Once a week Darla Weaver bundles her children into the buggy, hitches up her spirited mare, and drives six miles to the farm where she grew up. There she gathers with her four sisters and their children for a day with their mother. In Gathering of Sisters, Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy Mennonite family and the weekly women’s gatherings that keep them connected. On warm days, the children play and fish and build houses of hay in the barn. In the winter, everyone stays close to the woodstove, with puzzles and games and crocheting. No matter the weather, the Tuesday get-togethers of this Old Order Mennonite family keep them grounded and centered in their love for God and for each other.
The rest of the week is full of laundry, and errands, and work that never ends. But Tuesdays are about being sisters, daughters, and mothers.
Hear straight from Amish and Mennonite people themselves as they write about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press. Each book includes “A Day in the Life of the Author” and the author’s answers to FAQs about the Amish and Mennonites.
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About the Author
Darla Weaver is a homemaker, gardener, writer, and Old Order Mennonite living in the hills of southern Ohio. She is the author of Water My Soul and Many Lighted Windows, and she has written for Family Life, Ladies Journal, Young Companion, and other magazines for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. Before her three children were born she also taught school. Her hobbies are gardening and writing.
Read an Excerpt
January: Tuesdays at Mom's and the Tuesday Tablecloth
The calendars have all been changed. A new year is like a new book. What do the pages hold?
It began to snow this morning as five-year-old Matthan and I were on our way to Mom's house, small flakes that meant business. Soon the world was a white blur, and we were wrapped in the middle of a quiet cocoon of softly falling flakes. It was rather like traveling through the middle of one of those snow globes we used to have when we were children, where a vigorous shaking started a mini blizzard.
The six miles Matthan and I travel to Mom's house follow a winding course through hilly back roads. Depending on whom you ask, these are high hills or small mountains. I use the terms interchangeably. Whether hills or mountains, they are steep, with steep drop-offs that lack any suggestion of guard rails.
I began to worry a little about the dreaded snowplows, and fervently hoped we wouldn't meet any. Actually, I admire the dedicated people who work in cold and stormy weather to keep the roads safe. It's Charlotte our horse who doesn't like to see the thundering iron beasts approaching. She always practices some fancy dance steps when one passes, and I'm afraid that someday she will jump down over a bank.
There are banks along the winding ridge road over which I have no desire to tumble. A few have only a narrow shoulder — less than a foot wide — from where the blacktop ends and the hillside makes an almost vertical drop into deep and rocky gullies. If Charlotte ever took us down over those, it's highly probable that we wouldn't climb back up by ourselves.
Despite her dislike of snowplows and other unusual beasts lumbering along the road, Charlotte is a good horse. Laverne bought her for me to drive after I had a mishap with his horse, and I certainly appreciated the gift. I depend on her for at least a weekly jaunt. She's a pretty little mare just spirited enough to keep me on my toes when I'm driving her.
There are only two banks with such dangerous drop-offs along the hilltop road, and we passed them both, quickly and safely, as we have hundreds of times before. Soon we were heading downhill, down off the high ridges we call home, to where the rolling fields of Mom and Dad's farm edge the road.
Their lane is rolling too. It rolls downhill toward a small stream of water, fed by a natural spring somewhere, that idles lazily through a culvert underneath the lane, and then the lane climbs again. Past the greenhouses, the other sheds, the barn, up the hill to the big white house beneath the silver maples.
The horse and carriage that Emily drives was already there when I arrived, and assorted bicycles and a stroller announced that Matthan and I were the last to arrive. We normally are.
In the L-shaped kitchen and living room was the Tuesday morning chaos of arrival. We each haul along a box or basket or bag of some sort — I use my laundry basket — with the items needed that day: work or crafts, food to contribute to dinner, the children's innumerable paraphernalia, and books and magazines to exchange. It takes a while to stow away coats, decide who gets which issue of what, and sort out what we have brought for dinner and plan a complete menu around it.
