By Anneke Bender

I am wearing your dress now, pieces of you surely left in the fabric, threads of cotton holding a memory.  The cape dress, soft and wide, worn with boots, a covering for hair, plain clothes to make you plain.  But you were not.


I suspect what I know, do not know what I know, about you.  I do not know Mennonite songs, how even to sing, or how to milk cows and bake bread.  I do not know how to give my body over to a child and let myself be filled, not with anything other than words and time.


What was it the woman said on the radio today?  The interior freedom that music calls us to.  What more could we desire than that?  Sometimes I fly in my dreams, my energy reaching the corners of the sea, wide open and alive.  I step on myself, then I can go on, you said.  I imagine the heel of your own dark boot, crushing and grinding your bone to powder white.  You yielded as I yield, to the pressure from the world.  Is this not our original sin?


Oh how I know the dark suited preachers and their sin preaching.  Something of them in you and in me, so much they had to say about sin.  Opinions, a flurry of fear.  Theirs, not ours, and yet we yield.  Yet we yield.


Can we draw a line between you and me – a line where you end and I begin?  Or is it rather a blurring of cells, the lessons of your life stocking my DNA, your muscles working my flesh.  How different our lives, but I wonder at the questions our hearts have asked of this world:  Can it not be a place of peace?  Can not a love of God cure the first ailment?  Where is the sense of belonging the world calls us to?


You were planted before me, grew plump on potatoes and milk, the birthing of children.  If the church served purpose, it was to contain the trouble and burden of your wide life, to hold it within the confines of duty and family and a faithful belief in righteousness.  I could not say which is better.  I could not say if my rudderless life has led me anywhere good, my untethered soul left to wander the wilds, no shelter from the storm.  And yet.  Am I the answer to a question you asked?  Am I the freedom you ached but did not speak?  I fear I failed, the answer caught in my throat.


But you were kind, and would not hold my feet to the fire, not like that.  Perhaps you would gather me at your hem and stroke my hair, with great and deep eyes sing of Jesus.  Place the old Mennonite covering on my head and remind me – is not there hope in Christ?  In the way he opened his arms and welcomed the world in, his heart broken open.  We need not stamp out our hearts, dear, you might say.


If I am your freedom, you are my faith, grandmother, we two sensitive souls of the world.  Maybe I need to sing your old hymns.  Let loose the remedy from my lungs.  Teach us both what it means to be free.


*About the Author:  Anneke Bender is a physical therapist, yoga teacher, and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Comments and questions can be directed to:*

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