It was with reluctance that I started having someone come in once a month to clean my house. Most probably, it was due to a combination of pride (I can run a sweeper), frugality (I already own one), and a don’t-invade-my-personal-haven sort of thing (why are you going to know where I keep it?).
But as with all things in life, something had to give. I simply could not keep up the frenetic pace in which I operate and simultaneously manage to stay off the Health Department’s Most Wanted Inspection List. Plus, tooth paste-speckled mirrors and ring around the loo are public enemies #1 and 2 to me.
Enter Sara. Sara came highly recommended by a friend at church. I was told that they “bus them in” every morning and they clean like banshees. I had no idea what either one of those things meant but I needed some help, so I called her. No…wait. I take that back. I called her driver.
Sara is Amish. She was an 18-year old Amish girl when she began coming the last Thursday of each month, and she is now a 20-year old married Amish girl. I know this because last night I attended her “English” reception in Decatur with Liv and her best friend in tow.
A few months ago, Sara told me with a beaming smile that she and “John” were getting hitched. Good luck with that, darlin’. I returned the smile and congratulated her as any non-bitter divorced human being would do. And then she asked me.
Are yous a comin’ to the weddin’?
Um, sure. I mean, are we allowed? Obviously, I had no idea what their cultish beliefs are, other than the whole stereotypical no electricity, no deodorant thing.
Of course you can come! It’s my dream that all my English ladies I clean for will be there.
Well then, it was settled. To an Amish weddin’ I was a goin’. Sara is the sweetest and I’m always up for new experiences. Once I attended a Kingdom Hall with my buddy, Yaves. It was interesting, enlightening, exceptionally long and dare I say, fun on some level. I left there feeling totally welcomed, but still an Evangelical Christian nonetheless. Similarly, I was confident my religious beliefs were not in jeopardy when Liv, Mariam, and I hopped in my engine-powered car and headed to Amish country.
I had no idea she rides as far as she does to clean homes. The drive took forever. Once we past Arnold’s Drive-In on the main drag in Decatur, it was easily another 30 minutes through no man’s land. The GPS shockingly directed us correctly, otherwise there would have been no way to discern one house from the other. Barn after barn after laundry-out-back barn we passed until we came to the house where Sara grew up. It’s the same house she and John will live in with her parents and gaggle of siblings until they save enough money to buy their own horses and such.
After passing numerous buggies, horses and the glamorous remnant droppings, we slowly drove down the long gravel driveway to a very large and quaint homestead. Everything before our eyes was as expected; well, other than the BMW’s, Mercedes, and Caddy’s lining either side of the gravel. That was just plain weird and wrong, kind of like seeing a big yacht or mobile home parked in a neighborhood where you instantly know covenants are being broken. Sara’s English customers have nice rides…
I kinda wanted to jump out of the car and yell, “Are you excited to see us, Clark?” But it was awkward enough and it’s zero fun wasting classic movie lines. (I did hear someone call one of the zillion kids “Eddie” – which made me smile and an Amish guy end up inadvertently confused).
After entering the pole barn, we were immediately greeted by Sara’s excruciatingly shy but kind and hospitable mother, who asked us if we wanted to fix our plates. The barn was segregated into two areas: the right side was a well-oiled assembly food line manned by all women; the left was the eating area with plastic covered picnic tables lined up horizontally. It was a big crowd on both sides, and unlike the yard out front, people were mixing well inside.
I took it all in, including the food. Oh, that food. Homemade noodles, ham (which I even ate), and mashed potatoes (ditto) scooped from a pot as deep as an Olympic-sized swimming pool via a ladle as heavy as the weights Evan insists I try to heave above my head. The girls were unbelievably attentive, informing us that more “lettuce” was coming. (I’m on high alert with the lettuce lately, given my Digger neighbors installation of a life-sized plastic ornamental rabbit on the border of our lawns). The salad came out and I took that in, too. Good thing I only know one Amish person and run a lot.
As we took our seats at the picnic table, I sat quietly and ate – completely soaking in every bit of what was happening around me. This new environment. This lifestyle which we English construe as bizarro world, shut off from reality. But is it? Or are we the strange ones?
Some days I could argue either point. That community functions on a level most of us run ragged every day to accomplish. Every person I encountered treated me, upon introduction, like I had just given them a basket full of puppies and some gold bullions. Their roles are clearly identified, and even if a woman aspires for more, you wouldn’t know it. The men are respectful of their wives, their children, and one another.
They are happy people living in a happy little world, enjoying each other and the simple things in life. And to that, I raise my flute filled with not champagne and say, “Kudos to you, Sara and company.”