My trip wasn't all bad, of course. One of the highlights was a visit to the Amish market. Outside of Millpond there is a thriving Amish community and the Amish have a big market that's open on Tuesdays and Fridays. For many years my mother's father, my Poppop June, owned a produce stand at the Amish market, so when I was growing up I spent a lot of time there. At the same time my grandfather lived on a road where an Amish family would drive through each week in their buggy and sell baked goods and each week we would buy pies and raisin bread that was covered in about an inch of white icing.
I grew up seeing Amish people fairly regularly. They would come to the grocery store periodically and you could always see their buggies with the big orange triangles on the backs rolling up and down the country roads. I've even seen Amish women at the beach picking beach plums to make jelly out of. When I was little I was desperately jealous of the Amish girls. More than anything I wanted to escape my life of white trash infighting to go off and live in what I imagined to be "Little House on the Prairie" come to life. I liked how the Amish girls dressed in dresses with wide skirts, just below the knee and little ankle boots. I don't know where the Amish get their fabrics. Maybe they make them themselves, but whatever they make their dresses out of is just beautiful. I've heard people say that the Amish just wear all black and that they're really solemn, but this isn't my experience of them. The women and girls wear dresses made of something that almost resembles taffetta, though slightly less shiny. It's some kind of very durable material, yet it has a luminous quality and looks oddly comfortable and the colors are these brilliant, saturated jewel tones like emerald, cobalt, violet and cranberry. They're really pretty, especially the blue. The only thing I haven't seen them wear are patterned materials.
During this trip I noticed that the Amish aren't exactly unhip. Many of their dresses were sporting the empire waist, pleats and a very pretty bell sleeve that's very stylish now. I could have put on one of these dresses and gone to school and no one would have thought I was dressed oddly or out of place in the slightest.
When I was little though, what I really wanted to wear was a bonnet. I also wanted to ride in a horse drawn buggy. It just seemed like the Amish really had it made. They only had to go to school until the eighth grade. The kids seemed to be able to have fun and they didn't have to deal with all the crap that I did like parents in jail, bitter custody battles, remarriages and strange patch work families. Plus, they got to eat all those delicious baked goods all the time. At one point I vaguely recall becoming disenchanted when someone told me that the Amish beat their children with sticks, but during this trip, when I visited the Amish market I felt a lot like I did when I was little. I wanted to run off with the Amish again.
It was partly the pretty dresses and bonnets, a little bit the buggies which they have all hitched up in a special buggy parking lot, and it also had a lot to do with the baked goods. Mostly it was because the Amish are just so nice and I happened to visit the market with BOTH of my grandmothers and they were ganging up on me. Naturally this would cause anyone to want to escape to the world of a nonviolent, notably quiet and isolated sect.
I noticed some interesting things that escaped me as a child. One thing that I never knew was that the Amish don't speak English to one another, but they speak perfect, nonaccented English to outsiders. I did some research and learned that they have their own dialect and it sounds very unusual, unlike any other language I've ever heard. It's derived from German but to me it didn't sound like German. Another thing I noticed is that people are always saying that the Amish shun outsiders and are unfriendly. Maybe certain groups do, but these Amish were incredibly friendly and outgoing and smiled constantly.
Teenagers work at the market. It's mostly girls but they have some boys too to do the heavy lifting types of tasks. The girls cook and serve all the food and they were right there making pretzels, cakes, cookies, pies and roasted meats. They all just seemed so happy and so satisfied doing productive work and knowing that they were creating products that were well made with lots of integrity. They acted like regular teenagers too! They were all laughing and joking and teasing one another as they worked and weren't stoic and serious at all, and all the girls were so pretty and blonde and rosy cheeked. At one point I saw one of them texting on a cell phone, which was quite shocking but then I realized what was going on. All the teens who work at the market must be there during their year of rumspringa, the year where they get to experience secular things before they make their lifelong committment to be Amish and give all that up. Well, they seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot and they seemed like really normal (just happier) teenagers.
I got really hungry at the market but most of the foods I couldn't have, which made me a little sad. Still there was the wonderful meat and one of the Amish girls, who had these enormous blue eyes, excitedly asked if she could get me something. I explained to her that I can't have wheat and guess what. Amish people certainly know what wheat is in, unlike the servers at Red Lobster and Panera, ahem. And you know what else? It didn't give the Amish girl a moment of pause at all. She didn't start commenting about how awful it must be to not be able to eat wheat and she never said she'd just die if she couldn't eat wheat and she never asked me what on earth do I eat, like most people do when I tell them.
Now at the roasted meat stand they put the meat on sandwiches (which look insanely good) so when I said I couldn't have wheat the Amish girl said she would find me a container to put some meat in and that she would get me a knife and fork and that I would still be able to enjoy it and off she sprinted to get it done for me. A few second later she came back with a container and utensils and even a napkin and then she gave me extra pork loin to make up for the lack of bread. Then she smiled this gigantic, bright smile and said she knew I would love my lunch and that she hoped I had a really Merry Christmas. I hadn't had anyone be so nice to me in so long, especially while eating out or shopping, that I actually got all choked up.
Isn't that sad though? When I thought about it later I thought how sad it is that because someone showed me simple kindness and compassion, which should be customary everywhere, that I was so moved by its unusualness, that it made me cry. People in service positions, in stores, restaurants or wherever should always be that sincerelely sweet and friendly and accomodating, but they aren't at all. I
think living down here someone is rude to me at least once every day, and I understand why and let them get away with it. Most people in service positions are rude because their customers are rude and mean to them. They're rude because they have bosses who are unfair, impatient and unsupportive. Customers down here are rude because they're from New Jersey. Just kidding. I'm not sure why the customers down here are so rude. I might explore that in its own post one day.
I find myself so fearful of being a rude customer that I go way far out of my way to be really nice to service people, but even that doesn't usually work, and when I find a server or a clerk or someone in a store who is genuinely kind and offers me good service I usually make a big fuss and compliment them to their boss if I can because I want to reward this. But then I think, isn't that how they're supposed to be? Shouldn't the rude employees be the rare, strange ones, not the nice ones?
In the end I managed to control myself and not run off with the Amish. I resisted the forbidden allure of cinnamon raisin bread with white icing, horses, farmhouses and bonnets. But if one day I disappear suddenly, the first place they should look for me is Lancaster County (nowhere near where I was, but if I run off with the Amish I don't want to live in Millpond).
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