A Time for Reflection and Renewal

This morning David kissed me awake and wished me a happy birthday. Yesterday was his, and we took the day off from working so hard to reflect on the new beginnings on our horizon and to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. A few minutes later when I really awoke, I was hit with the realization that I am 60 years old today. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, but actually turning 60 is different from being 59 and knowing I am going to turn 60, which is how I saw myself yesterday.

This is not a bad realization. All it means is that six decades ago today I “came to earth.” This is the German way of saying being born, I found out when I was visiting the Kochs in Switzerland on the farm, the day Elizabeth came over from next door to announce the birth of a baby calf. I didn’t hear the conversation, but Hadassah jumped up and down for joy with delighted squeals. Then she came and excitedly said to me, “Ein Baby Kuh ist zur Welt gekommen!” (A baby cow came to earth).

I feel gratitude to Mem (or her spirit, since she is no longer of this earth) for bringing me to this world and for the bond she formed with me when I was a baby and small child. According to Alice Miller and others, this bond a baby forms with her parents (most often the mother) becomes the basis for who we are to become. Mem gave me a good start in this life.

Photo of Mem with our son, Timmy in 1987

I write what I know about the day Mem brought me into the world in my new book, “A Martyr’s Myth: Discovering the Truth About My Amish Mother. Here is an excerpt:

I was born at an Amish midwife’s house. Mrs. Yoder, the midwife, put me in a tiny basket, all wrapped in blankets, next to Mem’s bed. Mem said I was a beautiful baby, with the thickest head full of dark hair she’d ever seen on a newborn.

I was born the day after my parents’ fourth wedding anniversary. Mem once told me it was the only anniversary she ever celebrated. But from what she has told me, it sounds more like a family crisis.

My father’s stepfather was leaving the world as I was entering. In a letter to me when I was a young mother Mem wrote:

The day that I was to come home was the funeral of dad’s stepfather and didn’t come to pick me up untill [until] late and remember how impatient Mrs. Yoder got. She said to me, “Must be he thinks more of his mother than he does of you.” Which pretty well upset me for awhile.

It sounds like it was with a heavy heart that Mem returned home to her other two children, three-year-old Joey, and one-year-old Lizzie.

As was typical for Amish mothers in my community, Mem cared for me pretty exclusively for the first few weeks while a young woman in the community came and took care of Joey and Lizzie and the household chores, so that Mem could get some rest.

I can only imagine that my first months of babyhood were good. Mem wrote this to me years later:

You were a contented baby. I could sit you on the high chair, tied on, so you couldn’t fall off, put the tray down and give you things to play with and you’d play for a long time. Sometimes by the east window and sometimes by me wherever I was working.

I can just imagine this. Even in the years I can recall, I often stared out over the field to the east when I was daydreaming.

So I strive to live a meaningful life in gratitude for being brought to this earth. I hope that Mem and Datt are smiling down from the heavens today and seeing that I am smiling up at them in gratitude for bringing me into the world.

Today I am preparing to travel down to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for a conference called “Crossing the Lines: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries.” I will be presenting there on Friday morning in a session called “Crossing into Worldliness: Leaving the Amish” with two other presenters. This conference seems like just the right venue to reflect on what my life has been, and on my hopes for the future from the perspective of being 60 years old and 60 years wise.

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23 thoughts on “A Time for Reflection and Renewal”

  1. Elaine Kenseth

    Happy 60th, Saloma!
    In the Japanese Buddhist tradition which I have some familiarity with, the 60th year is a momentous birthday. You were born in the year of the Fire Rooster In Chinese tradition, the Animal Sign rotates every 12 years; the Element sign, rotates every 5 years. On the day of your 60th Birthday, the alignment of both Animal Sign and Element Sign comes together again – for the first time since your birth. This usually only happens once in a person’s earthly life time. Thus the 60th birthday is a time of rebirth,a new beginning,a time when some of your best work comes to fruition. Many important and influential personages have done some of their finest work after the age of 60 (Mother Theresa, Einstein, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela to name a few). When I learned this maybe 16 years ago, I couldn’t wait for my 60th birthday. So now you are again in the year of the Fire/ Rooster. So much to be said for this combination – you can check out sources for descriptions of both signs – but we all know the energy of Fire and many metaphors that go with; and in the New Testament, the Rooster is the Great Awakener – the cock who crows to waken us and announce the day, the one who reminds and awakens us to that which is true (crowing thrice to warn Peter, and in spirit, the rest of us). So I believe the next years will be quite profound for you, Saloma. Enjoy every moment – the best is yet to come! Happy Days ahead! MAny Blessings and much Love, Elaine PS – On the birthday – ini Asian tradition,red is the festive color to be worn.

    1. Elaine, thank you for this information! I just the other night discovered I was born in the year of the rooster when David and I were eating at a Chinese restaurant. But I didn’t know about the Element sign and the Animal Sign coming together on one’s 60th birthday. All you wrote here rings true… I certainly home what I’ve been striving for will finally come to fruition… such as finding a literary agent who is compatible with me, and is enthusiastic about selling my third book to a traditional publisher.

      Thank you, Elaine, for all this wonderful information. Many Blessings and much love to you as well.

  2. Hi Saloma,

    I like the title of your book, “A Martyr’s Myth: Discovering the Truth About My Amish Mother”. Is the martyr in the title Mem herself? I read that the bonding between you and Mem was good, yet it seems like when that bond is broken through dysfuctions, there would be a lot of pain and distrust.

    Sounds like the conference will be a good one for you and for those who hear you. You have much to offer.

    1. Oh, Denise, good reading between the lines. Yes, Mem betrayed the bond she so carefully formed with me as soon as I showed signs of having a mind of my own. This book (yes, she is the martyr) is about coming to terms with her and my relationship on my own after she left this world. And there certainly was pain… there was lots of that. Which is another part of the story…

      I so look forward to this conference. Thank you for your compliment. I also look forward to learning from others.

    1. Suzanne, my book is not yet out in print, unfortunately. I am currently seeking an agent to represent it to a mainstream publisher.

      I will be sure to announce it here when the book does come out.

      Have a wonderful week!

  3. Happy Birthday to the two of you!! Next year I will reach the #70 mark. Talk about old!! Can’t wait to read the new book. May God smile down on you both and guide you in any endeavors you will be experiencing in the future months to come.

    1. And talking about wise… don’t forget that part.

      I think you might have been reading my blog the longest of anyone else. Haven’t you been reading it since I started it in 2009? I am humbled by your longevity.

      May God smile down on you as well. Many Blessings to you, Kris.

  4. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Saloma, only 60 years young!!! I always look forward to your next post! Looking forward to your next book, also! When will it be available?
    One of our granddaughters will be married in August, and moving from Oregon, to Massachusetts! If you still have your bed and breakfast there….maybe one day we will be able to come and visit! If not, we will have to stay elsewhere! lol
    Will you be speaking in Harrisburg, Virginia, at EMU? Have friends there, but have never been to Virginia either!
    Blessings to you as you anticipate this new chapter in your life! C.

    1. CJ, that would be so wonderful if you were to visit us! So far we’ve not gotten any offers on our home, so we may well be here in August.

      I don’t know when my book will come out. I am seeking representation from an agent right now.

      Yes, I’ll be speaking at the conference on Friday.

      Thanks for your good thoughts and blessings. And to you as well!

  5. Happy Birthday to you and also to David. I didn’t know all of these things about turning 60, but in looking back I think it is true. I am not quite halfway through my 60’s and I have had changes for the better the last three years or so.

    I look forward to hearing more about your Virginia trip.

    1. Katie, I’m encouraged by your thoughts about being in your 60s. I will never be as wise as you, but I’m glad I’m in my 60s with you!