When I had my basketful of stuff emptied and sorted, I helped myself to coffee and sat down at the table. "Guess what the editor at Herald Press wants me to do," I announced when everyone was assembled. I didn't expect them to guess, of course. "She would like for me to do a book about a year of our days together and call it maybe Tuesdays with Mom." Reactions varied.
"I suppose you would change all our names," Mom said after a while.
That was a new thought for me, and one I didn't want to consider. "Oh, no, that would be much too hard. We would just use everyone's real name." Merely the thought of renaming eighteen children — nineteen counting my oldest, Cody — exhausted me.
"Maybe you'll have to Sunday-us-up a bit," Emily suggested with a laugh. "Make sure we all use our best manners when you write about us."
"Oh yes, I won't write anything you wouldn't like," I promised.
"She will still have to claim us as sisters," Regina pointed out, as usual finding a positive angle to the topic. "She won't make us sound too odd or ornery or anything."
I promised not to.
Regina's oldest daughter, Jerelyn, who at fourteen has graduated from eighth grade and is again spending Tuesdays with us, considered staying home for the entire next year to keep her name out of the book. But on a whole, no one really objected. Like Laverne and our children, Mom and my sisters are almost used to my compulsive scribbling. Almost.
The forenoon hours were busy as usual as we prepared dinner. Today Amanda brought pizza supplies, so Mom mixed up a batch of dough, enough to spread over two cookie sheets. I had brought salad fixings, so while they layered on pizza sauce, sausage, cheese, and pepperoni, I chopped lettuce, grated carrots and radishes, added bacon bits and cheese, and tossed together a salad. Regina had brought some of her homemade baked beans, made with navy beans and limas, and that finished our meal.
While the pizzas baked we added extra leaves to the table and stretched it all the way across the kitchen. On Tuesdays it has to be lengthened to seat anywhere from about fifteen, in the winter, to its full capacity of twenty-four to twenty-eight — depending on how many children we can squeeze on the bench — in the summer. Even then, the older children have to take turns to fill their plates and eat picnic-style at a table on the porch.
We brought out the Tuesday tablecloth — so called because it's the only one long enough to cover the entire length of the stretched-out table. It used to be a bright blue green, with a pattern of blocks that has flower designs in the center, but it has faded over the years to a smoky blue. The squares still tumble over its yards, though, in various shapes and sizes, and the flowers still bloom.
I guess we sisters resemble the tablecloth a little bit. Over the years we've faded too. We've all added some extra pounds and wrinkles. Occasionally we commiserate with each other about a first gray hair, and glasses have become a reality, at least for me.
But those are simply the outward signs. In the fading years of youth we've matured — at least to a certain extent. We've added a few insights, gained some wisdom. The years have been kind for the most part, if relentless; and what we've lost of the bright merriment of youth has been amply replaced by the settled contentment of these full, ripe, mellow years lived alongside the ones who grew up with us and whose lives are forever entwined in the memories of yesterday.
The wind remained cold, but after dinner Matthan, Wesley, who's also five, and Corey, soon to be four, wanted to play outside. We bundled them into coats and beanies and sent them out. The snow had melted and the temperature was not quite freezing, and the noise level indoors is greatly reduced when even a few of the children decide to play outside.
Behind the house, in the muddy field, they found a patch of ice over a shallow ditch. It was barely frozen, but it made a fairly nice pond for the three little "skaters." They slipped and skidded back and forth, stumbled through the just-thawing mud beside it, and stamped holes into the thin layer of ice.
It didn't last very long. Soon there was a banging and a kicking at the door. When Emily opened it, there was our trio of little boys, wet to the knees and muddy to there as well. They were cold too, with hands and cheeks turned cherry red by the wind. They dropped their coats and shoes on the rug just inside Mom's front door — do they still not know any better? — and went to find something warmer to do.
