The Amish WomanbyDG Hear©
A big thank you to Mistress Lynn for her editing of this story.
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I'll begin by saying this happened to me over thirty years ago. I was an Insurance agent and transferred to the Central Ohio area. I was young and gung ho to do my best. Unfortunately, I guess I neglected my family too much. My wife Susan and I would argue constantly about me not being home. I was on the road three and four nights a week.
Looking back at it all now, I can see she was right. At the time, I just wanted to be the best agent in the office. It wreaked havoc on our marriage and we separated for a couple of months just after the Christmas holidays.
During that time, I leased an apartment. It was just one room and a bath; somewhere to crash when I wasn't traveling. I did still support her and the kids but as she had said, I wasn't there for them before and I needed to get my priorities straight.
Don't get me wrong here, I loved my wife and kids. We married very young and I don't think I appreciated them until I almost lost them.
While on my own for a couple of months, I ate out almost every day. There was a small town in Ohio called Berlin. Whenever I went through there, I ate at this one little restaurant.
I was from a very large urban area and found these small towns so different. There was a religious sect called the Amish. I didn't know much about them. When driving through their area, I noticed they rode in horse driven buggies. I had to admit that I had never seen anything like these communities.
The women and young girls all wore long dresses, usually in solid colors like black, brown or blue. All had doilies or something on their heads. I guess they were hats or scarves. The men and boys wore white or blue work shirts with black pants. They all seemed to wear straw hats.
I'll explain more about them later. I want to tell you about an Amish woman I came across. Her name was Sharon Troyer. She was a waitress at the Amish restaurant that I ate at whenever I went through Berlin.
I always waited to see which area she was in so that I could be seated there. Whenever she waited on me, she was very cordial. She explained to me that all the food served there was home cooked. Most of the time, I ordered the special of the day. The first time she walked away, I couldn't help but watch her. She seemed so different from other women to me.
I should mention to you that I was in my mid-twenties. I later found out that Sharon was in her mid-forties. She always wore a blue dress that buttoned all the way up the front and a white apron. Her hair was in some sort of bun held by a comb and she wore the cap or scarf. It reminded me of the olden days that I used to see in the western movies.
I began stopping at the restaurant about twice a week, always sitting in Sharon's area. She would smile and we would talk for a few minutes. I became intrigued with this woman and caught myself thinking about her when I was alone at night.
She wouldn't talk about herself much at all but was always interested in what I had done that day. She asked me about different things that were just daily happenings. It was so strange; it was as if she had never been anywhere or done anything. Here she was twenty years my elder and knew nothing of the world around her.
I tried to make a date with her but she always said she couldn't. I could feel she wanted to go but always refused. I guess that was part of what intrigued me. I asked her if she had family, but she would just smile and walk away.
About a month after meeting her, she finally told me where she lived. There were a few small apartments in the rear of the restaurant for some of the waitresses. She told me that they stayed there during the week and returned home on weekends to their farms.
I had to admit that this really seemed odd to me, but I didn't want to push it. I was finally getting her to talk to me about her life.
Sharon was a good-looking woman. She wore very little makeup, if any. She wasn't beautiful or anywhere near it. Some might call her a Plain Jane where I come from but she totally intrigued me.
Her figure, on the other hand, was like an hourglass. Even with that stupid blue dress, I could see the swelling of her breasts and that the apron wrapped around a tiny waist. She did wear dresses that came just below her knees, with white stockings or hosiery.
All the women working there dressed the same but her figure stood out to me. When she sat in a chair, I could see nice tight calves and wondered about her thighs where the hosiery ended. Some of the younger staff sat with a little more abandonment. You could see their white panties. I know some of them were showing off on purpose. When you looked at them, they would spread their legs and pull their long dress up to their knees. They would then smile at me.
It was kind of their way of going against their elders, I figured. I later found out that many of the young women snuck out at night, changed their clothes and saw some of the life from the outside world, so to speak. They always seemed to return home after their adventurous evenings.
Sharon wasn't like that; she was more like an unsolved mystery which I wanted to delve into. It's kind of funny, but Sharon said the Amish community calls the rest of us the English community. I read up on the Amish culture and asked Sharon about it. She was happy that I was interested in her culture but would only verify what I had already found out.
I tried to go in the restaurant when Sharon wasn't busy. She would sit down and talk to me for a few minutes. I looked forward to our short discussions. I was learning so much about the Amish communities and more and more about Sharon.
I asked Sharon, "You don't have telephones?"
"Well, most New Order Amish do have phones in their homes. The rest manage to live without them. I am in the New Order Amish but I don't have a phone.
"Nearly all Amish have access to phones. There are little buildings, like phone booths, here and there, at the end of the lane and in town, where the Amish may use the phone when needed. Most 'English' neighbors also let us use their phones, especially in emergencies," Sharon said and smiled.
Then she told me about the 'Amish Grapevine'.
"The 'Amish Grapevine' is a word of mouth way that news travels among the members of Amish communities. Local auctions as well as church and family gatherings provide opportunities to share information."
