Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Wearing Amish

The buzz around the American Experience film showing has been fun. 

Now it’s back to work. David and I are busily writing the second book. Several weeks ago, we had written up to the point when I was taken back to the Amish community, after spending four months of freedom in Burlington, Vermont. I knew the next part of the book was going to be tough to write. I haven’t really allowed myself to go there in my mind, even though I knew I would need to eventually — at least if we are to finish this book.

We used the the calendar as writing prompt to remind us of what took place thirty-four years ago when I had changed my name to “Linda” before I left the Amish. Up until February 29 of this year, the 2012 calendar was synchronized with the 1978 calendar in terms of days of the week. This morning when I awoke, I felt like this was the 34th anniversary of the day I went back to my community. In reality, it was March 4 when I went back, but it was the first Saturday in March. I remembered details I hadn’t before, so I went and added them into the chapter “Wearing Amish.” Here is what I wrote:

The building that housed the YWCA in Burlington, Vermont in 1978

I awoke with a start from a dream I couldn’t remember, yet it left me with a heavy, foreboding feeling. Then I remembered — Sarah and Ada were in the other room, sleeping at the Y to make sure I didn’t leave. The leaden feeling followed me to the bathroom, where I ran water into the claw foot bathtub. Unlike my first bath at the Y, when I filled up the tub and floated on the water, this time I bathed with less water. It was a utilitarian bath that fit my melancholy mood. My mind was ahead of me and I was thinking about the preparations I needed to make. I had to sort out my belongings. I would leave most of the food for the other women at the Y, but the dried food that I had bought at the Co-op, I would take with me, especially the mint tea. My clothing I would give to my friends. But maybe I should take my wool coats home with me… Mem could use those in a braided rug.

The room of my own I left to return to the Amish in 1978  (the woman in the photo is not me)
I dried off, wrapped myself in a towel, and slipped into my room. I saw my Amish dress I had laid over the chair before I went to bed and realized how the gray color of it fit my mood. 
           As I pulled on my dress and pinned myself into it, I felt myself become Amish again. Then I stuck myself when I was pinning together the belt at my waist. How I hated wearing straight pins in my dress! The monotonous, gray feeling weighed on my limbs and I felt as though I were slogging through mud. I pushed on, sorting my clothing and packing into my suitcases my underclothes and my two wool coats. I made my bed for the last time, and then I folded my clothes and left them on the bed. I would let the other women come and take what they wanted. They would have to throw out the rest.
            Down in the kitchen, I packed a bag of the food that I wanted to take with me. I set out breakfast for Sarah, Ada, and myself. They may as well eat with me because the food we didn’t eat would get left behind. 
I looked at the clock. Seven o’clock — time to call Barbara. I couldn’t just go back without saying good-bye to her. My hand shook as I dialed her number. Rick answered the phone. He sounded surprised, “Wow, Linda, you’re calling early.”
“I know,” I said. I struggled to keep from crying. “Is Barb there?”
“Yes, she’s right here.” I heard him say to Barb, “It’s Linda.”
Barb’s cheery voice said, “Hey Linda! What’s up?”
“I just wanted to let you know that I’m going back to Ohio today.”
“Really?! What made you decide that?”
“They came to get me.”
“Who came to get you?”
“The bishop and his wife, my uncle and his wife, my brother, my sister, and a friend.”
“Did you know they were coming?”
“Wow, they must really want you back, Linda.” There was a pause for a moment. Then she asked, “But do you want to go back?”
“I don’t think I’m getting out of this one. My sister and my friend stayed here overnight.”
“You’re kidding! Do you think they are making sure you don’t leave again?”
“I’m on my way to work, so I have to go, but will you come by the Church Street Center so I can give you a good-bye hug?”
“Sure, what would be a good time?”
“How about around nine?”
“Sure, I’ll see you then.”
“Hang in there, Kiddo!”
I hung up the phone and struggled to keep from crying. I would have to call David too. This could be tricky, if I didn’t do it right. I didn’t want the Amish to know anything about my relationship with David. That meant I could not do anything to show that I cared about him. And how could I be sure that he wouldn’t show he cared? I’d just have to take that chance, I decided. I sure couldn’t risk him following me into my Amish community, as he had said he would if I didn’t let him know I was going back.
I found his number in my address book. I hesitated. What if I got one of his parents? That would be really awkward, since I didn’t know them. I didn’t allow myself to think about the plan to meet them the next day. I knew that was now impossible. I would wake up in my Amish world tomorrow morning.
My arms and hands felt like cement, as I dialed the number. I was suddenly very aware that Sarah and Ada would be listening from upstairs. I could not allow my voice to give away my feelings.

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