When I was a young thing, though, I went on proper Mennonite vacations to places like Newton, Kansas; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Everybody’s favorite vacation destinations. There may not have been beaches, but there were Mennonites. There were family friends and friendly family members with beds to spare and food on offer. All that and a deck of Rook cards. It’s what I’d call a perfect traditional Mennonite vacation.
Often, these road trips were planned around an important Mennonite event, like an MCC meeting or a Mennonite Convention. I attended a Church that was a member of both the General Conference and the (Old) Mennonite Conference so there were a lot of conference happenings to plan one’s vacation around. Our Church was a bit unusual this way — mostly Mennonites of one conference liked to scorn the Mennonites of all other conferences. But not us. We couldn’t get enough of a conference and trundled off indiscriminately to an OM or a GC conference in the middle of the summer, caring only whether the location held any appeal, and whether my parents had agreed to be delegates that year. The conferences were pretty much always in the US so we’d have a road trip down to Pennsylvania or Ohio or some other equally thrilling destination.
I wasn’t aware of any of the Church politics or business going on at the conventions when I was a kid there. There were probably some decisions being made that mattered at the time and maybe even had some long-term ramifications for the Mennonite Church as we know it today. But I went off to the children’s and then the youth activities where we had outings and games and workshops and participated in various Mennonite mating rituals. I made friends and then watched them all pair off, discovering for the first time that special adolescent experience of communal loneliness. We stayed in incredibly rundown university dorms, with only the barest of amenities. We didn’t see our parents for a week.
I’ve never been tempted to go back to a Mennonite Convention as an adult. So many Mennonites in one place no longer appeals to my sense of adventure, and I am more drawn to vacations that pull me away from controversy than towards it. I salute all those Mennonites out there still planning their vacations around the Mennocon, the MC Canada Assembly or the Mennonite World Conference but I’ll be sitting on my back deck with a cocktail and a crossword puzzle.
Here’s a nice summery cocktail that belongs on a Mennonite beach somewhere but if there’s a bartender at the next Mennonite convention you attend, go right up and ask for this. Because all self-respecting Mennonite barkeeps should know to build up their supply of rhubarb if there’s Mennos a’coming.
1 part mushed strawberries
1 part chopped rhubarb
2 parts white rum
fresh strawberries for garnish
- Rim the glasses with lime juice and then superfine sugar
- Throw the other ingredients except the garnish berries into a blender
- Blend for a few minutes until thick and slushy
- Pour into glasses, cut a slice into the tip of the garnish berries and place them jauntily on the edge of the glass. Serve and enjoy.
Ok. Now you just need to find a Mennonite beach.