On July 8 I wrote Adventures in Amish Country. I had visited Aylmer Amish Country the previous day and fell in love with the people there, having been warmly received by them all. Rosemary Gascho was the sweet hostess then, who allowed us ‘English’ women into her home and welcomed us as if we blended right in.
While quite aware of the difference, I felt comfortably a part of their world, a world that is really quite delightful with its sense of community and simplicity. I would be lying if I said it does not captivate me and draw me in, making me long for the country, the animals, the food grown in the soil of the farm.
There is something about the simplicity of the Amish way of life, about living off the land that makes me think of Eden, of what we were originally created for… minus the clothing. But that would just be awkward now… Not to mention gravely inappropriate.
It was with great delight that I returned this weekend. My friend Ira Wagler, author of Growing Up Amish, messaged me some time ago to say he would be coming in August–would I meet him, if I was free. It took no time to decide. If my schedule was not clear, I wrote back, I would find a way to clear it.
I ‘met’ Ira through his brother Nate, with whom I have been friends for quite a few years, but had never met Ira in person. We’ve been back and forth about writing–him being a New York Times best seller, and me working at writing and building a platform. He has graciously allowed me to pick his brain on the ‘stuff of writing and publishing’, for which I am grateful.
And then I learned that Nate would also be in for a visit. He and my friend Juanita (his girlfriend) would also be in Aylmer over that time. I was ecstatic! I had not seen Nate in several years and wouldn’t miss it for the world!
On Saturday our sixteen-year-old daughter Nicole, and I, packed to visit Aylmer Amish country. We would stay the night at my friend Helen’s, and Nicole could spend some time with her daughter, Shelby. If she wanted to, I said, she could come with me to my Amish friends’ home on Sunday. Out of respect for the culture she would need to take a skirt along.
Nicole wrinkled up her nose. She has never liked skirts a day in her life. Not even as a little girl, when we were Mennonite. “I’ll pass,” she said. “I don’t even have skirts I could wear. And if they can’t like me the way I am, well, then I don’t want to go. And, besides,” she said, “it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Would you make them wear jeans to come see us?”
I tried to explain that ‘it’s different’, but there was no use pushing it, I thought, since she has no relationship with them. I was quite sure she would enjoy it, but am don’t want to teach her to pretend to be what she is not, so we decided she could stay at her friend’s house. With her sense of truth and justice, for me to force it would only serve to frustrate her and would do nothing for our relationship.
Nicole wants to be a lawyer–family law, she thinks. At 9 years-old she decided this, and I think she will do well, given her passion for truth and justice, and her compassion for children. But it makes for interesting parenting. Good, but interesting. She thinks of everything.
Nicole packed jeans and a few tops to wear. Since my selection of skirts is sparse, because of my preference for jeans and slacks, I took four of my best ones along and several different tops to choose from. I would decide on an outfit in the morning.
Sunday morning Nicole headed to church with her friend and I decided to revisit Corinth, a little ‘hick town’ where I lived from age six through nine. Things change with time, as they should, but it was hardly recognizable. I parked my car, grabbed my camera, and took some shots of houses on our street.
Several minutes into this photography session, a door opened and a couple stepped out of their house to observe. Some things obviously had not change since we left. In small towns, everything is everyone’s business and it was just as well. Otherwise rumours would have had it that someone in town was selling and a real estate agent was in taking shots of the community.
I introduced myself and explained the real purpose of my photography session. The woman lit up. “My name is Angela–I was Angela Smith.” Her husband introduced himself and we shook hands. A little reminiscing and I learned that her cousin, Christine, who came to visit in the summer, moved to Alberta. Christine loved me. Truly, deeply. She is the only person who hugged and kissed me all those years of childhood. The one person who absolutely adored me and made me feel secure in friendship, leaving a lasting print on my heart.
“Could I take your picture?” I asked, before leaving.
“Oh my…” followed by a few awkward laughs from both. A flustered Angela ran her hands through her hair. Her husband chuckled and joined her. “I’m not even dressed for it,” she said, tugging at her shirt, but then agreed to pose.
I assured her she looked great, and snapped a few photos before saying good-bye.
There is something about returning to childhood homes, past communities, and the memories of days gone by that make the mind wonder, ‘What if…’
What if we had stayed? I shudder. Life was hard here. It’s where so much abuse happened. Where Dad threatened to kill us when I was seven. Where I ran to the Wolfe’s to get Mom, on his command, when she fled, leaving us younger children asleep in bed, because he said he was getting his gun. It’s where I saw him whip my sister ruthlessly for breaking curfew at age fourteen. It’s where I had countless nightmares, where every shadow at night was Dad coming for me. No, I don’t regret that we left.
I thank God that, though the years that followed were hard, He did not leave us in that place. Through ‘hell and high water’, and a few painful church experience, He carried us through, to get us where we are today. I feel nothing but wonder and awe at His kindness in the hell of what this world had to offer.
One last look around and I was on my way. It was time to visit Amish country and meet my friends, both old and new…
To Be Continued…..
© Trudy Metzger
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