An Amish Gathering: Life in Lancaster County
by Kathleen Fuller
A Place of His Own by Kathleen Fuller
“Amanda, Thomas pinched me!”
“I don’t wike peas.”
Amanda Graber surveyed the chaos swirling in the kitchen as she tried to get supper on the table and corral her six much younger brothers and sisters. None of them were cooperating.
“Thomas, leave Andrew alone.” She set down a warm loaf of freshly baked bread in the center of the long oak table. “Christopher, you only have to eat four peas. You can manage that.” She bent down and picked up her youngest sibling, Jacob, kissing the small red mark where he had bumped his forehead when he fell on the kitchen floor. “All better?”
He nodded, then sniffed.
Amanda wiped two big teardrops from underneath his large blue eyes, then handed him to Rachel. “Put Jacob in his high chair,” she said, giving the tot a quick tap on his chubby cheek. She leaned against the counter and wiped her damp forehead with the back of her hand despite the cool fall breeze wafting through the open window.
The clip-clop of their father’s horse and buggy reached her ears. Turning to Andrew and Thomas, she said, “Daed’s home. Please go outside and help him with the horse. And, Thomas, no more pinching!”
Twenty minutes later everyone, including Mamm, settled down to eat. Amanda placed a bowl of steaming mashed and buttered potatoes on the table, then took her place next to her sister Hannah.
Daed cleared his throat, the signal for everyone to quiet down and bow their heads.
Amanda listened and prayed along as her father blessed the meal. After saying amen, she sat back and watched her family pile their plates with the food she’d prepared for supper. Thick slices of meat loaf and the vegetables, along with bread and butter, quickly disappeared from the serving dishes.
She turned at the sound of her mother’s voice. “Ya, Mamm?”
“Aren’t you going to eat?” Dark shadows underscored Katharine Graber’s brown eyes.
“Ya, I’ll have something in a minute.” She regarded her mother for a moment. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m feeling fine. Just a little tired.”
Amanda glanced at her mother again before looking at the empty white plate in front of her. Lately her mother had seemed more than a little tired, and she couldn’t help but worry about her. As she neared the end of her pregnancy, her mamm seemed to be having a more difficult time with this baby than she ‘d had with the other ones. Amanda silently prayed for both her mother and the unborn child’s safety.
Mamm gave her a weary smile. “Everything looks and smells delicious, Mandy. Danki for making supper tonight. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Amanda smiled back. She enjoyed cooking, just as she enjoyed taking care of her brothers and sisters. Sure, they were a handful, but they were also a lot of fun and brought tremendous joy to her life. Some of her friends complained about having to care for younger siblings, but not Amanda. As an only child until the age of fourteen, she had always longed for a brother or sister. Now that she had them, she counted them as blessings. She was twenty-four, plenty old enough to be thinking about a family of her own. And while she stood only five-foot-three and possessed a thin frame, she hoped she would follow in her mother’s footsteps and have a large brood of her own, God willing.
Although a couple of young men had shown interest in her, Amanda had yet to meet the one she wanted to marry. One man in particular, Peter Yoder, didn’t seem to get the message. Each time he asked her to a singing or expressed an interest in courting her, Amanda firmly told him no. Still he doggedly pursued her.
God would bring the right man into her life. Until then, she kept her focus on helping her mother with the younger children.
“Sehr gut, Dochder.” David Graber shoveled a forkful of mashed potato and meat loaf into his mouth, then wiped his brown beard with a napkin. Threads of gray were starting to show through, but her father still looked several years younger than forty-four, and acted at least a decade younger than that.
“Yuck.” Christopher picked up a green pea and made a face.
“Christopher.” Daed gave the boy one of his infrequent stern looks. “Mandy went to a lot of trouble to make us a wunderbaar supper. Eat your peas without complaint.”
Frowning, Christopher nodded, then put the pea in his mouth and chewed, wrinkling his nose.
Daed remarked that business was booming at Yoder’s Lumber, where he worked as a sawyer and foreman. Being in charge of the first shift of workers, he made very good pay. “God has blessed me, Katharine,” he said, looking at his wife, then panning his gaze over his family before returning to her. “He has blessed us all.”
Taking in the tender look her parents exchanged, Amanda sent up another silent prayer of thanks for her father’s job and for being a part of such a wonderful family. Even though they sometimes fought among each other and life didn’t always run smoothly, they were all satisfied and happy.