Then she added, "The rumor mill is often wrong, though. Take what you hear, subtract seventy percent of that and then divide it by two, and you'll have the facts!" We both laughed.
I was curious what she did for fun. I showed her an article I had and she said it was pretty much true.
Spare time is quite rare in the busy life of an Amish woman, it seems. When she's able to, she often spends her extra time socializing with family and friends. The Amish discourage "entertainment", but heartily encourage visiting with others.
An Amish woman might attend a quilting party, the article said. She would take her children (and lunch for her and them) and enjoy the day of fellowship with her family and friends while stitching a quilt.
It also mentioned that Amish women enjoy home demonstration parties since these combine fellowship and shopping.
I laughed when Sharon told me that Amish women enjoy shopping just like "English" women, however they probably look a little more often and are more frugal. She went on to say that flea markets are popular shopping destinations for Amish women, and often their husbands went along. The men like to search for bargains too, Sharon told me.
The article added that young married Amish women often go back to visit their mother and father once a week or so, especially if they've moved very far away. Sometimes several Amish women get together and prepare meals for a family in need. They then deliver the food and stay for a visit.
Another point it made was that Amish weddings are huge undertakings and take the help of a large number of women. This is work and socializing at the same time, and it often begins days before the wedding.
"Young married Amish women enjoy getting together to share ideas and talk about babies. Single Amish women often get together for Bible study, traveling, visiting in nursing homes and to make birthday, get well and Christmas cards to send," Sharon remarked.
"What about marriage and divorce among the Amish?" I asked.
"Those whose husbands have passed away have their own special groups where they can get together with each other to socialize. Sometimes they quilt or write letters. Often they get together weekly for lunch and spend the afternoon playing board games," she replied.
"Widows often go visiting. They just sit down and visit with each other nearly a lost art today. During these visits, the older women encourage the younger ones in the Amish way of life. Sometimes they go on vacations together to visit family members," Sharon explained.
"Amish widows are supported by their families, and if needed, their church community. The security of belonging to a "church family" is comforting to the widows. They may remarry if they wish." Sharon looked off into space as if lost in memories.
"Sharon, are you a widow or divorced? Do you have a family somewhere?" I asked.
She got up quickly and went about her duties. I knew I had struck a nerve. I could tell she wasn't coming back to my table, so I took some time to finish the article.
I did learn a lot more about the Amish community as I read on. An Amish family consists of three or more generations, often weaving their every day lives together. A mother fills her day with housekeeping and child rearing tasks; she has little time to join clubs or go out socializing.
Children go to school, most to a local one or two room parochial school, although some also attend the public education system, then hurry home to do chores. The ideal for an Amish father is to work a farm, which would also keep him close to his family. However, with the high price and increasing scarcity of land, more than half of the heads of Amish homes are now working away from home. I thought about the differences in how I lived to what I read before going on.
The family speaks a dialect of German amongst themselves, but all learn to speak English, so they can conduct conversations and business with those around them. I also discovered that many Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch. I knew I'd detected a strange dialect in Sharon's voice. I loved listening to her talk.
It said that by no means do Amish families shun their "English" neighbors, but they are very leery of strangers and they prefer that their daughters not mingle with the English or learn the ways of the world.
Sharon made me see that their religion means everything to them. This matched what the article said, too. Amish congregation takes turns meeting for worship in one another's homes, rather than in a church building, and their services do not include musical instruments, special vestments or elaborate ceremonies. Their text for instruction and standard for living is the Bible, expounded on for three hours or more by several ministers.
It is rare for an Amish congregant to visit another church, but non Amish relatives and neighbors are not barred from participating in weddings, funerals and, occasionally, by invitation, a Sunday service or hymn sing. The Amish are not generally evangelistic; they do not seek to convert others to their way of living. Neither do they criticize the beliefs of others.
However, when asked, they will usually have a ready explanation as to why they seek to please God by living a plain and simple life. The article ended with a few more comments that I passed over. I finished my coffee and left without seeing Sharon.
Back at the hotel, I went on-line to read more about the Amish way of life. I wasn't surprised when I read that farming is the traditional occupation around which the Amish lifestyle is built, but Amish breadwinners are being forced to find other ways to support their families. Many have turned to home based businesses, using their skills in carpentry and other trades to serve customers in both the Amish and English communities.
According to the site, I found that women use their talents to add to the family income by sewing quilts or selling baked goods. Basket making is a growing field that appeals to the tastes of tourists.
Some Amish parents wrestle long and hard with the decision to open their homes and expose their children to the influences of the outside world. Some have chosen to make their products available only to the wholesale market, so they will not have to risk dealing directly with customers who may enter the shop in clothing that does not meet the Amish standard for modesty, or who may express comments they would prefer to keep from the ears of their young children. I stopped reading for a moment to imagine such a lifestyle before learning more.
An ongoing debate questions the impact on Amish adolescents who work in homes, shops and factories with the influence of worldly attitudes and behavior surrounding them. They have said that, "We have learned how to live in the world, but try not to become part of it."
These articles explained a lot to me about Sharon's life. I now knew why she was so interested in my life. She'd been kept away from worldly things and was interested in what she might have missed. She still held close to her faith and family.
