If you are a long time reader, you know how much I love the simple way of life Amish and Mennonite families lead. When I was asked to review Gathering of Sisters by Darla Weaver, I jumped at the chance. A book about the “real” lives of Old Order Mennonite? Sign me up. So, I joined Darla, her five sisters, her mother and a bunch of kids for an entire year of Tuesday visits.
Once a week, Darla Weaver hooks her mare to the buggy, gathers her children and travels six miles to the farm she grew up on to visit with her mother and sisters. While the children play together – outside in the summer and indoors in the winter – the sisters and their mother spend the day sharing and enjoying each other’s company. The sisters cook, sew, work in the garden, swap books and recipes, and laughing.
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.
In a world of Amish fiction, this non-fiction book by Darla Weaver is a breath of fresh, country air. Gathering of Sisters offers an inside look at the relationships between a mother and sisters and their children during their weekly visits. From the beginning, you feel like you have a seat in the room with these wonderful women. You laugh with them. You cry with them. You want to join in with their teasing and antics. There are even some delicious recipes thrown in for good measure. This book does not go into great detail about the Old Mennonite life, but the conversations between the women of the family allow the reader to see a more personal side of the community – One where the women of Darla’s family gather each week to stay connected and present in each others’ busy lives.
I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the Amish and Old Mennonite families. While it does not give a lot of background or go into detail about the homes and beliefs, it gives an interesting perspective through the conversations between the women of Darla’s family.
Read the intro of the book here.
Tuesday really was the perfect in-between sort of day to spend with Mom and my sisters.
Q&A with Darla Weaver
Q: Gathering of Sisters tells about getting together weekly with your mother and sisters. Tell us a little bit about your family.
There were five of us sisters, growing up together with our four little brothers in the white farmhouse our parents built. The nine of us kept this five-bedroom house brimming with life, and crowded with both happiness and some inevitable sadness. We did a lot of living and a lot of learning in that house.
And then we all grew up.
I was the first to leave. On a warm and sunshiny day in September 2000, after the leaves on the lofty silver maples had faded from summer-green and before they wore brightly flaming autumn shades, I was married to Laverne Weaver. It was the first wedding in that mellowing white house we all called home. Four more were to follow in the next several years. Except for my youngest brother, we’ve all left home. Most of us live close, but one brother lives in Alaska.
Q: Why did you decide to make an effort to get together once a week?
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. On Monday I always had laundry to do, and scores of other jobs to tackle after the weekend. And before we had children, I worked part time in a bakery at the end of the week. That left Tuesdays. Tuesday really was the perfect in-between sort of day to spend with Mom and my sisters. On Tuesday the five us sisters still come home. We pack up the children—all eighteen of them during summer vacation—and head to the farm.
We go early. I drive my spirited little mare, Charlotte, and she trots briskly along the six miles of winding country roads. Regina and Ida Mae live much closer. They married brothers, and their homes are directly across the fields from Dad and Mom’s farm. They usually bike, with children’s noses pressed against the bright mesh of the carts they tow behind their bicycles. Or they walk, pushing strollers over the back fields and up the lane. And Emily and Amanda, who also married brothers and live in neighboring houses about five miles away, come together with everyone crammed into one carriage.
Q: What do you do when you are all gathered together?
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. Winter finds us inside, close to the warmth humming from the woodstove, absorbed in wintertime pursuits which include card-making, crocheting, sewing, puzzles—jigsaw, crossword, sudoku—and reading books and magazines. But as soon as spring colors the buds of the maples with a reddish tinge, we spend more time outside. The greenhouses are loaded with plants, the flowerbeds full of unfurling perennials, and the grass is greening in the yard again.
In summer, while the garden and fields burst with produce, the breezy shade of the front porch calls. It wraps around two sides of the house and is full of Mom’s potted plants and porch furniture. We sit there to shell peas, husk corn, or just sip a cold drink and cool off after a warm stroll through the flowers.
Then autumn echoes through the country, the leaves flame and fall, and we rake them up—millions of leaves. Where we rake one Tuesday is covered again by the next, until at last the towering maples stand disrobed of leaves, their amazing seventy- foot branches a wavering fretwork against a sky that is sullen with winter once more.
Q: Do all the kids enjoy Tuesdays as well?
The children love Tuesdays. On warm days they play on the slide and the swings in the cool shade of the silver maples, jump on the trampoline, run through their grandpa’s three greenhouses, ride along on the wagon going to the fields where produce by the bushels and bins is hauled to the packing shed. They build hay houses in the barn and explore the creek. The boys take poles and hooks and bait and spend hours fishing and playing in the small creek that flows beneath the lane and through the thickets beside the pasture fence. They catch dozens of tiny blue gills and northern creek chubbs, most of which they release back into the water hole, a deep pool that yawns at the mouth of a large culvert, to be caught again next week. They work too, at mowing lawn, raking, lugging flower pots around, or anything else that Grandma needs them to do, but most often Tuesdays on Grandpa’s farm are play days.
Q: What does daily life look like for a Mennonite?
In some ways being a Mennonite is not so different from being anyone else. We have one life to live, we work to make living, take care of our families, make time for the things we enjoy, eat, sleep, pay our bills and taxes. Some days are better than others as for anyone else. In other ways it’s vastly different from the culture around us. Partly in the conservative way we live; perhaps even more in the way we look at life. The most important goals for most of us are: Faith in God and in his Son who died on the cross for sinners; growing into a closer walk with him; learning to love, serve, and obey his commandments. These beliefs help shape our lives as we grow older.
Old Order Mennonite life is family-oriented. It centers around our church, our families, our schools and neighborhoods. It has been said, “Destroy the home and you destroy the nation,” which has been proved true in various eras of history. God’s plan for one husband and one wife, working together to care for their children, is a most important foundation for our lifestyle.
But, of course, we are far from perfect. Although the majority of us strive to live lives that demonstrate a faith and love and steadfastness rooted deep in God and his word—the Bible—we make plenty of mistakes too. Stumbling and falling and getting up to try again, praying that God will help us do better tomorrow, is a part of life, too.
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 received a free copy of Gathering of Sisters in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinions. All information and pictures used with permission. No affiliate links are present. Please see my disclosure for more information.