“Rachel, please clear the table,” Mamm said after everyone finished eating. “Hannah, it’s your turn to wash the dishes. Andrew can help you dry.”
“Aww.” Andrew scowled. “That’s women’s work.”
“Nee, it’s not just women’s work.” Daed shoved away from the table. “And for that remark, mei sohn, you can dry the dishes for the rest of the week.” He rose from the table, tapped Andrew lightly on his sandy blond head with his fingertips, then ruffled Christopher’s dark brown hair. “I’m sure the animals are hungry by now. Thomas, come with me.”
They left the kitchen to go to the barnyard and feed the family’s six pigs and three cows, which would be slaughtered in a couple weeks to provide the family with more than enough meat for the following year. They would share the extra with other families in the community.
Andrew continued to scowl, but he scampered from his chair and headed to the sink to do his assigned chore.
Mamm rose from her chair, picked up a napkin, and wiped mashed potatoes from Jacob’s face. “Danki again, Amanda. You may be excused.”
With a nod Amanda rose and headed upstairs to her room. Her mother and father would put the younger children to bed with Rachel and Hannah’s help, leaving Amanda free to do whatever she wanted. Usually in the evening she worked on her sewing, making Amish dresses, lightweight spring coats, and shawls to sell at Eli’s Country Store and Dry Goods just outside Paradise. Sometimes she read, and during the warm spring and summer evenings, she liked to go outside to walk, pray, and be alone. After a busy afternoon watching her siblings and making dinner, she definitely needed to spend some time with the Lord.
She paused and looked out the window of her bedroom, her reflection obscuring the view outside. Noticing the awkward tilt of her white kapp, she straightened it, then adjusted one of the bobby pins holding it in place against her light brown hair. She pushed open the window, allowing the fresh evening air into her stuffy room. As she looked around her family’s property, she again thanked the Lord for His abundant blessings. Her parents had purchased the house and its attached five acres when Amanda was two years old. Their barn sat to the left of the house, set back about two hundred yards. There they kept the pigs and cows and their two horses. A wooden play set, complete with a slide and three swings, was situated closer to the house. Three acres beyond that were woods, where Amanda and her friend and only neighbor, Josiah, used to play when they were young.
She sighed as Josiah’s image came to her mind. She had thought of him often over the years, since he’d moved away a decade ago at the age of fourteen. He’d been an only child, as she was for so long, and the two of them had spent nearly all of their time together, hiking in the woods, building forts, and sometimes, to Josiah’s great misery, playing house. Amanda smiled at the memory. Josiah had been a nice boy, and even though she knew he hated pretending they were married, he went along with it every once in a while.
Then when he turned thirteen, his mamm had died. What a horrible day, not only for him but for the community. Emma Bontrager had been a sweet woman, beloved by many. After her death things had changed. Amanda didn’t see Josiah as much, and when she did there was an underlying sadness in his green eyes that never completely disappeared.
Then one day he was gone. There had been no explanation, no good-bye. She had waited for him at their special place in the woods, a small clearing where they had often played. He never showed up. That evening, when her parents told her Josiah and his father had moved away, she had burst into tears. How could he leave without telling her? Without even saying good-bye? It had taken her a long time to get over his leaving.
She often thought about him. Was he married? Did he have any children? Had he even stayed in the Amish faith? She prayed that wherever he was, he had found the happiness he deserved.
“Amanda? Would you read me a story?”
She turned around to see Christopher standing in the doorway, clutching his favorite book to his chest with both hands. From the way he kept looking over his shoulder, she had a feeling he had sneaked upstairs without their mother’s knowing. If she had, she would have called him back down to the family room and told him to leave Amanda alone for the evening.
Smiling, she went and knelt in front of him. She plucked the book out of his hands and turned it over, glancing at the orange and green cover. “Aren’t you tired of hearing this one?”
He shook his head. “‘I do not like green eggs and ham,’” he quoted. “‘I do not like them, Sam I am.’ You know, Mandy, I don’t like green eggs and ham neither. They look yucky.”
“You don’t like any food that’s green, Christopher.” Laughing, she grasped his hand and led him downstairs to the bedroom he shared with Andrew and Thomas. “You know what,” she whispered to him a few moments later as she sat on the edge of his bed and settled him on her lap. “I don’t think I’d like them either.”