The next day when I went to the restaurant, Sharon apologized to me for getting up and leaving me at the table. She then explained a lot of her own personal life to me. I was getting the feeling that she felt something toward me as I did her.
"Jeff, I am a married woman and a mother. I really shouldn't be talking to you the way we have been talking. Amish women should never put themselves in questionable situations."
"Sharon, you have done nothing wrong. We just sat here and talked. You did nothing improper."
"Others have seen me sitting here talking with you. I did tell them that you are friends of my husband John."
"I don't know your husband. In fact, I didn't even know you were married. You weren't wearing a ring."
"I told them that so they wouldn't question me sitting with you. I find you very interesting and I should not be sitting with you without my husband's knowledge. I just told a white lie."
"Tell me about John and your family. Why do you work here? I want to know more about you."
She thought for a minute before talking. "John and I were married twenty-one years ago. We have a son Micah who is nineteen. You have to understand that family means everything to the Amish. Most have large families. I have five brothers and six sisters. John has eight siblings."
"If you like large families, why do you only have one child?"
"I wanted a large family and so did John. Unfortunately, shortly after Micah's birth, John and I were in a buggy accident. A car ran into our buggy killing our horse and knocking us to the ground. We were both badly hurt. After our recovery, we tried to have more kids. I was devastated that I was unable to conceive after that."
"I'm so sorry to hear that," I said.
"We tried time and time again but were unsuccessful. I stayed home and raised Micah. I even helped raise some of my nieces and nephews. I loved being a wife, homemaker and mother. Now Micah works with his father in the fields. They also do some construction work.
"I told John that I felt unfulfilled since Micah has grown up. I asked him for permission to work here at the restaurant and see if it helps. I've just been here for a couple of months. I know John prefers me home but he let me try to work this out. He is more the old order of Amish where the wife stays home."
"I've read a lot about your lifestyle. I know I could never live like that. I know I could never tell my wife what to do."
"I see you wear a ring, Jeff. Tell me about your family."
"I'm separated right now. My wife says I don't understand her and that I think too much of myself. She says she wants me to get a job locally where I don't travel. I do care for her but I work hard to put food on the table. She just doesn't understand that I like my position and am doing it for all of us."
"How many children do you have, Jeff?"
"Two, a boy and a girl. They are two and four years old. I do miss not seeing them but I'm doing my best to build a life for us and she's not going along. If we get divorced, I'll still get to see the kids."
"I wish I had two little ones that I could mother," said Sharon with a tear in her eye. "I so miss having little ones to mother."
Sharon had to get up and go back to work. I couldn't help but think about Sharon, Susan and my kids. I was all mixed up inside. I went home that weekend since it was Valentine's Day. I called Susan and let her know that I would be stopping by to see the kids.
I picked up a couple of boxes of candy for the kids and some flowers and a big heart shaped box of chocolates for Susan.
The kids were happy and gave me a lot of hugs and kisses. I didn't fare so well with Susan. She put the flowers in a vase, said they were nice and thanked me for thinking about her. She also said she didn't want the candy.
"Jeff, you can't buy your way back here. I love you, I really do, but I need a husband and the kids need a dad that they can hug every day. God, I wish you could understand. We want to be a full-time family with a full-time husband and father."
We ended up arguing about it. I loved her, I really did. I missed the loving times we shared together, the hugging and kissing, making love to her body. Maybe she was right. Maybe I was looking through the wrong color glasses. I hugged my kids, took the chocolates with me, and left pissed.
On the following Monday, I was back in Berlin and stopped at the restaurant to see Sharon. I had the box of chocolates and handed it to her.
"I can't accept this Jeff. I'm a married woman, what would everyone think?"
"That you are a really great waitress," I replied and smiled.
"Really, Jeff, I can't. It was thoughtful of you but I just can't accept it."
"I'll tell you what. Take it to the back and tell all the waitresses I bought it for them. Can you do that?"
Sharon smiled and took the big heart shaped box of chocolates to the back and explained to the others that it was for all of them. I watched as all the girls smiled when Sharon opened the box so they could all partake of the candy.
They all came by my table to thank me. I guess they weren't given gifts very often. I never checked to see if the Amish celebrated Valentine's Day.
I ate at the restaurant two more times that week. The waitresses all came up to me and talked for a few minutes. I do have to admit that I'm sure the young single ones were flirting with me.
On Friday, Sharon looked somewhat sad as she waited on me. She told me that she was quitting the restaurant and that this was her last day. I couldn't believe it and asked her when she decided to quit.
"My husband came in yesterday and asked me to come back to the farm. He will be here to pick me up early Saturday morning."
I knew there was more to it but didn't want to push the issue.
"I wish you the best and I enjoyed our talks," Sharon said in a quiet voice.
For the rest of the day, I couldn't get her out of my mind. I knew I would never see her again.
That evening after the restaurant closed, I parked across the street from the business and went to the back to find her room. I wasn't sure which one it was. There were four rooms but only one had a light on. I knocked on the door. The curtains moved a bit and Sharon was looking out at me through the glass.