Even the little girls wanted a breath of fresh air, so they went outside as well, to make mud pies in the cold January mud. KellyAnn and Melody have just turned six, and Makayla is four. They also came in soon, with coats and skirts streaked with mud and their hands caked with it. Even Makayla, who is otherwise a little lady, likes mud pies and mud puddles.
These are Matthan's Tuesday playmates — KellyAnn, Melody, Wesley, Corey, and Makayla. They are the six who fill Mom's house with noise and play and disagreements every week. Janessa and Luella, who are both turning three this year, play with them too, and baby David, Regina's youngest, watches everything with bright, dark eyes.
They play the hours away, but they disagree too, and their quarrels vary in degree from mild to serious. Matthan can be selfish and set in his own ways, accustomed as he is to playing alone at home, and it has been a good experience for him to be plunged into the midst of ready-made playmates just his age and size, at least once a week.
I had brought along dress patterns and three pieces of fabric. Two were to cut into dresses for my daughter, Alisha, and one was for my new dress. But after I finished washing the dishes, coffee and chocolate bars looked more appealing, as did a new book called Dusty Rose, which Mom had just bought to add to her library.
While my more industrious sisters cut patches for comforters to send overseas (Regina), crocheted a pair of baby socks (Ida Mae), and colored and cut stamp art pictures to make cards (Emily and Amanda), I was lazy. I am not into crafts, and neither do I enjoy buying fabric just for fabric's sake, as do the others. I buy just enough to keep Alisha and myself supplied with plenty of dresses.
But I laughed along with them when Mom produced a paper a friend had sent. She read aloud to us "Fifteen Reasons to Buy Fabric," from an unknown source. Various versions exist.
1. It insulates the closet where it is kept.
2. It helps keep the economy going. It is our patriotic duty to support cotton farmers, textile mills, and quilt shops.
3. It is less expensive and more fun than psychiatric care.
4. Because it's on sale.
5. Because I'm worth it.
6. A sudden increase in the boll weevil population might wipe out the cotton crop in the next ten years.
7. I'm participating in a contest. The one who dies with the most fabric wins.
8. It keeps without refrigeration, you don't have to cook it to enjoy it, and you never have to feed it, change it, wipe its nose, or walk it.
9. I need extra weight in the trunk of my car for traction on snowy, icy roads. This is important, even in Florida or Southern California — you never know when the weather will change.
10. Like dust, it's good for protecting previously empty spaces in the house, like the ironing board, the laundry hamper, the dining room table ...
11. When a big earthquake comes, all the quilt shops might be swallowed into the ground and never be seen again.
12. Stress from dealing with the Fabric Control Officer (my husband) made me do it.
13. It's not immoral, illegal, or fattening. It calms the nerves, gratifies the soul, and makes me feel good.
14. Buy it now, before your husband retires and goes with you on all your shopping expeditions.
15. A yard a day is all the quilt shops of America ask.
Before long Matthan and Corey were both wailing and needed some attention. Their disagreement had escalated to the point where Corey whacked Matthan on the head with his toy giraffe. Matthan retaliated by smacking Corey on the head with his toy elephant. Both giraffe and elephant are large plastic beasts from Mom's assortment of zoo animals, and I'm sure the boys' heads must have hurt. Regina and I reminded them that Grandma's toys are to play with, not to use as weapons, and to share nicely. But somehow they no longer wanted to play with zoo animals.
Mom's sixtieth birthday present to herself arrived in the mail as a belated gift that day. It was a laminated song calendar, like a daily calendar with pages to flip. Soon we were humming and singing snatches of songs. "Prayer Bells of Heaven," "Beautiful Home," and my favorite, "When We All Get to Heaven." We sang the chorus together: "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!" I can usually carry a tune when someone else is also singing, and I croaked along with my more musical sisters.
