Curious Since Childhood
Ever since I was 6 and saw my first horse drawn buggy in Pennsylvania, I have been intrigued by the Amish and their simple lives. I've seen a few more glimpses of buggies and bonnets over the years, but it has always been from a car window. Last Tuesday afternoon, I got to spend a little time chatting with two Amish children, Mary (squinting in the sun) and her older sister Lydia.
What Caught my Eye
We were driving a 2-lane road in upstate New York, when this colorful clothesline caught my eye. Black, blue and purple clothes blew in the afternoon breeze...along with a handmade wooden swing.
Barns and a Buggy
My eyes quickly darted to the left where I spotted some unpainted barns and a well worn buggy.
Goods For Sale!
When I saw the shed with an open window, displaying jam jars and vegetables above a shelf of woven baskets, I knew we might be welcome! The sign said CLOSED, but when we pulled in the drive a father and 4 kids peered through the door, then moved towards the car. The father, wearing suspenders, black pants and reddish beard, smiled broadly as he flipped the sign to read, OPEN.
Lydia and Mary
Lydia and Mary moved into the shed while the father and boys returned to the house. Both girls wore black bonnets and blue dresses, neatly pinned...reminding us of the button-free world of the Amish. Lydia did all the talking. She showed us the cookie baskets made by an Amish friend and the potholders she had hand stitched. She searched for a jar of raspberry jam with the cleanest lid. She seemed surprised to know we had come all the way from Texas, then she wished us a safe trip home after we purchased some jam and crafts.
After taking our purchases to the car, I returned to the window to ask another question. I was pretty sure taking photographs was something the Amish did not allow. But I wondered if it would be okay to take a picture of the clothes on the line. I told Lydia how I loved the colors and how they were blowing in the wind. She laughed softly and said, "It's okay to take pictures. One time someone from a magazine came and took a picture of us." She and Mary both grinned. "We got a kick out of that." We spoke a bit more and she said it was fine to take whatever photos I wanted. I kept my distance and only took a few quick shots. Mary stayed a bit hidden and Lydia busied herself. No grinning at cameras for these two.
The girls were not in a hurry and I had so many questions. But I just asked one about their language. (yes, they spoke Pennsylvania Dutch) I wanted to ask what they most liked to do for fun. And I wondered if they were curious about the world of "The English" as we are called. But I refrained from prying. Instead I shared a quick story with them.
When I was about Mary's age, I saw my first Amish buggy and thought it would be wonderful to have horses instead of cars. When I was about Lydia's age, I begged my parents to remove the electric sockets in my room so I could live like the Amish and use candles and kerosene lamps. My parents didn't go along with that, so I pondered and fretted about how I could find a way to go off and live with an Amish family. At least for a while. That never happened, but I didn't stop dreaming about what that would have been like.
The 2 girls giggled towards each other as if they thought maybe I was making this up. Then they turned to me and it seemed as if both girls lifted their heads a little higher...their eyes seemed to connect with mine longer. Or maybe I'm just wishing that. I do know when I headed to the car, both girls waved openly and smiled as we pulled out of the drive. That perfect picture, I only have in my head.
Thanks Lydia and Mary!
I have always wanted to connect in some way with the Amish and you gave me a sweet and simple memory. If only I lived in nearby Canton, I would come by each week and buy vegetables and chat. We wouldn't be strangers!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers