Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

About Amish

Saloma Miller Furlong's Blog


In Eager Anticipation...

When I was in first grade in public school (because there was no Amish school near us), I was the only Amish child in my class. When our class was practicing for a Christmas program, I played the part of one of four children who were “all snug in their beds.” The four of us held a blanket up to our chins, closed our eyes, and took “sleeping breaths.” I was thrilled to be part of this play, but there was one problem. It wasn’t a sure thing that my family would be there. Whenever I asked Mem, she would say, “We’ll see.” I kept explaining that the people who were planning the play wanted to know, so they could plan on my being there. But she did not give me a straight answer.

The night of the play came, and Mem was still not sure, but she said that I should be helpful, “and then we’ll see.” Our “Yankee” neighbors had offered they would take us, so transportation was not a problem. I chipped in and helped make supper, set the table, and filled the water glasses. I helped carry wood for the stove in the living room. We had our family supper as usual. In eager anticipation, I ran upstairs to my room and dressed in my best dress — a light blue one. I called down to Mem, “We are going, aren’t we?”

There was a long silence. Then Mem said, “I don’t think so. Datt doesn’t think we should.”

“Please, Mem! The teachers are expecting me to play my part! And I’m already dressed and ready to go… can I please go?”

“No, I think we better not…”

“Can I go with the neighbors without you then?” my voice was rising in anxiety.

“No, you should just stay home with us,” Mem said with a sigh.

As my eager anticipation dissolved into bitter disappointment, I screamed out my rage of what felt like an injustice. I cried and said, “But you said….!” I was gearing up into a full-fledged temper tantrum, and then Mem said in the solid voice that meant business, “Lomie, if you know what’s good for you…!”

I don’t remember which won out — my fear of one of Mem’s spankings, or my rage for the injustice of keeping up my hopes that I could go, and than dashing that hope at the last minute. All I remember is how hard it was for me to accept not being allowed to go to the school play.

It is amazing how these kinds of memories get stored in our bodies and continue to affect us many years later. There have been many times in my life when I was looking forward to a major event and I would find myself feeling anxious that something or somebody could just snatch it all away from me. Sometimes it adds to wanting it all to happen now, so I can be sure that it will happen, because there is no guarantee about anything happening in the future. But I remind myself that I no longer am under anyone else’s authority, and can make choices about whether I will participate in events I have planned and anticipated.

As I await the release of my second book, Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds on February 3 and the premiering of the PBS film The Amish: Shunned on February 4, I feel much like I did when I was expecting each of my sons, a month before it was time to give birth. I knew what was about to happen in a few weeks, and I was getting contractions now and again to remind me.

That’s how it is with the upcoming film and book. The book can now be pre-ordered and it has gone to print; I have viewed the press screener of the film, so I know the composition of it and my role in it; I am being interviewed by newspaper reporters in various places, so I know articles will soon be printed; and I have talks scheduled to promote the book and the film. I know all this, and yet three weeks feels like three months. I have never developed the wonderful virtue of patience, and in a time like this, it is needed.

I’m sure when my life gets nutty in a few weeks, I will look back to this time and realize it was the quiet before the storm and wish I could capture a quiet moment or two. And so I try to savor this, and get my house in order.

Being on the committee for the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund, I am gathering stories from those who were recipients of scholarships last year for the ADSFund blog. There is a wonderful story about Fannie Miller up on the blog now. I hope you click on over and read about her remarkable journey into education. Other stories are coming up in the next several weeks.

The nature of the ADSFund is also about to change. One of the other committee members, Naomi Kramer, is one of the other seven people whose story is followed in the film “The Amish: Shunned.” She is one of the founding members of the Fund, and her story is so poignant, that she will bring much more awareness about the issues surrounding education for those of us who leave the Amish with only an eighth grade education. Ingrained in us is the notion that studying is a waste of time, for it is time in which we could be doing “real work.” So before we can “justify” the idea of acquiring formal education or a degree, we have to change our way of thinking about what is “hard work.” Improving on one’s lot in life in an Amish community is normally done through hard work and perseverance. This is actually an asset when a former Amish person decides to obtain a higher education. This makes former Amish students some of the most tenacious and committed students you would ever want to meet.

The psychology around it is that we were unable to bend the age-old traditions of the Amish that decided for all of us that eight grades of education was enough. We could not change that — it was written in stone. So once we commit ourselves to acquiring more education and we experience obstacles — we will do whatever we need to in order to remove those obstacles — or else we’ll go around them, under them, or up over. Nothing is as immovable as the mountain of Amish tradition when it comes to education, so it makes other obstacles seem minor in comparison.

This same psychology applies to the process of getting my second book in print. I’ve had to remove barriers from the path of this book, and barring any personal catastrophic events, I will see the book launch and the film air. The people at Herald Press and I determined the course of the process, but we have no control of the outcome. I remind myself to take deep yoga breaths and take comfort in the fact that everything happens in whatever way it is meant to happen. And maybe not being allowed to go to the school play was too. For one thing, it taught me that not everything is in my hands. 


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