Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Way of Life

“Are those your daughters?” I asked the woman standing next to me at the auction.

“No, they are my grandchildren,” she answered.

I should have known better. We were in Amish country. These women married young. This grandmother had a flawless complexion unlined by age. She was dressed in a heavy black cape and black bonnet. Her granddaughters were dressed the same.

I grew up with Amish classmates. My neighbor’s grandparents were ‘horse and buggy’ people. None of this was new to me. I knew that their homes had no electricity, no modern conveniences. Once when our neighbor was ill, her mother-in-law came to help; however, my mom had to turn on the stove so the woman could cook. It was a strange way of reasoning, but none-the-less, it was the way it was.

More and more of the young Amish youth are staying with the religion. When driving past the farms, my sister pointed out that with each adult child who stayed on the farm, another home was added to the property. The farms were large requiring many hands and needing to produce food to support the families that lived on there and to sell at market. Indeed it was a step back in time.

I watched the young grandmother with her grandchildren wondering what differences there were between her family and mine. No doubt these youngsters learned the skills of cooking and sewing from the grandma. Canning food, planting garden, milking cows, gathering eggs are probably part of the activities they share. I know because I had similar experiences growing up on the farm….but I had no grandma to teach me.

I wonder at the lack of training I am offering up to my granddaughters. Yes, we do some cooking (a struggle for a grandma who hates cooking). I have some sewing projects for the girls to do at a future time. Gone away is that need to make clothing, milk the cow and other chores that stay rural. Do I feel guilty? Nope.

I love that my granddaughters can decide what style they want to wear. They can search the creativity inside of themselves and express it freely. Doors are open for them to improve the world with their knowledge and to reach beyond themselves in efforts to make life easier for others. Yes, they do still need chores. They need responsibility.

I admire the Amish with their unity of family and community. The way of life is difficult. The people are strong. And, I love the life we have with expression of individuality. There is something to be learned from both.

The woman won her bid. She walked away with a new oil lamp to light her home. Her grandchildren, so much like my own, were eating ice cream cones. I celebrate diversity. I love what we learn from one another.

I really like my electric lights.

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