Friday Afternoon at Mennonite/s Writing VIII

I felt woefully unprepared and unqualified to be at such an event. Yet at the same time I relish being out of my league. A university hall full of PhD.’s would certainly be just that.

The afternoon session began.

Dora Dueck wondered if it’s possible to truly know someone. I wrote down: “Contrasting feedback. Treacherous endeavor. Different siblings’ perspectives.” She questioned the biographer’s motive. I wrote down: “Revenge? Blame?” I think I would love to write a biography someday. Her talk inspired me. I meant to tell her… but the time never seemed right.

Mary Ann Loewen spoke on “Mennonite Daughters and Cross-Gendered Narratives of Place”, and I reflected on my relationship with my own father. I wrote down “time spent / accessibility / belonging + displacement”.

Really, my notes make no sense.

Raylene Hinz-Penner talked about how Mennonites went from martyrdom to assimilation (“becoming white”). I wrote down: “how Mennonites use white privilege”.

Then coffee. Also known as, opportunity to utilize the facilities. I joined in the race of women quickly walking to the ladies’ room which was considerably further than the men’s. I waited in line. It occurred to me that likely all these women were geniuses and once I heard them speak I’d be dazzled. This all turned out to be true.

And then, time to mingle. My efforts were certainly awkward at best. I found myself sipping coffee next to Armin Wiebe. I barked, “Brummtopp! You can play the Brummtopp!” Jeepers Erin. At least try to formulate some kind of normal question or observation.

Time to sit down. A woman sat near me. I smiled. She asked where I was from, I replied Steinbach. I asked her where she was from, she replied Fresno. My brain froze. A dazzling genius, likely! But I had missed her talk. Oh no. What to say? What intelligent statement might I muster? “Drought!” I barked. “I’ve heard there is a terrible drought in California!”

I later told Andrew all about my idiotic conversation skills. How I was dazzled and frozen. He suggested I ask a normal question, such as, “Are you presenting at this conference?” Ah. Yes. That question would make much more sense. I felt empowered, once I was armed with this excellent question.

I regret to admit, but I remained stunned during the following presentations by Grace Kehler, Hildi Froese Tiessen, and Ann Hostetler. My notes continue to baffle me: “myth of origins / alienation / truth claims / shapes and shadows / who can speak for the other?”

Time to break for dinner.