“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” ~ Leo Tolstoy
It was a mismatch from the start — being born Amish with a nature that just did not fit into that culture. For as long as I can remember, I had questions bubbling up from within. I tried to be like other girls who were demure, quiet, and submissive by emulating them. I’d practice folding my arms in the self-effacing way of Amish girls, looking down in front of me instead of looking directly at others, and not talking. But that never lasted more than five minutes before I’d forget and become myself again.
|Class picture in public school|
I was often labeled a “chatter box”, “question box”, or “handful” and worse yet, dick-keppich (stubborn) and rebellious. It was a terrible feeling, knowing I didn’t fit in to the only community I knew. Leaving the Amish was not an option, I learned as I was growing up, at least if I believed the preachers. They claimed that because we were born Amish, God wanted us to stay Amish, and if we didn’t then all hope of our salvation would be lost. I used to wonder, Why would God give me this inquisitive nature if it’s wrong to ask questions? If I asked this out loud, my mother would say that I shouldn’t be asking such questions or that “it’s just the way it is.”
In my first book, Why I Left the Amish, I told the story of why and how I left the first time and how I landed in Burlington, Vermont. Bonnet Strings continues the story of how I navigated my new world once I was in Vermont.
When I was writing about this part of my life, a stranger came to town. Her name was Anna, and she had just left her Amish community in New York State, and she needed support to transition into the mainstream culture. Witnessing her struggle of feeling torn between two worlds brought up vivid memories of that time in my life when I was still trying to find my place in one of two worlds. Reflecting this struggle, Bonnet Strings transitions between my recent life of supporting Anna and my life in my early twenties when I journeyed out of the Amish and began finding my way in the outside world.
When I first heard about Anna’s exodus out of her community, it evoked memories of that dark time when I was twenty and I felt trapped by my father’s violence, my mother’s resistance to getting outside help, and my own desperation to break out of that oppressive situation. I had to reach my wits’ end before I finally decided to leave.