A Day in the Life of an Amish Person

I’ve had people ask me to describe a typical day in the life of an Amish person. I never know to go about doing that, any more than I would know how to describe a typical day in the life of an American, a German, or a Canadian. So I never feel like I can adequately answer that question. Well today I was handed a gift from David. He has been going through his memorabilia for fodder for the book we are writing together, and he came across some of my writing from many years ago.

I don’t know how many years ago I wrote this, but because it is written in longhand, I know it was before 1997, which is when I switched to typing on computer. All I know is that my memory was a lot sharper then than it is now,  for I would have forgotten many of these details.

I like to think that I’ve grown in my writing from say ten years ago, but I was surprised that I liked what I had written. Because I even forgot I wrote it, I can read it as if it had been written by someone else.

So, for the next few posts, I will be transcribing a “day in my life” when I was twelve. It is, after all, the only way I could possibly describe “a day in the life of an Amish person” — by describing it from my own perspective.

It was the winter of my thirteenth year. I was getting ready for bed. I opened the door to the upstairs. The cold air surrounded me as I ran up the stairs, grabbed nightgowns off the beds, and ran downstairs. My sisters and I warmed our flannel nightgowns by the wood stove in the living room. Then we undid our dresses, held together by straight pins, put on our nightgowns, then warmed our backs to the woodstove one more time before running upstairs and scrambling under the covers. We slept two in a bed, and Sarah and I shared a room. We curled up in the middle of the cold bed, with our backs together. The warmth from Sarah’s back was the only warmth I felt. I knew with the pile of blankets, I would soon get warm. We were covered with a flannel comforter, 1 wool bed blanket, another heavier “buggy” blanket, and three quilts on top of that. I wondered what the temperature was, with no insulation and no heat in my room. I fell asleep listening to the wind whirring around the house.

Morning came too soon. I awoke to the sound of tap-tap-tapping. It was Mem using her broomstick on the ceiling downstairs to wake us up. Sarah and I awoke and shivered with the thought of leaving our warm nest. I felt like a bear, being woken out of his winter sleep. Sarah and I did a 1-2-3, then threw back the covers, dashed to the closet, grabbed a dress, and got our underwear and apron from our dresser drawers and ran down the stairs to dress by the woodstove. I pinned my gray chambray dress and apron, let down my hair, brushed it, and pulled it back, using barrettes to put it into a bun. I covered my hair with my black organdy “cap” or covering. I finished getting dressed by pulling on my black stockings and shoes.

I went to the kitchen. The smell of eggs frying reminded me that I was hungry. Mom was making oatmeal over the burner on the oilstove. In the corner of the kitchen a teakettle hummed softly on the cookstove. I poured some of the hot water into the enamel “basin” in the sink. I added cold water from the pail on the counter. I used a clean washcloth to wash my face, then I left it for someone else to use.

I decided to pack the lunches before I ate breakfast. Last night I had done part of them. Now all seven lunchboxes sat on the counter, the lids open, like gaping mouths. I had made a batch of oatmeal cookies the previous afternoon. That evening I had wrapped two at a time in waxed paper. And I had opened 2 jars of canned peaches from our stores in the basement and put a small jar of those in each lunchbox along with the cookies. So now I set out slices of bread and spread them with butter. Next I took slices of balogna and put one on every other slice of bread. I wish we had a change from balogna sandwiches, I thought, as I put together the sandwiches and wrapped them in waxed paper. As I was snapping the lunchboxes shut, my brother, Simon, came into the kitchen and asked, “Do you have a spoon in my lunchbox?”

“Of course I do!” I answered curtly, without thinking. When Simon wasn’t looking I went back and quietly put a spoon in each lunch.

I sat down at the table and ate two “soft” eggs Mem had fried for me. I dunked pieces of bread into the yoke and ate it. Mem moved about the kitchen, urging us to our coats on because “Yoxall will soon be here.”

To be continued…

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7 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of an Amish Person”

  1. Wow–this brings back memories of my the house I lived in until I was six. My sister and I shared a bedroom above the kitchen. There was no heat except whatever came up through a grate. We would hover over the grate when we got dressed in the winter and run downstairs to fasten our clothes and put on our shoes. Burr!

  2. this is almost exactly the same childhood my sisters and I had, except we weren’t Amish. We had only a wood stove in a great big house for heat and had to sleep under identical blankets in our bedroom– sometimes, frost would be on the tops of things- we’d run downstairs with our school clothes and poke the dying fire, trying to revive it before going out to feed the animals and getting to school. We went through this in the 1980s, which is probably quite odd for ‘modern’ children.

    This really brought a lot of memories back for me. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  3. Is there another article carrying on from this? I don’t seem to be able to find one and I’d like to carry on reading! I mean,it’s interesting!

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