Four memories of my Amish grandparents

My mother grew up Amish but left the church when she was a young woman. My mom may have chosen a different direction for her life, but she still loved her parents and when she got married and had kids, she would occasionally take my brothers and me to visit them.

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My grandparents wore plain clothes, lived in a simple manner, and had a large family. They were older and moved around a lot in my youth, but no matter where they moved, four things always stuck out about them:

–Grandfather clock. They had a huge ornate grandfather clock that stood about 6 to 7 feet tall, took up a prominent spot in the house, and would chime on every hour. I never asked, but I always suspected that my grandfather built it himself. I grew up thinking that there was something magical about the clock (I suspect it was the chime) and have been fascinated with clocks ever since.

–The food. My grandmother or one of my aunts would always have cookies; whoopie pies, two mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, with a sweet, creamy filling; or Amish moon pies, a half-moon shaped crust with dried apple, warming on a nearby table. My mom would always tell us to wait until after lunch or dinner before diving into the baked goods. The Amish are as strict as they come — well actually, they’re stricter, but when my grandfather brought us in from feeding the horses or helping with some chore out in the barn, my grandmother never had any qualms about sneaking us a treat or two. Rules were rules, but rules about dessert were meant to be broken.

–Oil lamps. Amish don’t believe in modern conveniences like electricity, so they would have small oil lamps throughout the house. As soon as the sun would start to set or dark clouds would roll in, my grandmother or aunt would go from room to room, turning on the lamps. They lit up the house, but they let off a hazy glow. I remember seeing my grandmother through the hazy glare and being grateful for her, but glad that we had a simple thing like electricity back in my bedroom back home.

–A grandparent’s love. My mother never joined the Amish church so the family didn’t have to “shun” her. However, I’m sure there were some hurt feelings, but my grandparents never took out any anger or frustration on us. They didn’t always understand my life or my interest in sports or reading for example, but they loved me and always wanted their hug goodbye when it came time to leave.

What’s a few things that you remember about your grandparents or their home?

30 thoughts on “Four memories of my Amish grandparents

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  1. You paint a beautiful picture, and I’ve always had a fascination with how well people like the Amish manage to provide for themselves without having the negative impact on the natural world that we have.

    From my grandmother, I remember the ornate pot with a lid on the table that usually held plain almonds, but occasionally also chocolates or candy. You had to be lucky.
    I also remember how we ate crepes for lunch every Saturday at my other grandparents’ house. And the smell of tomato plants in my grandfather’s greenhouse.
    Thanks for taking me down memory lane 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad it brought back memories for you Jorinde. We didn’t visit often, but it was always interesting when we did. My wife would love the crepes. We go to a breakfast spot occasionally that has them and she can’t get enough of them. The smell and memory of the tomato plants sounds lovely. Thanks for sharing/reading!

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  2. I really enjoyed this, Brian. Social and family history provide a glimpse as to who we are. My grandad was a coal miner, and he left behind many artefacts from fifty – years working underground, including one of his miner’s lamps.

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    1. Wow, thanks for letting me know. I’m glad the blog touched home. I find it interesting too how the lamp is something that your grandad used every day is now a family artifact. Really cool how that happens. And yes, my family history is very much engrained in me. I’m not Amish (far from it) and I didn’t know my grandparents real well, but my mother brought me up with the same strong values and ethics. Thanks for commenting/reading!

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  3. My grandmother had the couch covered in vinyl slipcovers. There was too much furniture in the small dining room. She often played the organ or the piano. She used to hide candy in the piano bench. There was a phone that we weren’t supposed to use because it was strictly for business…my grandfather was a lawyer and it was supposed to be in case of emergency

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    1. Oh the vinyl slip covers, I remember them. They were a favorite of my grandmother on my father’s side. I never really understood the purpose of them. I suppose they helped the couch last longer, but that was because no one wanted to sit there. Ha, ha. The piano would have gotten me in trouble. I’m sure I would have tried to touch the keys and gotten into trouble. Sounds like a lot of memories for you. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I love your description of your grandparents house – love, good food, and family. Sounds awesome. My wife’s family would get together every weekend at their grandparents house for Sunday dinner. She got to play with her cousins all the time. I’ve always been jealous of that. Some great memories for her. Thanks for reading!

