I'm enjoying digging through the my memories from my childhood to share with my readers and this is the second installment of a small series I am publishing for my readers. If you've not done so yet, you might want to read the first one Growing Up Amish Series - Memories From My Formative Years before reading this one.
The memories from the last post were from about age three to twelve.
The memories shared in this post are from ages twelve to sixteen.
When our parents told us they were moving the family back to Holmes County, my brother, sisters and I were excited and we couldn't wait for moving day. Even with the distance between us we were close to our cousins back in Holmes County and we were all looking forward to living near them so we could have more get togethers and enjoy each others company. After moving to Holmes County I remember we would bike twenty-two miles to go visit our cousins some weekends and it was always a highlight in our week to get to do that.
My parents purchased a seventy-five acre farm in the Millersburg area and soon we were settled in a makeshift house, which was a shop on the farm. (A shop for the Amish is generally a garage for the English.) While dad was busy working around the farm mom was busy "making do" with what she had to work with. We didn't have a conventional bathroom and had to use a watering trough to take our baths in. We would have to heat up water and pour it into the trough and then dump it out pail by pail. It was a tiresome task but mom did it without complaining, making sure us children were cleaned up properly and after about two years my parents finally built a house for the family to move into.
Our seventy-five acre farm lay a few miles away from the other Amish in the community and us children had a four mile trek to our parochial school and back. We would walk it some days, but often we would take the horse and buggy and pick up my best friend, Denise, on our way because she also lived quite a way from school and it gave her a break from walking by herself.
New friends were still hard to make moving into a new community and because we lived on the outskirts of Amish Country there weren't so many friends to choose from. My sisters were always my best friends and then there was Denise who I'm still friends with today.
School was never fun for me, although I enjoyed art day on Friday and was good at math. I was good at long column math and if there was a quiz or a race, I could beat out the upper graders. I enjoyed drawing things and using bright colors to color in my creations. In some ways I still use art in some form to create the frocks we sell at the store.
The last day of school was always a highlight. Our parents would come and we wouldn't have to do lessons that day. We would have a carry in for lunch, all the moms bringing all kinds of casseroles, salads, and desserts. One out doing the other and us students didn't care who had the best dish, all we cared about was diving in and eating the delicious concoctions sitting on the cloth covered tables. It was a festive atmosphere, the last day of school was, and after lunch was out of the way everyone would gather at the ball diamond. Mothers, fathers, and children alike would play softball all afternoon long and it was a great bonding time for the community.
When I think about school and all the memories I could share I could blush a little bit at some of the antics we pulled but I will share a couple with you anyway. Sometimes us girls would put our black bonnet (the black bonnet is the covering that goes over the white or black organdy covering you typically see the Amish ladies and girls wear) on the horse’s head just for kicks. I really despised wearing that black bonnet on my head and on my last day of school, when I graduated out of the eighth grade, we stopped on the bridge near the school and I jumped out of the buggy, threw my black bonnet on the ground, stomped on it and tossed it carelessly into the river flowing gently underneath the bridge. I ran to the other side of the bridge and watched that ugly, black bonnet float out of my life and I remember standing there thinking to myself there is no way I will wear one of those for the rest of my life. I was thirteen years old and by this time I had known for a number of years already that I was going to leave the Amish as soon as I possibly could.
When my brother, sisters and I returned home from school the day I graduated out of eighth grade I told my mom what I had done with my bonnet and she wasn't very happy with me. I couldn't see why she cared because I still had my Sunday bonnet in the cupboard, the bonnet I had just tossed was old and worn out and was no longer needed.
Learning To Be A Grown Up
Most Amish children's formal education ends at about age thirteen and then the real fun begins. This is the age when mothers start to stress to daughters how important it is for them to learn how to cook, bake, clean, sew and do things on their own. In short, become responsible so they can take care of their own homes one day.
You might be surprised to learn sewing did not come natural for me and I would make bargains with my mom. I would tell her I would do the cooking for a week if only she sewed the dress I needed or wanted. I loved to cook and was handy with any recipe you would put in front of me. I am sure I stressed out my mom from time to time always finding ways not to sit at the sewing machine. It was only years later when I started Farmhouse Frocks that I sat down and learned how to sew.
When my maternal grandfather passed away I was around fourteen years old and mom would go help my grandmother for a few days at a time. She would hitch the horse up to the buggy and go trotting down the road to grandmother's leaving a nice long list of things for us girls to do while she was gone. We did a lot of goofing off and on the day she was to return we would keep a look out for her and when we heard the horse trotting over the bridge the three of us would get busy finishing up the last of the items on mom's list of chores before she entered the house. In hindsight, had we hurried up and worked through her list we would have probably had much more free time while she was gone, but girls will be girls, no matter are they Amish or English.
Working Away From Home
Soon after school let out and I had graduated from eighth grade I got a job as a waitress at a local restaurant. Back then you didn't need a work permit and I dove into my job as a waitress with gusto and enjoyed the interaction with the customers and coworkers. I was there two and a half years and my time there helped shape me into the businesswoman I am today. I worked there for about two and half years and then it was time for me to move on. I wanted to start dating and the waitress position kept me occupied too long on Friday and Saturday nights and that is why I left the job that I really enjoyed.
My next job didn't have late hours, I started working in a factory as a product inspector and I could out-inspect anyone there, but I loved to talk and I kept getting reprimanded for talking too much and so I didn't last at that job very long before I decided to leave because I wanted a job where I could interact and talk with people.
Crediting My Dad
During these years my dad still did the farming and painstakingly built a business, Paint Valley Equipment, building parts for heavy equipment. One could write a book on how he started his business and all the ups and downs he experienced. Once he is gone, part of his legacy will be his perseverance and the example he has left for his children and grandchildren. His entrepreneurial genes have flowed over into many of us and I credit him for the example he set for me as I have grown my own business.