I first met Marlene Reimer by abruptly running up to her as she was putting Christmas lights on the little fence in front of the house she shares with her husband Jim.
“Hi!” I declared. “I have admired your house for a long time, and I love what you do with the Christmas lights, they make me very happy,” I let her know.
She was startled, but kind. A terrific conversation ensued.
A few days later, I met her again, at the MHV. There was a craft/trade show happening, with many booths. She was just leaving. After a quick hello, I headed in to browse the booths, and was drawn toward a table with these beautiful children’s books. And that is how I met Marlene’s sisters! They had a table together. I purchased all of the ‘Molly’ books that Marlene has written.
I think it was actually beneficial that Marlene was not there, because that way her sisters could tell me about the ‘Molly’ books. I think Marlene may have modestly held back, but not her sisters. They’re so proud of what Marlene has created with the ‘Molly’ series. “Did you know,” Julie said, “That Marlene created each of the sets herself? And then photographed them? This is all Marlene. She’s amazing!”
This is a set of ten children’s books about Marlene’s childhood memories in Steinbach in the 1950’s and 1960’s… and I’m currently binge-reading them all, before gifting them to my nieces and nephews for Christmas.
I won’t describe the plot of each one for you, but I will say that a standout for me is the book entitled “Goodbye, Old Housebarn”, which is about the destruction of the Kornelson Housebarn, which had been the last remaining housebarn in Steinbach. Marlene’s family had lived nearby and had heard the machines tearing the house barn apart, so they went over and watched. And now there is a children’s book about it. As and adult who wishes the house barn had not been destroyed, this book makes me want to weep. But, don’t worry, the last page is still quite sunny and optimistic. It is, after all, a children’s book.
I also really enjoyed “The Big Blizzard”… perhaps because our current lack of snow is very frustrating to me and it was so nice to sink into a story about there being so much snow that everything stood still for awhile.
I’ve gotta say, the details in the photos are extraordinary. Marlene has literally recreated scenes from her childhood, it’s remarkable! How did she make tiny detailed Magic Slates? A De Soto sign? A Loewen Garage calendar for March 1966?
There is much coziness here, warmth, charm, and imagination.
Now that I’ve read all ten books, I have to say that I’ve enjoyed stepping for a moment into Marlene’s memories of life in sixties-era Steinbach.
You can purchase the ‘Molly’ series books in 5-book packs, or individually, at Village Books & Gifts, at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach.