My Scandalous Mennonite Diary #17

Kelvin Bueckert
5 min readMar 7, 2024


“We know, of course, that the journey of marriage won’t be easy. There are so many temptations in the world…movie houses, rodeos, carnivals, and the like beckon to us all the time. It will take strength to resist these distractions…”

Wow, it is hot in here. I wipe a sheen of sweat from my brow as I look out at the congregation of black-clad people watching us.

There is a certain comfort that comes with being a part of something familiar. Something that you have known all your life and hasn’t changed.

I’m thankful that my children will be a part of a group with so much heritage and tradition behind it.

“Look at the world around us! We can see how the English people conduct their lives. We must do everything we can to separate ourselves from worldly people like that.”

As the preacher carries on, I stare at the young woman standing across from me. I’ve always wanted a large family and there is no one I’d rather raise them with than Mary.

I love everything about her. That head of brown curls that are now hidden under a black head covering. Those dimples that come to life when she smiles. Her work ethic. Her character. What a woman.

I wish she would meet my eyes but she is staring at the floor.

What is wrong with her?

Is she regretting her decision?

“And even though none of us can know for sure…when we work to keep ourselves from the pollution of the world, we can have hope. Hope that our good works may be enough to get us through the door of heaven. This is the religion that has guided our ancestors and I trust that it will guide you as you begin your life together. Amen.”

With that, the preacher hobbles back to his seat on the stage.

“Zaven fafte, zaven fafte,” a fehzinga calls out, prompting the sound of a hundred hands pulling out hymnbooks from their places in the backs of the pews. After a moment, another round of acapella singing begins. (Zaven fafte means fifty-seven, as in, page fifty-seven of the hymn book. A fehzinga is a fore singer (or, song leader.))

I try to sing along with everyone but I can’t concentrate on the song.

Mary is wiping tears from her face. Why? Is it me? As I ponder these questions the song comes to an end.

There is the sound of clattering and bumping as everyone rises from their seats. After a moment, the congregation forms a line and begins filing to the stairs leading down into the basement.

It is time for the traditional meal.

I move to Mary, hoping to be able to talk to her but we are interrupted.

“Congratulations Abe.”

“Good for you Mary, you couldn’t have found a better man.”

People mill around us clamoring for our attention.

The routine of handshaking, smiles, and thank yous takes over. Even Mary participates in this but I can see that her eyes are full of pain.

Why? The question haunts me. I wish that I could talk to her privately.

The human river continues to flow and it takes us with it down the stairs. Before we know it, we are in the basement of the Church building.

It is a plain sort of space, similar to the one we just left. The main difference is the rows of wooden tables that fill the room.

We are ushered to our seats and then a hush falls over the room as the preacher stands to attention and begins to pray a blessing over the food that we are about to receive. As the prayer ends people begin reaching for the bowls of buns in the center of their tables.

Buns, butter, sugar sticks…all the ingredients for a traditional meal. All the while, the level of chatter rises steadily.

Obah yo! Everyone is happy for the chance to schpetsie and catch up on old times. (Obah yo! Means Oh, yes! Schpetsie means visit.)

I see that Mary isn’t touching any of this food. So, I lean over to whisper in her ear. “What’s wrong?”

She flashes a halfhearted smile but says nothing.

“What’s wrong?” I repeat. “You can tell me, I’m your husband.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Well, not if you don’t tell me,” I reply.

“I’ve changed Abe, I’m not the person that I used to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.”

“About what?”

“About everything we’ve always been taught, and…and…”

“And what?”

Mary lowers her eyes and says nothing.

She is right about one thing. I don’t understand. What happened to her?

“What can I say, Abe? I may be an old rebel, but I’m sure glad that I could be a part of all this today,” Frank says as he approaches our table. “Who knew that old Model A of mine could still be good for something.”

“Well, I know I said it before but thank you again,” I say with a forced air of cheerfulness. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that Mary is fighting back tears.

She is a lonely figure in this crowd of happy conversations.

“I’ve always said, a single man is like a bear.”

“Oh, why’s that?” I say as I force a chuckle.

“He’s not happy until he gets his honey.”

Laughter erupts around me but all I can think of is Mary.

What has come over her?

This should be a happy day. The happiest day of our lives.

Was it something I said?

If it was a misunderstanding an honest conversation could soon clear it up. If only…if only she would talk to me.

We used to have such good times together. But in this moment it seems like we are in two different worlds.

“Remember Abe, children are a blessing from the Lord.”

“And you can never have too many blessings!”

As the chatter around me continues my mind begins to spin. I feel my appetite fade as depression washes over me. Today is the beginning of a lifetime together. What in the world have I got myself into?



Kelvin Bueckert

Lives and writes on the plains of Manitoba, Canada…he is an actor, writer, and has also been known to peddle books on his website…