During last night’s talk, one of the Amish women leaned over to Janice and asked her age. When Janice told her that she was 57, the young lady of 35 asked how she kept up her looks. She wanted to know where her gray hair was and then Janice showed her by pointing out her roots. The woman laughed and said, “Oh, you cover them up!”
She went on to say how much she appreciated how Janice was dressed. Janice walked into this adventure very concerned not to offend the community by her dress even though we were both assured that we could wear anything we wanted… except for a bikini. I assured them that I would not wear one and that I really didn’t look good in one anyway.
Janice was told how nice and “plain” she looked. In our society that would not be a compliment but in this culture it was high praise, especially for an English. Janice had decided not to wear makeup or jewelry. She pulled her hair up in a type of floppy bun, and wore a long, mid-calf, loosely fitted dress. She did wear sandals but her toes were not painted a bright color. This effort endeared the ladies to her.
One lady had shared with me that in her family as she was growing up, her mom and dad wanted the community to see them with great honor. So, her mother would make their clothes more baggy and more rumpled than the others. This is just the opposite of what we would do in our culture. I guess it would be like those whom Jesus spoke of who fasted and would display actions to let everyone know what they were doing. Piety comes in all flavors.
The community will be having a wedding in a few months even though it has not yet been announced. I talked to one young man who has been dating his girlfriend for several years. There are striving to be pure in their relationship which is why they have decided to marry before he is 21. A financial arrangement is being hammered out with his father because the Amish way is to have all the young men’s income go to their families until they reach 21. By doing this, the boys of the family are doing their part in helping the family survive. It makes me think how much we have trained our children to be selfish and entitled.
The boys and girls who are not married must sit separately in public events if they are dating. However, they can date and be alone with each other (scratch head here). At one time the Amish practiced the ritual of “bundling” which would place two teenagers in the same bed with one being wrapped in a blanket or at least a board between them to help them avoid the temptation of having sex. This practice (bundling, not sex) was usually reserved for the winter months and the couple was to spend all night “talking”. They don’t practice this much anymore, at least in this community and the teens really do try to keep their relationships pure.
While the children have plenty of time to play, they also have lots of responsibilities. The girls all help around the house and even do some outside chores like picking the garden, cutting the grass, and pulling weeds. There are no classes on how to cook, can, sew or clean. They just work side by side with their mother and older siblings. There is a hierarchy in the kitchen with usually the mother giving directions. The women I have observed are very clear and direct in their instructions. The children know they are to obey without a complaint. To watch these ladies throughout the day is to watch a well-organized team complete a task.
The major rooms in the homes we have been in are the kitchen and the living area. Both of these rooms are large and uncluttered. There might be a plague with a verse or wise saying propped up on a table and possibly a small vase with a wildflower sticking out. I have been meeting with the leaders in the living rooms which have always been adjacent to the kitchen. While there is a wood burning stove (a Prairie Princess) inside the kitchen for cooking, this is not used in the summer. Another room which is connected to the kitchen is more exposed to the outside and is used for all their cooking in the summer.
Enough for now. Look for part B of this blog.