THE YARD MAN AND I HAVE many Amish neighbors. And the yard man counts lots of Amish among his friends (he's better-acquainted with them than I am, as he works with Amish in many of his draft-horse endeavors). Yesterday evening he told me, "We're going out to eat tonight, and I invited Gideon and Barbara to go with us."
The two of them fit into all three categories: They are neighbors of ours; they are friends; and they are Amish.
We went to a busy restaurant that caters to tourists. Now, tourists in this area of the country are always very curious about the Amish. En route to the restaurant, we passed lots of enterprises utilizing the word Amish. "Amish Stuff" is the name of one store that made us laugh, as we tried to imagine what the shoppers expected to find there. Suspenders? Fake beards? Or just, you know, stuff like Amish belly-button fuzz.
When we came into the lobby of the restaurant, there was a video playing on a screen. What do you know--it was a video about The Amish. Well, Gideon and Barbara were interested in watching. The yard man and I were, too. What kind of silly notions might the producer of this movie have, concerning Amish folks?
Allaying our suspicions, we soon realized it was a well-made documentary. It covered all kinds of topics, from the making of church pews to notions about whether mules are truly meant to exist (Just a note, Dear Reader, in the event your sex education never extended this far: Mules are the offspring of a female horse bred to a male donkey. Two mules cannot mate. Ha! There's also such a thing as a hinny.* If you know what that is, Reader Dear, I'll eat my hat! At least, I'll just move right along, and eat my buffet dinner.) But, back to my tale...
"Yes, they've got it right," Gideon was soon saying about many of the subjects mentioned in the video: Amish family life, barn-raisings, Amish beliefs about a variety of things. And Barbara was nodding her agreement. We stood and watched for at least twenty minutes.
It was somewhat late in the evening, the supper rush was over; but people were still coming into the restaurant, and other groups were leaving, as we stood there engrossed in the movie. The lobby was pretty full when a young girl of about ten or eleven approached Barbara shyly. "Are you Amish?" she wanted to know.
"Yes, we are," responded Barbara. Then she said to the girl, "And what are you?"
The girl paused. She had a slightly perplexed look on her face as she thought for a moment. Then she said,"I'm normal."
Poor thing. I'm sure she had no idea why we were all laughing heartily as she slipped away in the crowded lobby. The yard man and I joked about our abnormal friends all through our meal.
And when we dropped Gideon and Barbara off at their house later in the evening, they were eager to report the event to their children. "Don't know how normal people would react," they chuckled, "but we'll be laughing about this for a long time to come!"