Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the second post from author Marian Longenecker Beaman with a thought provoking article on how whilst a devastating event might be taking place in some part of the world, or even closer to home and we carry on, unaware of the consequences to others and sometimes to ourselves.
An Explosive Diary Entry
Aunt Ruthie figures large in my memoir, Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl. Though she stands as my most significant mentor for life, one of my chapters about her is entitled “Ruthie the Cheater.”
Aunt Ruthie circa 1975
After her death in 2017, I discovered her diaries inside a painted chest in her bedroom.
The two entries below from 1945 (recording events happening 74 years ago) juxtapose ordinary life in her household with the detonation of a bomb over Hiroshima.
August 6, 1945
Rainy Monday, so we decided since we had all yesterday’s dishes to wash, we’d clean the cupboards. We cleaned the desk and the red [cherry] cupboard, washed all the dishes, etc. Uncle Joe stopped in for dinner. Today an atomic bomb was released over Japan. It is very destructive – weighing 11 pounds, it is equivalent to 300 carloads of T.N.T.
August 7, 1945
Sun in & sun out, so we washed – it dried & is ironed. This afternoon we had 3 showers – one a thunderstorm. Now it seems quite clear. Ray brought Janice down in the scooter [equipped with a rear bin] today. She’s only 10 months old.
That atomic bomb surely has been destructive although no one knows to what extent. It was never tested for there was no spot possible in the U. S.
Washing and ironing and cooking and cleaning amidst news of a BOMB exploding in a foreign land, killing hundreds of thousands of people, likely announced first on the radio, and the next day, in the newspaper.
Aunt Ruthie’s diary entry reflects the sentiment which W. H. Auden expresses in Musee des Beaux Arts, a poem he wrote just before the beginning of World War II in 1938.
Auden praises the painters, old Masters, like Brueghel, who understood the nature of suffering and humanity’s indifference to it.
He recognizes that all humans have painful and traumatic experiences that can change the course of their lives, but meanwhile the rest of the world continues on in a mundane way. He uses these examples:
- Children are born
- The elderly are waiting to die
- Meanwhile, skaters glide on a pond
- Dogs go on with their “doggy life”
- A horse scratches its behind on a tree.
In the Painting:
A boy falls out of the sky – the mythical Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, his wings melting!
Icarus falls from the sky
A farmer keeps plowing his field though he may have heard a splash.
Sailors on “the expensive ship must have seen /Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,/Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”
Life Goes On!
How do you reconcile cataclysmic events that explode in the world with your personal life?
What about those that burst into your own, ordinary life?
©Marian Beaman 2019
About the book
What if the Mennonite life young Marian Longenecker chafed against offered the chance for a new beginning? What if her two Lancaster County homes with three generations of family were the perfect launch pad for a brighter future? Readers who long for a simpler life can smell the aroma of saffron-infused potpie in Grandma’s kitchen, hear the strains of four-part a capella music at church, and see the miracle of a divine healing.
Follow the author in pigtails as a child and later with a prayer cap, bucking a heavy-handed father and challenging church rules. Feel the terror of being locked behind a cellar door. Observe the horror of feeling defenseless before a conclave of bishops, an event propelling her into a different world.
Fans of coming-of-age stories will delight in one woman’s surprising path toward self-discovery, a self that lets her revel in shiny red shoes.
One of the recent reviews for the book
Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl is a wonderful and engaging read. I learned a great deal about the Mennonite way of life: the culture, the dress, the history, and the occasional conflict as Marian Beaman experienced it and so beautifully shares it. I especially enjoyed Marian’s honest description of her home life, including her clashes with her father. It’s brave to put that out there for the world to see; good for you, Marian!
Marian’s clear writing style brought to life her immediate family, her relatives, the Mennonite culture, the mouth- watering food, and the hard work that kept her family fed, clothed, and healthy. This was a life so very different from mine; I found myself envying parts of it while wondering how these folks still exist in our modern world. It’s amazing!
As I read the book, I came to admire Marian so very much; she was strong enough to stand up for herself in her home, in the Mennonite culture, and, eventually, in the outside world. The photographs and illustrations are lovely, and I will be using the recipes for special occasions.
Read this unique book, and enjoy your visit to a thought-provoking culture in a world that is close-by, but still far away.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US –
And : Amazon UK –
Follow Marian : Goodreads
About Marian Longenecker Beaman
Marian Longenecker Beaman is a former professor at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida. Her memoir records the charms and challenges of growing up in the strict culture of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in the 1950s. Marian shares her story to preserve these memories and to leave a legacy for future generations.
She lives with her husband Cliff in Florida, where her grown children and grandchildren also reside
Connect to Marian
Thanks to Marian for sharing this observation with us. I am sure that many of us can remember where we were and what we were doing on certain cataclysmic events took place such as the death of John F. Kennedy or 9/11. But have other events taken place that have been devastating for many and we were not aware of the enormity of it at the time, and carried on with our own lives….
Your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally.