Getting together with Mem’s relatives for the holidays was a pleasant break in the routine of our lives. We had long since outgrown the buggy, so when we went to Momme and Dodde’s (Grandma and Granpa’s), eight miles away, we hired our neighbor to take us there. She was one of the “taxi drivers” in the area who drove the Amish where they wanted to go, charging by the mile.
We arrived at Momme and Dodde’s on Thanksgiving morning when I was twelve. I noticed two surreys parked in the yard as we drove in the lane. Through the windows I saw several red heads and knew that many of the relatives had arrived ahead of us. I had almost one hundred first cousins on Mem’s side of the family. More than half of them had bright red hair.
Aunt Ada and her family lived in the big part of Momme and Dodde’s house. The house had a bright and sunny feel to it. Walking into Momme’s spotless kitchen was the closest I came to getting a warm embrace in the community. The Amish in my home community do not hug or show affection. Shaking hands is the only form of acceptable contact in public, except for rocking, holding, and taking care of babies.
Momme’s kitchen was small and it smelled sweet from the Dove hand soap by the red cast-iron hand pump at the sink. A window above the sink looked out into the farm and yard. Outside the kitchen door and down the wide porch steps was a drinking water pump with an old white cast iron sink underneath it. My cousins and I pumped water over each other’s feet there in summer.
Aunt Sarah and Uncle Dan’s family arrived in their buggy, drawn by two horses. The larger Amish families often used two horses to pull their larger buggies. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Dan had ten children. Seeing them drive in the lane, reminded me of the visit to Momme’s earlier that summer.
We had been invited to Momme and Dodde’s for Sunday supper. Several of the uncles and aunts and their families also came. One of the uncles said, “Here comes Sarah and Dan. Boy, is that buggy full! The springs are completely flat! The buggy stopped out by the barn. Several of the menfolk walked out to help Uncle Dan unhitch the horses. The young cousins stepped down from the front of the buggy. There must have been two of the youngest on her lap, and another four on the little bench by her and Dan’s feet. She handed the baby to one of the people who had climbed out of the back, before she got out of the buggy. The number of people emerging out of the back of the buggy was what had us all standing and staring out the kitchen window with our mouths open. When six people had emerged, we thought that would surely be it. But, then another person stepped down out of the buggy, and another, then another, until at least a dozen cousins had stepped out of the back. We soon heard how that had happened. Dan and Sarah had come upon a group of the cousins who were walking, and they picked them up to give them a ride to Momme and Dodde’s. Then, farther down the road, they came to another group of cousins, and they took it as a challenge to fit them in too. They did it. Their buggy had two seats in the back that faced one another. The cousins had piled in and sat on one another’s laps.
When Uncle Dan came in, he said in his bragging style said, “Oh, we had plenty of room! We could have picked up two more!”
Come one, come all; that was the feeling one got at Momme and Dodde’s.
To be continued…