Soon another joyful noise drifted to our ears. An uneven line of children had congregated before the sink — KellyAnn, Melody, Matthan, Wesley, Corey, Makayla. Even Janessa and Luella had found places in the row. They each clutched a picture book — holding them right side up, upside down, and sideways — and they were singing in a lovely clamor of voices, noises, and sounds. There was nothing bashful about them, and their joyful noise sounded just as beautiful as ours.
I skip a Tuesday at Mom's house only about four or five times a year, and last week had been one of those times. Matthan had thrown up all night and was still quite a sick little boy who lay on the recliner all day long instead of joining his cousins at Grandma's house.
But now it was Tuesday again, and he thought it had been a very long time since his last day at Grandma's house.
"Or did we skip a Tuesday?" he asked.
"We sure did," I replied. "Don't you remember? You were sick and didn't feel like going anywhere."
"But I didn't know it was Tuesday," he said, and his tone implied that had he known he would certainly have crawled off the recliner and gone.
Because it was a rainy morning, Alisha needed a ride to school first, and I scurried around to be ready in time to take her along. It was also my turn to chauffeur the neighbor children, so we picked up five of them along the winding gravel road to school, and they crowded into the carriage with us. The carriage door was being stubborn; either it would refuse to budge or it would fall off. We were crammed suffocatingly together, and the blankets became wet and muddy from even more wet and muddy boots and from the rain shivering in through the crack of the stubborn door.
Alisha was feeling snappish by the time Charlotte halted near the schoolhouse door, and so was I. There the carriage disgorged six children, and I sighed with relief. (The carriage may have too.) Matthan and I found a nice, dry spot on the blanket, and Charlotte jogged off to Mom's house, relieved to have discarded some of her load.
Rain fell all day, shutting us up in the cozy house, where the woodstove hummed a winterish tune and the children played with a relish and a racket. We chopped potatoes and carrots, browned beef and onions, and made a beef noodle stew for dinner. It was the perfect meal for a cold winter noon.
When it comes to quarreling, and sometimes fighting with words, fists, and tears, Matthan and Melody win all the prizes. KellyAnn is a peaceful kind of little girl who is seldom involved, while Melody is a spirited lass who clashes with Matthan. One of their disagreements a year or two ago ended with Melody flouncing over to Ida Mae and saying, "Matthan won't go with me to my school, will he, Mom?"
But today when Matthan fell off the bench at noon and bruised his cheek, Melody was most sympathetic. Matthan wept long and loud and shed many tears, and all the while Melody was busy carpeting the library floor with all the soft blankets she could find. "It's a surprise for Matthan," she explained. "If he's hurt he needs something soft."
I don't know how blankets on the library floor were supposed to assuage his pain, but in this case it was the thought that counted. And Matthan was happy with the idea when Melody and KellyAnn invited him to the library. He perched on the chair and began auctioneering. Over the next few minutes he sold dozens of books to Melody and KellyAnn.
Anthony, our second youngest brother, gave his girlfriend, Norma, her engagement present on New Year's Day. I don't know where the custom of giving a clock for engagement originated, but in our community it's a long-standing tradition. Those clocks are special and cherished for years, often a lifetime.
"April," Anthony said when we sisters wanted to know the date they had chosen for the wedding, and that's all he would say.
I suppose it was to be expected. Anthony likes to tease us. It must be payback time for him, and now he's getting revenge for all the times we bossed him when he was younger.
Not that his refusal to reveal the day made any difference to us. We began immediately to discuss the details — sewing new dresses from the fabric they had chosen, who would oversee scheduling a bus to take us to Pennsylvania where Norma's family lives, what wedding gifts to buy, and whether the men and boys needed new white shirts or if they still had some good enough for a wedding.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Gathering of Sisters A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family"
Copyright © 2018 Herald Press.