      I’ll definitely be writing about my trip. Wish you could be there!

  6. Michele Larson

    Happy Birthday Saloma and to David too. Many blessings to you both. I look forward to you new book and to hearing about your adventures of moving to another state. We moved here to PA from VT when I was 59 (my birthday is late in the year) and I will be 70 in 2018.

    I sometimes wonder how our children will remember me — with happiness and joy or regrets. We are all human and sinners and we will make mistakes and have regrets of which I am seeing more and more of mine as I age. The sad part is the past cannot be fixed or changed. But the good thing is I am able to forgive my parents for what I once was upset with or thought were errors they made. The criticisms I have had or some I still have I am able to forgive and understand more of why they believed or did what they did. My dad died the day our youngest (now 35) was due (Dec. 25) who was born Dec 1 due to medical complications.

    Please keep us informed when your new book is out. Hopefully you will have a book tour in South Central PA.


    1. Michele, thanks for your good wishes.

      You’re right, we cannot alter the past… we can only mend our ways and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. I am working toward forgiveness of Mem. I wish I could say I understand why she did some of the things she did, but I cannot. I finally realized I need to forgive her, even though I don’t understand.

      I will definitely keep you updated on any developments with the book.

      Blessings to you, Michele.

  7. Happy Birthday to you and David. Entering a new decade is always special. Each time I have entered a new decade, I would write a letter to myself and write down my feelings, expectations and fears. When I turned 70, I wasn’t at all happy for some reason. I said this to a friend who is in the choir. She is a lovely person and she told me she was a couple yrs older. This I didn’t know and she is always an encouragement and it made the biggest difference to me and thanks to her reminding me, I am counting all my blessings instead of grumping around because of the limitations getting older brings. You and David will probably be making some big changes in this new decade. It will be exciting to see what will be coming your way. May God bless you and David.
    gr. van Holland.

    1. Mary, thanks for the reminder to be happy with where we are in life. I’m glad you made peace with your age/wisdom. What else can we do?

      I had a former Jesuit priest friend who used to say, “Yeah, well we all fall apart in inconvenient ways.” It’s so true!

  8. Happy Birthday Saloma! I too reached 60 this year. Still trying to figure out what that means. I do know I’ve been blessed abundantly with good times, and not so good times, but they all help to form who I am today. I always look forward to seeing a new blog post from you, and am looking forward to your upcoming book. You have lots going on in your life. Enjoy and be blessed!

  9. Hi Salome
    I read about you briefly, last year, on Erik Werner’s blog. Always concerned when I learn of Amish leaving the faith because I just ‘know’ their were sad and/or serious circumstances that caused that.
    Today, I am back, reading about the Amish community in Brownington,VT. I remembered your name and read a little more about your life and writing. I also now know that air was 7and 1/2 years old when you were born and my dear wife was born 3 months less a week from your birthday.
    I am searching possibilities in the Amish community for the future of my dairy farm in Pittsburg, NH, about 70 miles northeast of Brownington. I know it is a long shot but my wife sent a copy of what we are offering to two gentlemen in Brownington. It would be a true blessing in our valley if a few families chose to come. Of course, they would be from elsewhere but I am using Brownington as a stepping stone. ( My brother, Paul, is a musician and played recently at an antique engine show there and attended a benefit fish fry for Lydia Kaufman.)
    I will be reading more of your work as time permits and I must also share with you that writing and thinking are my two best hobbies. They work well together. I may write a little book someday, about my first 67 years, 53 of which have found me milking cows on an ‘old New England family farm’.

    1. John, I’m glad you found my blog, and thank you for your comments.

      I suggest if you want to attract Amish to your farm, you might want to write an article or send an ad to “The Budget,” a weekly newspaper read in nearly every Amish community. Here is a link to connect you: http://www.thebudgetnewspaper.com/

      I love your comment about your two favorite hobbies… yes they go well together, indeed!

      All the best to you in passing on your farm to Amish families.

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