Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. Here is a recent question and answer. Please leave a comment or email me if you have questions you want me to refer to her in the future.
Dear Aunt Tillie:
As you know I went to New York City a few weeks ago to see my son perform at Carnegie Hall. One of my readers thought I should offer to take you along. But, since we were flying instead of taking a van, I knew you couldn't be talked into it. But I do think I remember you telling about visiting New York once. Have you ever been to New York City? What did you think of it?
You're right, I did visit New York City once, a long time ago, before I was married. I went to see my sister, your aunt, Emma, who worked in New York City as a registered nurse. Emma always had a wanderlust, going off to pick cotton in Oklahoma several summers before finally leaving home for good to go to nursing school. I still don't know exactly how she wound up in New York City, of all places, but I guess she probably wanted to prove she could make it in the big city and they don't make cities any bigger than New York, at least not in this country.
Emma would come home with her clickety little high heels and tight skirts and flirty little comments when any man was around, which some of my sisters didn't appreciate, but I didn't mind because I knew she wasn't after any of the slow-talking men in our community. She used to tell me that I should come visit her, so one fall after we had the corn shucked, I told my father, your grandfather, Obed, that I was going to take off a week and go to New York City.
Surprisingly enough, Obed didn't say too much against it; I guess probably because when he was a young man, his father let him visit New York City and it sure didn't corrupt him. Obed's father, Andrew, gave him $2,000, which was a lot of money in 1915, to go to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to look for a wife. He decided he was going to see New York while he was out east, so he took the train in and got off in Grand Central Station. He walked out of the station, looked around at the big buildings, said, "There's nothing here that I want to see," and went back and got the next train out, on to Lancaster.
(Obed wound up corrupting the Amish young people of Lancaster County, as it turned out. After he returned to Illinois, the bishops in Lancaster sent a letter to the bishops in Illinois, asking them not to send any more of their young men to Lancaster. They were upset because he had taught their young people how to dance.)
Anyway, I spent a little more time in New York City and had way more fun there than Obed, probably because I had Emma as a guide. She met me at the station and took me to her house in Queens, and then took me to see all the sights. We went up on top of the Empire State Building, where I bought a little commemorative medallion that I still have somewhere around here, and we took a boat ride and saw the Statute of Liberty, although we didn't climb up inside.
Emma wanted to take me dancing, but I was afraid that I would look foolish because I really didn't know how to do ballroom dancing. The dancing the Amish young people did was more what you would call "square dancing." Emma got to be pretty good at ballroom dancing,and would enter and win dance contests. (Dancing turned out to be Emma's downfall, but that's a story for another time.)
Even though I wouldn't go dancing, Emma and I had a good time in New York. She took me out to eat in an Italian restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. We didn't have those kinds of restaurants when I was growing up, and even if there had been any in our little Midwestern town, there would be no reason to eat at a restaurant when we had plenty of food at home, and besides who had money to pay for restaurant food.
I could see why Obed didn't think much of the place, with all those tall buildings, you didn't see the sun until about 10 o'clock in the morning, and with all the cars honking their horns and people shouting and running around like ants in an anthill that a cow just stepped on, it was pretty nerve-wracking. But it was interesting to look at the strange people, and I guess they thought I was strange too because they were looking at me, just like I was looking at them. I wouldn't mind going back some day if my health holds up and you can find a train that goes there, but I don't think I'm ready to be squeezed into a van for 10 or 12 hours, or however long it takes to drive there and I know I wouldn't go up in an airplane. But if your son goes back out there to play his fiddle again, you let me know. I might just figure out a way to go listen to him.