver has written for Family Life, Ladies Journal, Young Companion, and other magazines for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. Before her three children were born she also taught school. Her hobbies are gardening and writing.
I just love reading about the lifestyles and daily happenings of the Mennonite people. I think somewhere inside I long for a simpler life myself and by visiting them through books like this, I can take away a little bit of that simpler life. Could you spend a year with a Mennonite family? I’m not sure that I could. Thankfully, we don’t have to decide. We can spend this year with them through the experiences of the author. And oh…what experiences she had! I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll simply say- get your copy today!