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  4. So sweet, Brian – thank you for sharing! We have some Pennsylvania Dutch roots that are similar in some ways. Loved the mention of ever-present baked goods and the grandfather clock. We have a mantel clock that holds a lot of memories, too. 😉

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    1. Thanks so much Victoria. I don’t think I truly understood how courageous my mother was to leave the Amish church until I was much older and had kids of my own. I tease her now calling her a rebel. I find it amazing that she took a huge risk when she was so young and had so much working against her (being a young woman). You are right about the baked goods. If you’ve never had an Amish Moon Pie, I definitely suggest trying one. They’re like an apple streudel. Love them, could eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Probably why my grandmother suffered from diabetes. Ha, ha. Thanks for commenting/reading!

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  5. I enjoyed reading about your visit with your grandparents. Your writing paints a descriptive picture and I felt as though I was there with you. I lived with my grandparent growing up and have many memories of them. Like your grandmother, mine was always baking. She would never know when a friend might drop in and the custom was to give them coffee and something sweet to go with it.

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  6. What lovely memories to have of your Amish grandparents, Brian. I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish people. The way they lived reminds me a little of my paternal grandparents living a fairly Jewish Orthodox life, having come over from Europe in the war. My maternal grandparents were very different. They were hardworking Londoners who ran a café at the central bus station in Shoreditch. My Mum used to help out there sometimes. My Nan was very strict, but my Grandpa was a big softie and used to take me for walks around the local church and let me walk on all the walls holding his hand. I thought the walls were so high until I went back to see the place as an adult. Fond memories. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, lots of people here have interest in the Amish as well. I grew up in a rural community where there were lots of Amish. I found them to be a lot like the rest of society, meaning there are some good and bad. There are some that are very pious and follow their beliefs and some who do not. They dress simple (black pants, white shirt), have no electricity, do no own cellphones (some have phones in their barns), and get around by horse and buggy. My grandparents were always very kind to me. I used to think my grandfather looked like Abraham Lincoln. He wasn’t tall like Lincoln, but with his beard (no mustache), he looked like a lot like him. My grandmother was always a great baker. They spoke in English and Pennsylvania Dutch. I always respected them because when we were around they spoke in English so that we could understand. Interesting story about your grandparents. I found your story about the wall interesting. I used to think my grandparents farm was huge until we drove past a few years ago and I was amazed how small it really was. How things change once we become adults. Thanks for commenting/reading.

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  7. There was a grandfather’s clock in my grandparents home too, long ago relocated to a cousin’s place in Tennessee. I can still hear it bong sometimes, when I talk to him on the phone. My grandparents lived in a five story row house in Philadelphia, now razed and part of the Temple University campus. My grandfather, an ichthyologist, had a greenhouse/aquarium in the back alley and every week after Sunday dinner, he’d send us home with guppies. The following week without fail, he’d give us replacements for the ones that died during the prior week—usually all of them. I guess it was his way of thinning the herd. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of those fond grandparental Sunday-dinner memories with family and fish, Brian. I enjoyed your memories too. I have always been fascinated by the Amish.

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    1. Thanks Julia! It’s funny the things that stick out to us. Something simple as Sunday dinner. What great memories you must have. My wife’s family is from Philly and I’ve long heard stories about the importance of Sunday dinner and entire family getting together. I don’t have a ton of memories of my grandparents, but I treasure the ones I have. Yes, I’m interested in the Amish too, but also very grateful that my mother made the courageous decision when she was just 16 or 17 to leave the church. I’m not sure I would survive w/o modern conveniences! 😝😝😝

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      1. I’m with you about the modern conveniences, Brian. My granddaughter just finished the entire 6-month trek on the Appalachian Trail and while she was off in the wild using rocks for pillows, all I could think about was creature comforts and room service.

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