Excerpted by permission of Herald Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Plainspoken 9
Author's Introduction 11
Family Members 15
January: Tuesdays at Moms and the Tuesday Tablecloth 17
February: No New Shoes for Mama 36
March: Do Horses Have Hormones Too? 57
April: Biking through Puddles: Spring Comes to the Hills Again 81
May: Mom's Three-Ring Circus 106
June: Zucchini Kayaks, Spatula Showers, and Silicone Cupcake "Papers" 125
July: Pandemonium: The Tuesday Moments 155
August: When Daughter Takes Over Driving Charlotte 176
September: Babyhood Vanishes When First Grade Starts 198
October: Coffee High, Cat Tails, and Snapping Turtles 213
November: Teenagers No More: Winter's Coming 230
December: Giddyup: Christmas, plus Year's End Comes Careening 245
A Day in the Life of the Author 258
FAQ about Old Order Mennonites: The Author Answers 262
The Author 271
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I didn’t realize there were so many differences between Old Order Mennonites and Old Order Amaish. They’re still Plain, but less Plain. You will understand when you read this book. I truly enjoyed these ladies and didn’t really want this book to end. I always wanted a sister. Now I wish I could have had Sister Tuesdays. Thank you, Darla Weaver, for sharing your sisters with me. ***Book received without charge from Audra Jennings PR.*** Submitted by sunny island breezes.
Often, it’s in the seemingly ordinary that the truest gems are found, as is the case with Darla Weaver’s Gathering of Sisters. This “only child” reveled in Weaver’s extended family and their Tuesdays together. I always longed for a sister and suspect there’s a lot of truth in this thought … “Sisters are some of God’s best gifts, a happy reason not to go life solo.” And to all who delight in Amish fiction, Weaver’s non-fiction work gives realistic insight into the heart of Amish life. The years have been kind for the most part, if relentless; and what we’ve lost of the bright merriment of youth has been amply replaced by the settled contentment of these full, ripe, mellow years lived alongside the ones who grew up with us and whose lives are forever entwined in the memories of yesterday. - Darla Weaver Those words reflect the beautiful heart of Gathering of Sisters. As I read of these month-by-month experiences – fun activities based on the season, sewing, baking, laughter, reading, chatting – the phrase “stop and smell the roses” came to mind. Not just a brief, pleasurable experience, but one of finding contentment in everyday living. It was fun to read about the room at the farmhouse set aside for books and other reading material, and to be reminded how similar we all are in the things we enjoy. Baking (a few recipes are included) and sewing are huge activities. I laughed along with the sisters when their Mom shared a list of reasons to buy fabric. Here’s just a few … -- It insulates the closet where it is kept. -- It is less expensive and more fun than psychiatric care. -- Because it’s on sale. -- It keeps without refrigeration, you don’t have to cook it to enjoy it, and you never have to feed it, change it, wipe its nose, or walk it. -- Buy it now, before your husband retires and goes with you on all your shopping expeditions. Gathering of Sisters … fifteen years of Tuesdays, where Darla, Regina, Ida Mae, Emily and Amanda can simply be sisters, daughters, and friends. I enjoyed all that they had to share and the spiritual insight gleaned as they lived out their faith. Recommended. I received a copy of this book from I Read with Audra and Herald Press. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
This heartwarming read will have you wanting to join Darla and her family! Chronicling a year of their weekly get togethers, Weaver shows us what a close knit family can be like. Children tumbling everywhere (even being naughty), games, and yummy recipes will bring a sense of fun. You’ll find the style in which this is written very relaxing; definitely a much slower pace. While the book is a picture of their Tuesday gatherings, it really shows us much about relationships and the value of them. I loved the relationships this family shares. With God at the forefront, it’s no wonder they’re so close. If you’d like a peak into a more relaxed life, rich with relationships, I highly recommend Gathering of Sisters. I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
