For a few years now, I’ve been collecting books, but not reading them. Only dipping in here and there, before running back to the thrift store to linger and search for more books.
Then the pandemic happened. There is no more lingering in the thrift store. There are fewer distractions. I’ve begun to pick up my books, and read them.
Last May, I read through my grandmother’s diaries. Truth to tell, I also have my grandfather’s diaries in my possession. They are waiting to be read.
I think I felt better prepared to read my grandmother’s diaries because I spoke with and interacted with her far more than my grandfather. She and I went for many long walks down our gravel road. We milked cows together, morning and evening, for years. We played Dutch Blitz while I ate all her chocolate chip cookies.
I didn’t necessarily know my grandfather. Certainly not as well as grandma. Perhaps now I’m about to.
But first, I need a base. I need to read the history books about the community he and his family came from. It’s ridiculous that I haven’t done this yet.
And so, the first book I plucked from the shelf was Gruenfeld: First Mennonite Village in Western Canada, written by Henry Fast. Lovingly researched for several years and carefully compiled into a beautiful book, which I joyfully purchased from Burton Lysecki Books (our favourite used book store). I have never seen it for sale anywhere else. I was so excited to buy it, and then hoard it without reading it, alongside all the others.
Why begin with Gruenfeld? Well, like the title says, it was the first Mennonite village in Western Canada! But more than that, I have learned from my sporadic research that my Grandpa Koop’s great-grandfather was Kleine Gemeinde minister Peter Baerg, who with my five-time great-grandmother Susanna Neuman settled lot #1 in Gruenfeld in 1874, with their 10-year-old daughter Sarah (my four-time great-grandmother).
Apparently there’s a lot written about him. I figured I should read it. Okay. Let’s begin!
(And yes, that is in fact an issue of Preservings, hovering in the background, through the window behind me.)
Exploring Old Gruenfeld with Henry Fast (Author of the Gruenfeld Book!)
The Handwriting of My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Peter Baerg