ETA: An even more appropriate moniker is “Anabaptist Bohemian.”
I carried the bolt of brightly colored fabric to the counter, trembling with hope and excitement that I might “get by” this time. I chose my dress material with trepidation growing up, because I was seldom permitted the patterns and prints I truly wanted. “Too gaudy,” I was told. The flowers too big, they were not supposed to be bigger than a dime. The colors too bright, everything was to be muted into colors that would not draw attention unto ourselves. But for me, it wasn’t for attention, it was who I was. The white seersucker looked like someone had dumped confetti stars and squiggles in bold red, blue, green, and yellow. It would never have been permitted among the more devout of our group, but Mom gave a reluctant, “Okay.”
The older I got, the more ways I found to express myself within the parameters of rules. The Realtree™ camouflage fabric I once purchased was sewed into a perfectly acceptable frock, the colors were of neutral tone, yet worn with my laced-up hunting boots, I felt alive and true to my desires of self-expression.
Mom’s family were a plain, hardworking, pious people, entrenched in generations of simple living and “goodly heritage.” Frills and fancy were unnecessary and a distraction to things that truly mattered. Their Anabaptist faith was as simple as their ways of living; love God, earn your keep, serve others. Daddy’s family was equally generous and hardworking, but as much more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, their bold patterns and colors and lifestyles otherwise collided with the rules with which we were raised. The past few years have become a journey for me to find my place among both families I so dearly love.
Knowing my DNA became a part of that journey. The more I learn about both families, the more my honor and love for them grow. I identify deeply with the sacred approach to Scripture and intentional living of Mom’s family, and the equally God-loving yet unpretentious, live-out-loud, be-who-you-are, folks from Daddy’s.
These two streams of genealogical influence have shaped and molded me into who I am today. My Old Order Mennonite voices, systems, structures, and rigid theologies grounded me. My Eastern European voices freed me from being tethered by systems, structures, and rigid theologies, and gave me wings to fly.
My journey became less about identifying with one group or the other, and instead, embrace my own identity from both.
That gaudy seersucker was a precursor to the brightly colored skirts I love today. Instead of trepidation, these bold patterns and vivid colors bring an expression of who I am, an identity I’ve dubbed, “Evangelical Bohemian.”