The Sauder House

Next Sunday the building where my grandparents were superintendents of a children’s home will officially be re-named The Sauder House in their honor.

They would never have admitted to being pleased at the re-naming of the building and they would certainly not have been proud.

Near the turn of the century Grandpa Levi Sauder married a beautiful, stylish young lady named Molly Ann Snyder. In July of 1902 Molly gave birth to a baby boy. Levi’s elation quickly turned to grief when Molly developed an infection and died.

The sorrowing husband gave the baby to relatives and struggled to go on with his life. Several years later he met a devout woman named Lydia and the two married and reclaimed the child, who by now was four years old.

My favorite story about Lydia was that one Sunday as she walked to the mission where she “helped out”, she began expressing her concern to the Lord that she had nothing to put in the offering. She looked down at the dirt path and there was a coin – a penny, I believe. She picked it up, rejoicing that she now had something to give to the Lord.

Levi and Lydia had a son John and then later adopted a boy from the children’s home. His name was Richard. My father was the first child and when he was married with four small children, he moved his family to Tampa, Florida where he was involved in mission work.

Driving from Tampa to Millersville Pennsylvania was difficult and so we did not see Grandpa and Grandma Sauder very often.

We owned a Model A Ford which Dad had to drive slowly for the thousand mile trip. The tires kept “blowing out.” We carried an inner tube kit with us and when a tire “blew out” we piled out of the car to wait beside the road until the tube patching set.

During the trip my brothers and I stood in the back of the car and often quarreled. This prompted Dad to warn that if we kept it up, he would put us out of the car. He did this on occasion until one brother hid behind a tree as Dad chugged on slowly. When Dad backed up to retrieve his son, Johnny was nowhere to be found. I don’t think anyone was ever put out of the car again.

The difficulty of the long trip north may be one reason why we seldom saw Grandpa and Grandma Sauder. One would think, judging from the pictures of that time, that we always sat on the steps with Grandma, holding bunches of elderberries for the photographer. My cousin, a cute little blondie named Fay, was sitting with me and we smiled and proudly held up a bunch of elderberries. Perhaps we only made one trip north?

Another story from that time was when Grandpa and Grandma came down from Pennsylvania to Florida to see us. Dad had butchered a large turtle and made soup from it. Mother served the soup from a tureen. Grandma took her first bite and complimented the cook, who was my father.

“This soup is delicious!” she exclaimed. “I just can’t place the flavor, though. What is the meat?”

“It’s turtle,” said Dad happily. Of course it had been free meat – a turtle found slowly making its way along the road. Grandma put down her spoon and refused to eat another bite. Oh, well, she at least had that first delicious spoonful.

I never learned to know Grandpa very well, but I remember that Grandma had deep pockets in her dresses and in those pockets were pink peppermints.

The Sauders worked hard and their lives were useful. We were never in and out of their house , but we had deep respect for Grandpa and Grandma. Dad said his father was an old man in his fifties when he died. No wonder! Sadness, responsibility and hard work age a person.

He would be astonished to know of the honor given him so many years after his death.He would probably say he just did what needed to be done. Nevertheless, we will honor Grandpa and Grandma’s memories. It will make us feel good. J. Paul, John and Richard are gone, as well as their spouses and some of their children. But there will still be plenty of us left to reminisce and pose for the pictures that are sure to come. No elderberries this time, just a pleased group of relatives of Levi and Lydia Sauder. The Sauder House! It sounds good to me.

What Did You Mean When You Said That?

