A Figurative Message in a Bottle from One Manitoba Mennonite to Another

When I was a girl, maybe about eight years old, I dreamed of writing to somebody who was like me, far into the future. Thing is, I felt I could best connect with people through writing, which was an awkward endeavour because mostly people communicate through in-person interactions using voice and hand gestures, body language, singing and guitar-playing, et cetera. However, at this point in my life, I hadn’t experienced any great success at in-person communication.

I wanted to connect with people, but felt like the typical ways of doing so just weren’t working out for me. I read a lot, and felt it would work better for me if I’d connect via writing. But who would even read it? How would they even come across my writing? All I could figure was two ways: become a published author (what? how? impossible), or write a message in a bottle. Living in southern Manitoba, there was no sea to toss a bottle into, but no matter. I figured I could just bury it somewhere and then someday a girl like me would be living on that farm and come across the bottle, open it, read my writings, and that would be good enough for me.

(It speaks to my lazy character when I point out that I didn’t even accomplish the burying-a-bottle part of my plan.)

That was in the late 1980s and while apparently the internet had been thought of by a few research scientists (or something like that) it was really merely a twinkle in their eye and I don’t think any of us humans who were existing on the planet at that time could have imagined what the internet has become here and now in the 2020s.

(Wow, in writing “in the 2020s” it’s dawned on me that so far for me personally this decade has been characterized by pandemic. Good grief.)

If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, that eight-year-old on a dairy farm, I’d say, “Hey little freckled Erin, you look a lot like a little niece of mine. Ours. Weird. But never mind that. I have an important message for you. I’m you, 36 years later. Let me tell you about your relationship with writing. You’re going continue being lazily non-committal to the point at which you both neglect to pursue further education, and neglect to acquire a tattoo. But somehow you meet the person you always daydreamed about meeting and find it very easy to commit to him so you get married and it turns out he is a writer too and a very very good one and publishes some books and wins awards (so far one but more are coming because he is still young, honestly) and even though you haven’t accomplished anything in the realm of writing, he knows you and believes in you so he sets up a blog for you. A blog! It’s a web log. A log of your thoughts. On the web. The web is what we call the internet, because it connects everyone’s computers, in the whole wide world. It’s like a spiderweb. Wait. Why am I explaining the internet to you? We’re here to talk about what you will become. A writer. Because you write. That’s all. You write your thoughts and people read them. Anyone who wants to. It’s totally accessible and totally up to them. Way more efficient than a message in a bottle.”

All this is to say, thanks for being here and reading this far. You’re more than I could’ve imagined when I was a child dreaming of writing things people would maybe someday read.

Okay, enough of all this “reflecting” stuff. Onward with delving into Manitoba Mennonite stuff. There’s lots to learn and explore!

(Feature photo: would you believe, this is downtown Steinbach? ‘Tis true, for at least this brief moment in time.)