Plainspoken is an imprint of Herald Press which specializes in providing a place for Mennonite, Amish and Hutterite authors to tell their stories. A glance at most bookstore will show that Amish/Mennonite fiction (romance and mysteries) are popular, but as anyone with a bit of knowledge about these religious communities can tell you, the accuracy within those stories varies widely. So when given the chance to read Darla Weaver's GATHERING OF SISTERS, I hoped that I would learn more about this Anabaptist group and how it differs from others. Darla Weaver answers some basic questions about the group at the end of the book, but mostly this book details her visits with her sisters over a year. It was a treat, a warm, welcoming read. Every Tuesday Darla, married and the mother of 3, travels to her mother's to spend the day. Her three sisters, also married and mothers of young children, do the same. Each comes with a craft or sewing project. They bring food for a shared meal and magazines and books to exchange. And of course, they bring the youngest children. And as a wooden sign in our great room says, "Grandma's house, where cousins go to become friends." When the summer months roll around and the older children are out of school, those cousin friends number over 20. What a houseful. As Darla writes about each month, you will appreciate the rhythms of the seasons and feel how they affect our daily lives. If you're caught up in the rat-race of career, over-scheduled kids' activities, and more, you may be missing those close ties to the seasons. The simpler way of living of these sisters and their families will make you remember A new jig-saw puzzle each week, sharing in the task of making new dresses for a brother's wedding, taking turns doing the noon dishes by hand, new recipes (both successful ones and failures), holding a new niece or nephew for the first time -- all these events will never make news headlines, but they are pieces of a solid, affirming way of life.. Darla explains the importance of these Tuesday visits and talks in this way: it wasn't that our topics were of any momentous importance, It was simply a sharing of daily moments, thoughts, lessons learned or in the process of being learned. As long as we breathe there are things to learn, and sometimes we can benefit from sisters' lessons too. Perhaps my favorite part of each Tuesday's retelling was Darla's tales of the preschoolers and their antics. Many of them reminded me of get togethers decades ago with my cousins on our farm -- playing in the mud, searching the barn for baby kittens, tricking the moms with a plastic snake, and cutting up the zucchini for canoes.
GATHERING OF SISTERS is a year of ordinary weekly interactions between sisters, mom, children and what occurs. It is a family working together with crafts and chores, playdates with cousins, and how horses interact with traffic. It is a memoir of sorts or a diary of the events. There are some recipes included, one of which I want to try in my homeschool home ec class today. A GATHERING OF SISTERS is a nice quiet read in a-day-in-the-life-of a Mennonite family. Fans of Amish and old-order Mennonite books will enjoy this book written by an old-order Mennonite woman. I was given a copy free from the I Read With Audra publicity group and all opinions are my own.
Darla Weaver lives a Plain life that she enjoys with other members of her Old Order Mennonite family. A tradition that she, her mother, her four sisters, and their children hold dear is Tuesday gatherings where they share both the ordinary and the special times of their lives. In Gathering of Sisters, she takes her readers on a journey through many of the happenings of those weekly get-togethers. Much of the book is a very simple retelling of the conversations and events that happen on those Tuesdays throughout the year, conversations and events that might not be all that different from what any group of sisters would engage in. But Darla's sharing of them provides an opportunity for readers to slow down and reflect on their own day-to-day happenings and the memorable moments in the ordinary times. Throughout her accounts, she also scatters the little lessons that come to mind as she and her family members go about their daily lives. Gathering of Sisters moves at a very laid-back, relaxing pace, something to soak in slowly while you curl up in your favorite chair. As you read this book, you might pick up some insight into the Old Order Mennonite life but will mostly have the opportunity to just watch life play out in this close-knit family. Thanks to Audra Jennings PR for providing a copy of this book. I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.
What a heartwarming read, I wanted to join them, I could just picture the joy of going to Grandma’s on Tuesday, and sad if they had to miss. The author has a way with words and they are so welcoming and loving, you wanted to join this family, and how they are all there for one another. There are chuckles and tears here, and we get a real look into Old Order Mennonite life. There isn’t any fiction here, and when I finished I found myself wanting more! I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Herald Press, and was not required to give a positive review.