My husband and I were at a Bible study one time some years ago and a woman was praying fervently. Her prayer was pretty long.
At one point in the prayer she began saying, “And Lord, You are so good to us! You even tell us when we have something on our glasses!”
I thought “What on earth is the woman praying about now? She’s veered off-track a bit, but she’s prayed so long, she should soon be done.”
We got to the end of the prayers and the snacks and we did the Bible study and left. On the way home I turned to talk to my husband in the car and noticed he had something on his glasses – shaving cream, perhaps. So that’s what the prayer was about!
It reminded me a bit of the high school classmate who walked up to me and said quietly, “I hope the sun doesn’t shine too brightly today.” I couldn’t figure that one out, either, until I learned that my slip wasn’t opaque enough for her.
When it comes to speech, we often can’t get it right. There are times when saying nothing would be just fine with me. That was how I felt when my little daughter said, “You’re fat!” It’s not a statement any woman likes to hear, even from a child.
I didn’t even like to read it in a high school paper written by the exchange student who was living with us, although she softened the statement by writing that I was “a little bit fat.” Perhaps that is a compliment in her country. I don’t know.
I remember reading that a woman came up to Winston Churchill one time and said, “I have been casting about in my mind for some time for a way to convey something to you, and it is this: You have whipped cream on the end of your nose.”
“My dear,” he said. “You found the perfect way.”
My preferred method of communication is to say nothing. That’s not always good. Then there is a type of personality that gives you a running account of the workings of their mind. What they are thinking keeps coming out and coming out. They may change their minds in a few minutes, but the previous words linger on and on.
In fact, one of my husband’s relatives rmembered for years that a guest said about her chocolate cake, “This tastes sour!” It became a family joke with someone remarking each time she served cake, “I hope it doesn’t taste sour.”
Of course sometimes you can completely interpret correctly what someone is saying to you. Once I kept a dog for someone and when she returned from her trip, she picked up the dog and then returned to the car. She appeared at the door again with her hands full of trash from the car. She pushed it into my trashcan, saying, “There! I don’t want that trash in my house!” I understood perfectly. She wanted her trash to be in my house, not hers.

It’s Been 57 Years Already?

Today is the 57th anniversary of our wedding. I’m sure I’m not the first to notice this, but marriage is hard. We married too young and we kept messing up.

 We assumed we were in love, but we now know that love is learned over the years. We were so young and uncertain when we married that we let others make decisions for us. That is how we ended up living in two rooms in the home of an unhappy older couple who closely monitored our lives. That is also how we ended up working at a huge facility for mentally disabled children, when Don really wanted to work as a forest ranger.

We learned everything the hard way. I now know there is not much worth arguing about. I also know there are not many clothes that have to be ironed. I know men make excellent cooks and a grilled cheese sandwich is a wonderful thing.  I know it is not good to whine. Get over it.  An automatic washer, a dryer and a dishwasher are about the same as having a hired girl, which used to be common years ago. Forget the guilt.

Always spend less than you earn, but on the other hand, be generous when giving to the Lord and to people in need. Forget about what other people have. If you have food and clothes, a running car and warm house, you are fortunate.  Celebrate everything, no matter how small. Today we celebrated seeing a family of turkeys who scurried across the road as we approached. The little ones had to run twice as fast to keep up with mom!

Sleep is good! Go to bed instead of staying up to watch TV, play on the computer or clean. Relax and realize you will never be the best at what you do. Even if someone thinks you are the best, others will disagree. You don’t have to be always talking. Listening is very good. Forget about gossip – you really don’t know why people do the things they do. You can guess, but you may be guessing wrong. Also, a person can never have too many friends.

Even if you are rushed and time is limited, a scripture verse in the morning is good. Laugh a lot! We never laughed enough and I regret that. I also regret that we didn’t have enough fun with our children. I regret that I worried so much. Sure, our children all wore  hand-me-down clothes when they were little, but you would never guess it when you see them now.

I hope our children know that I always loved them. I didn’t do a spectacular job with babies, but I loved them. Even when I was exhausted, I loved them. When I yelled at them in frustration, I loved them. When they disappointed me, I loved them.

If someone had warned me what the future would hold if I married Don, I would have said, “No, thanks. I don’t have the courage to face that.” But we didn’t know about the future. We faced life together and we will continue to do so. I love Don. 



I Couldn’t Remember Their Names

Two acquaintances died lately and I couldn’t remember their correct names! Bicycle Pete used to be our neighbor years ago and eventually moved to Jasper,  married and moved in with his in-laws.

“Bicycle Pete died,” my husband told me the other day. “That’s not his real name,” I said. “What was his real name?”  But my husband couldn’t remember either. I often saw him when I drove through Jasper. He would be happily riding his bicycle and he would give me a nod as I passed by.

His family lived up the road from us years ago and they had an artisan well, just as we did. The pipe to this well stuck up from the ground and overflowed, forming an intricate ice sculpture in the winter.

Once I stopped at a yard sale Bicycle Pete had in his yard. I foolishly bought a tiny radio after asking first, “Are you sure this works?”

