"Who can still remember...?" asked the big ones and then were surprised if someone spoke up and announced, "I can remember that very well...yes, oh indeed, that was the time when Lenny and Penny walked through the deep mud and almost got drowned in the Dnieper...I must have been about five at the time when it all happened, but to me it all seems like it was the day before yesterday."
Yes, then the people wonder themselves and are royally surprised, but later on they tend to get a trifle mad upon discovering that the I-can-remember-it-well Wunderkind was not even born in Russia.
But as for me it was really so. I can remember practically everything, whether it happened or not. I found it much more difficult to forget something than to remember it. But such a gift has it's little shaded areas because one schlepps one's self around day and night with all kinds of fate-filled sacks which one can find no place to lay off.
And so I, for example, can remember all kinds of things which I could not yet digest at the time. What does that mean? Well, in comparison, before bedtime you don't give little ones smoked farmer sausage with raw onions and vinegar as a snack, do you? Or a portion of collared pork. First of all because they can't handle it, and secondly it will give them wild dreams and thirdly, because they then have less to look forward to when they get big, and fourthly because they can't digest pork at that age. Or did I tell you that already?
Na joh, and that's also the way it goes with little rascals who can understand at a tender age everything that is said. The older ones don't reckon with this kind of giftedness and so they talk about all sorts of things which are just meant for large, grown-up ears never considering that there might be somebody sitting on a chamber pot who takes everything in and has his own thoughts on the matter.
Joh, and who, for example was such a rare I-can-remember-everything specimen? I. When my parents and the other people around found that out, things became very busy at our place and there was much talk regarding this matter. Like, "What have we all said, which may have stung his ears? Who said what that may have given him dark spots on his soul like raisins in stuffing?" Or, "Is there any Reimer blood in the Thiessen or the Sawatzky relatives? Because, I heard say that in Steinbach there is a little Reimer who already at six years old, hides himself under the bed covers to read the Revelation of St. John and Emmanuel Kant."
Whatever, it was too late. These people could not unravel my memory yarn ball and "what had been done had been done." I probably even remembered things that it never happened. I simply knew too much.
There was, for example, the talk by my Aunt Marie, the Chicken Klassensche, the Bruno Hammsche, the pious Friesensche and my mother once while butchering pigs. Mother had noticed that something was not right with me and that I had the eyes of an eternity candidate. Before the pig-butchering bee of the day was over, these ladies and women were in agreement; I would soon be in Heaven.
"What a pity," said Aunty Kloßsche, "If he at least were out of his diapers, before he arrives there. Will some good lady look after your little Johnny up there, one hopes?"
And then the ladies in the kitchen cleaning pork intestines, and casings, and frying pig burgers, even wept a bit, wiping their tears on their aprons.
They were all in agreement that such a rare, gifted child as I was - "a sweet innocent" they said - and also very nice to look at, would not be long for this world. Joh, and shortly Ungers even had a telephone installed which would ring when Thiessens' Johnny arrived at the Jordan River - but without mosquitoes - of eternity.
That's the way the dear heavenly Father always did it with exceptional children. He just rented them out for a short time and then He took them right back to be with Him where such little boys were allowed to play all the time and eat ice-cream and chocolate (and also halvah, if these children - as the majority were - were Mennonites) and read and tell stories - even tall tales but only if they knew Mennonite Low German, while the little girls became serving spirits, which means they were angels. They were the waitresses up there, with blond pigtails and rice-kernel teeth and wearing powder-blue, frilled dresses, and smiling all over the place all day long, while jumping and hopping and flying all over, all barefoot and ready to please.
"Joh," so said the ladies and then they wiped their eyes again with their aprons. And as for me? I freely believed them. I was almost a little happy at the prospect of all that excitement but then I thought to myself, "What is the point of receiving all that first-class-service some place if you can't talk about it and even boast and brag a little?" And then all these happy tidings made me a little sad.
But I had gotten rather used to things here "down below" in this vale of toil and sin and I did not want to migrate just yet. But what was there to do if one wanted to hang around a little longer in Gnadenfeld and Grünthal?
There was nothing left but for me to take out an insurance policy in order to be sure that I would manage to loiter around this sinful world a little longer. In pure and practical terms, this meant that I had to get involved a little in much overdue mischief whether I wanted to or not, in order to prevent arriving in Gloryland before I got my first pair of long-legged pants.