Archive for May, 2012
You’re reading this blog because 37 years ago an Amish woman invited me to sit down next to her and put a few stitches into a quilt. I had never seen a quilt in frame before, and I wasn’t all that familiar with Amish people either.
There are moments that define us. We may not recognize them at the time, but looking back it is easy to see the profound impact a single moment can have in our lives. A single moment, a gesture of friendship, can be life-changing.
In the summer of 1975 I was about to start my senior year of college. As an anthropology major I was required to write a thesis that year, and I had decided to study the Old Order Amish. There was a large community close by, my advising professor had an “in” and I showed up at a barn raising one steamy August day hoping to meet Harry Stutzman. He and his family had allowed several introductory anthropology classes to visit their dairy farm. My plan was to somehow make a connection which would allow me to study Amish culture by participating in it.
I met Harry as he and about 40 other Amish men were taking a break in the shelter of a tool shed across the road from the barn that was being rebuilt. Only the young men were still working on the framing as it drizzled. I felt everyone’s eyes on me. It didn’t help that I had driven up to the barn twice before (turning around each time, driving back to the main road) trying to work up enough courage to stop and get out of my car. I’m sure they were quite interested to know what an English girl (non-Amish) with out-of-state plates was doing driving back and forth on this small country lane.
Harry smiled and shook my hand. He walked me over to the barn and we stood chatting in the center of the structure as the hammering went on above us. I felt like an idiot. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I didn’t have much experience with barns. It was really hard keeping up my end of the conversation. After a while Harry suggested I drive over to a “quilting” and meet Ida, his wife.
Geographically challenged anyway, and totally befuddled with directions that included only compass points, type of road surface and references to curves and hills, I set out for the quilting, whatever that was. I was used to roads with names, traffic lights, and landmarks that were buildings. I got so lost I had to ask an Amish man on a bicycle for directions. I must have looked really confused because he offered to have me follow him there!
Ida invited me to sit down next to her at the frame. I knew what a quilt was but had no idea how they were made. I didn’t expect to see something that looked like a giant trampoline. She asked if I wanted to quilt. I wanted her to like me, so I said yes. Did I need a thimble? No, I didn’t need one. All the women around the frame giggled.
I tried to imitate the quilting stitch, thinking it was a peculiar way to sew since the object seemed to be to push the needle straight down without any clue where it was going to come out on the other side. Then, unbelievably, you had to find the needle by touch (I didn’t see any of the women bending over to stick their heads under the trampoline to find their needle) and push the needle back up again without the benefit of sight. My stitches were huge and I bled all over the quilt, top and bottom.
Still, somehow, I found the process and the camaraderie of the women sewing together as appealing as it was painful. Long story short, after I finished my thesis I asked Ida to teach me how to quilt. For years I wouldn’t quilt a top until I had driven back to Indiana to show Ida. She always told me I had done well. Without her encouragement I never would have had the confidence to continue.
I am a quilter because of Ida. The moment when I first sat around that quilting frame changed my life.
Ida and I became good friends over the years. Visits with Ida and her family always included recalling the several months after we met when I stayed with the family. I dressed Amish, learned how to milk cows, pick corn, hitch up a buggy, and find my way around on the country roads. I was given an incredible opportunity to learn about Amish life. Most of all I have been blessed to have Ida and Harry and the Stutzman family as part of my life.
On Friday night I got a phone call that Ida had “gone to eternity.” She was 91. Harry and their daughter Martha preceded her in death. Mourning Ida’s passing are her nine living children, 43 grandchildren, 98 great grandchildren, and an English girl in Flint, Michigan whom she taught to quilt.
Thank you, Ida. You will always be in my heart.
I have much to tell you. Because I am very interesting.
And loving. I love to be with Mom and Debbie who works with Mom. You can see me right in between their two chairs when they are working on something IMPORTANT at the computer. Unfortunately I have since been banished from this position due to enthusiastic wagging when my tail and rear end accidentally came too close to the reset button on Mom’s computer.
I am also fairly clean. I mostly get bathed when Mom cleans the house which is only when company comes, so for the most part I am safe. I may look forlorn in this picture, but I climb in the tub all by myself. I can also climb out, but prefer not to because of the yelling and grabbing that ensures as Mom tries to pull me back in before my paws hit the carpet. I shake BEHIND the curtain.
When company comes it is my job to entertain them because, well, Mom is kind of boring. I prefer fetching. They throw, I fetch. It doesn’t seem to work very well the other way around. Eventually I always tire them out.
I have learned more about the couch recently. My balls roll underneath it. A lot. When I bend over to get them out, my eyes don’t go down low enough to see them, so I stick my front legs under there and try to swim closer. Since I can’t see what I am doing it is very hard to get my toys out.
I have discovered that there is a behind to most things. My behind has a tail. The behind of the couch has a nice hiding place where the balls go. I have learned how to squeeze behind the couch and hide there too. I am very quiet. Even when Mom calls my name. This is a picture of my behind, behind the couch.
Mom went on a trip recently. I helped her pack. I am not fond of her leaving. I sulk and mope by the back door and wait for her to come home. People feel sorry for me. I get hugs. Leaving isn’t good. Coming home is better. I almost lost my tail I wagged it so hard the last time.
I am getting somewhat better at not barking. Mom invented a new training tool. A while back she got a Bark Off device. It makes a not pleasing sound when I bark. Mom put it on the table by the slidey door and now I don’t bark at squirrels through the glass any more. I wait until I get outside, and then I let them have it. Squirrels run fast when you bark at them.
I will digress now. I am a strange dog. I won’t go out and, you know… do my business, unless somebody throws a ball outside for me to chase first. I stand outside looking back inside, holding it in until my people throw something for me to fetch. I don’t know why I do this, but I do. It was really hard in the winter because all my balls got lost in the snow. Mom and Dad were throwing anything they could get their hands on out the door. Good thing we don’t have a cat.
I prefer when somebody comes out with me, you know, for company.There are no pictures for this segment.
Back to the barking. I love the sound of my own bark. I bark at things that move and things that might move. I bark at the neighbors and their dogs through the fence to say hi. I bark because I am a friendly dog. And sometimes I just bark because I go berserk. I bark at other dogs on TV, even cartoon dogs. I run behind the TV to see where they go. I have very good eyesight, but I just can’t find them. Mom started taking the Bark Off outside with me in her pocket. It seemed help, but she is lazy.
Instead of going out with me Mom Velcroed the Bark Off onto a collar and now I wear it around my neck and carry it outside myself. I love wearing it. I lick it and wag when Mom brings it over to put it on before I go outside and now I have mostly stopped barking after the one time I woof just because I can’t help myself. Except when I go berserk. Than nothing stops me: not treats, not noise, not Mom yelling. She just has to drag me away from whatever it was that berserked me. (There are no pictures of this segment either.)
Oh wait, there’s one thing that will make me stop barking when I’m out in the yard and I am having a nutty.
I will stop barking at passing dogs through the fence. I will stop barking at the school bus and the lawn people. I will stop barking at the cat that torments me so. I will stop barking and run right to my people with a happy face. I LOVE my squeaky toy. I don’t even have to have the toy. I just have to hear it. But sometimes I can carry it around very carefully, but then I give it back. (This one is a replacement for my Squeaky Toy because Mom lost my first one. Just had a test drive. Works great!)
I have to go now. I think Mom is going to try to sew my squeaky toy to something. No, wait, she’s going to write her dumb newsletter instead.
Sloppy licks and tail wags,