“I wouldn’t be selling it to you if it didn’t,” Bicycle Pete answered. I paid him the $2 and took it home. It didn’t work. I showed it to my husband who pointed out that there was nothing inside. That was okay – Bicycle Pete never had another yard sale and I wouldn’t have bought anything from him again if he had. I considered the experience part of my education.

The Shusher had died the week before Bicycle Pete. She sang in the ecumenical choir with Don and me and had a habit of regularly shushing the men because they tended to act like junior high boys when they got together for rehearsals.

Her sons asked if the choir would sing at her memorial service today, so we held a quick rehearsal at 12:30 and in her memory, the men turned and shushed each other. One of the songs went very well and when I skipped two of the notes in the other song, it also sounded pretty good. Her sons were pleased. They said the choir was a joy in her life.

The choir director shared the story of her shushing and everyone laughed, just as they laughed about her fast driving and having so much stuff stashed in her house that her neighbor didn’t bother to buy much. She just borrowed from The Shusher.

She was intelligent, educated, artistic and articulate. I learned this at her memorial service. Bicycle Pete was friendly and devoted to his daughter. He and his wife would bring her to school, each parent holding one of her hands until she was safely in the care of a teacher.

I’m curious what people will say when I’m gone. I hope they will have noticed that I loved my family, that I loved God, that my family never went hungry, and perhaps they will say I loved to sing and write. If they’re kind they will let out the part about reading when there was work to be done and the other part about the house never looking like a magazine picture.

It doesn’t actually matter a lot what they say, because I want my family and friends to laugh and have a really good time with good food,  fragrant coffee and several kinds of tea served after my service. They can cry a little bit, for a little while, and then they should stop and go on living in the best way they can, loving God and their families and friends.

P.S. – my name is Anne. Try to remember that.

There’s No Great Loss Without Some Small Gain

I was embarrassed, even ashamed, when this thought came to me in the weeks after the Amish tragedy. I knew where the thought came from: years of reading and re-reading the Little House On The Prairie books, books I read on cold blustery days when the lane blew shut and the wind howled forlornly around our farmhouse. After lunch I would pull a blanket around me and read again how Caroline Ingalls dealt with the various disasters that came upon the Ingalls family.

One particularly hot summer a hailstorm wiped out their crops in a few minutes. The family scooped up the ice and made ice cream. There was no great loss without some small gain, and that ice cream was so delicious!

But what was wrong with me when I thought of this in connection with the Amish accident? This tragedy was beyond “a great loss.” It was an unimaginable loss. Many children were left with only one parent and our neighbors both died, leaving twelve children of their own. Stunned and grief-stricken, the Amish and “English” communities stumbled  through the days as best they could – setting up cots at school, giving to a “relief fund”, handing out cold bottles of water, gathering and preparing food, arranging the hours of the funeral, only to repeat the process two more times in the following days.

Then word came that a childless couple from Ohio – relatives – would sell their property and move to Jasper and care for the twelve children. This was not a “small gain” – this was an enormous gain, one I could not imagine undertaking. Social workers, back off! You will not separate those children!  Adding one baby to a family often creates instant chaos. There is loss of sleep, extra laundry, more food to prepare, mysterious illness, a battle of the wills when the child is older – every parent could add several more things to the list.

But the Amish live in community. What affects one of them affects all of them. I keep remembering what a young Amish girl said during the schoolhouse shootings in Pennsylvania some years ago. The gunman had pointed his gun at a small child and an older girl spoke up, saying “Shoot me instead and let her go.”

Now, day after day Amish buggies clopped past our house. They were headed up the hill to sit with grieving relatives, to help with work, to bring some bread or rolls, and to give a silent message that together they would find their way. God was with them. They had no choice but to forgive the man who caused the accident, because God told them they must forgive.

Life is such a mixture of good and bad, bitter and sweet, loss and gain. When I was a child, I loved fairy tales! Things were so bad for the characters, but they all reached a point where they lived happily ever after. I learned this is not real life. We have great losses throughout life,  but at times we also have small gains and I am so glad those Amish children are going to have parents once again.

My small gain is that I re-learned that we absolutely must live in community with each other. Whether we admit it or not, what affects one of us affects all of us. God said it, and it is true.