I just got back last night from staying with an Old Order Amish family all weekend. Seven children. One litter of kittens. One litter of unexpected puppies. Fifteen horses. Two milk cows. A five-year-old in a bonnet handing me a baby bottle filled with milk to feed a tiny kitten. Sitting with oil lamps in the evening, the five-year-old on my lap, three other little barefoot girls iin choring kerchiefs all fascinated with me NOT because I am a published author but because I have actually been to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house in Missouri!!!! (They are rabid Little House fans) An older sister sewed a new dress on a treadle sewing machine in the corner, another older sister pressed her new dress (there’s a family wedding coming up) with a cast-iron iron she heated on the stove, the mother sat in a rocking chair reading a recently published book of Amish history I had brought her as a hostess gift.
Not all Amish families are alike. From what I have read, not all Amish families are emotionally healthy. But what I saw this past weekend was a family at peace with themselves, with their world, and with God. Not one cross word or look from the mother or father to make the children behave. Instead, they seemed to simply LIKE each other enormously. I think perhaps part of the reason the children get along so well together is the respect I see their parents showing in their attitude toward one another.
At one point, I asked the mother to help me with the Pennsylvania Dutch language I was trying to sprinkle throughout my latest book. I had the phrases and words that I had managed to glean printed out on a couple sheets of paper. She looked it over and made various suggestions–but she was stumped when I asked her to give me some terms of endearment that a man and woman might say to one another. It took quite a lot of explaining. Finally she understood. “Oh, you mean mushy words,” her voice was laced with a hint of contempt. “I do not want my husband saying mushy words at me. I want him showing his love by his actions.”
Frankly, I kind of like mushy words myself–but I have to admit–if more people backed up their mushy words with loving actions–there might be a whole lot more contentment in our Englisch world.