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?”
“No.”
“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?”
“Yes.”
“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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14 thoughts on “Wearing Amish”

  1. I’m sure this will be an interesting read….

    How many hours a day/week do you allow yourself to “go there?” I know it can emotionally be difficult to revisit certain times in our lives, as I’m sure this is one for you. Good luck with the “therapy.” :)

    L

  2. You conveyed your experience very well. I felt the heaviness as I read.

    May this blessing from Numbers chapter 6 be within you as you write about these difficult experiences.

    24The LORD bless you, and keep you:
    25The LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you:
    26The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

  3. How emotionally draining it must be to go back and relive these parts of your life. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this pain. God be with you as you write this book. Thank you for sharing. Vicki

  4. I just finished reading your first book, and knew that you were going to be “retrieved” to be sent back to your community, but your words here today have made it so much more chilling. I can feel the pain of your having to go back when you were just beginning to find a new life for yourself. As I read your book, I found myself admiring your courage for enduring what you have. May God bless and keep you in the hollow of His hand.

  5. You have a gift — you invite the reader in and tell your story in such persuasive way that we are right there with you. Unfortunately, we cannot bear any of the emotional burden for you. But I am sure I am not the only reader feeling your pain. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Nancy

  6. I just finished reading Why I Left the Amish. What an enlighting read. I always thought the Amish were gentle, loving people. I was shocked at how your parents & brother treated you. God Bless, you are a strong woman & stood your ground.

  7. I saw this documentary last night and when I saw you on it I turned to my husband and exclaimed “Oh my goodness!! I follow that lady’s blog!!!!!”

    Your story is amazing, Saloma. I truly admire your strength and courage. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  8. Wow. A perfect example of how all of our experiences are filed away somewhere in our minds. We can sometimes purposefully recall them or they might just pop up unexpectantly. What you went through was chilling, although I can see how those who came for you felt they were doing the right thing. You are who you are, Saloma, precisely because of your past experiences. Although delayed, I’m glad you finally got to live your life as you saw fit – God bless you!

  9. I bought your book at the Carroll County Public Library event this past week. It has been savored already. As a member of another Anabaptist tradition (Church of the Brethren) there are many parallels in our lives that I identify with. My leaving has been an emotional with which included hospitalization for depression and LOTS of therapy to gain my FREEDOM. In fact, in my late 40’s I returned to college and obtained credentials needed which ultimately led to my return as a Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor/ LCPC in the same Mennonite hospital. A Mennonite therapist understood my religious dilemmas whereas someone without that knowledge had not been helpful. I now attend Quaker Meeting to fulfill my spiritual needs.

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