When I was a young kid, my mother would occasionally pack up my brothers and I into the family car and cart us off for the hour to two hour drive to visit my grandparents or one of our aunts or uncles, who were Amish. My mother grew up Amish in rural Central Pennsylvania (think horse and buggy for travel, no electricity, and strict religious background), but never joined the church when she was in her teens, deciding instead to take a different path. She may have passed up the opportunity to become Amish, but she still remained close to her family.
We didn’t visit a whole lot, but we’d visit once or twice each summer or fall. We went once and chopped wood and helped with chores on one of my uncle’s farm, another time we came home with a scrawny mutt, the runt of the litter that became our beloved family pet. We went another time and helped with a community barn-raising. Mostly we’d walk the farm and visit.
I loved that no matter the time of year, my grandmother always had the best baked goods. She was a plump woman and she didn’t get around real well, but her kitchen was always filled with whoopee pies, moon pies (dried apple-like pastries in the shape of a half moon), and raisin bread. You could never leave without trying something. (To this day, I’ll take a fresh Amish moon pie over any desert that I could try at a Five Star Restaurant.)
My grandfather didn’t say a whole lot, he liked to keep busy or working with his hands, but he always made you feel at home. He had a dark beard and reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, or at least what I assume Lincoln looked like. On one visit, I couldn’t have been four or five years old, he picked me up and gave me an apple to feed the horse he kept in the small pasture. I giggled as as the horse grabbed the apple with its muzzle and gulped it down in one big bite.
Before we would leave, we’d would inevitably wind up on my grandparent’s front porch where someone would turn on an old oil lamp and we’d sit on a bench or rocking chair. We’d listen to the crickets chirp and talk about the weather, the crops or whatever else came up. My life was different than theirs, but my grandparents loved me all the same. We’d talk until the fireflies called it a night and we’d eventually make our way home.
In a span of a few hours, we’d leave conventional life, turn back the clock to another bygone era, and return to life as we knew it all before our carriage turned back into a pumpkin.
I’ve found lately with COVID-19 keeping us indoors that I’ve been thinking more about my grandparents and our visits. I’ve obviously been thinking about my grandparent’s simple values, but even more importantly, I find that I think about them when my daughter, youngest son, and my wife wind up chatting at the end of the day at the dinner table.
We’ll chat about our day, what went right, what went wrong. We’ll chat about frustrations with COVID and when we think things will get back to normal. Mostly, we’re just there for each other. If there’s any good that comes out of these crazy times, I’m grateful for that: an appreciation for the simple things and family.