A big thank you to Mistress Lynn for her editing of this story.
I'll begin by saying this happened to me over thirty years ago. I was an Insurance agent and transferred to the Central Ohio area. I was young and gung ho to do my best. Unfortunately, I guess I neglected my family too much. My wife Susan and I would argue constantly about me not being home. I was on the road three and four nights a week.
Looking back at it all now, I can see she was right. At the time, I just wanted to be the best agent in the office. It wreaked havoc on our marriage and we separated for a couple of months just after the Christmas holidays.
During that time, I leased an apartment. It was just one room and a bath; somewhere to crash when I wasn't traveling. I did still support her and the kids but as she had said, I wasn't there for them before and I needed to get my priorities straight.
Don't get me wrong here, I loved my wife and kids. We married very young and I don't think I appreciated them until I almost lost them.
While on my own for a couple of months, I ate out almost every day. There was a small town in Ohio called Berlin. Whenever I went through there, I ate at this one little restaurant.
I was from a very large urban area and found these small towns so different. There was a religious sect called the Amish. I didn't know much about them. When driving through their area, I noticed they rode in horse driven buggies. I had to admit that I had never seen anything like these communities.
The women and young girls all wore long dresses, usually in solid colors like black, brown or blue. All had doilies or something on their heads. I guess they were hats or scarves. The men and boys wore white or blue work shirts with black pants. They all seemed to wear straw hats.
I'll explain more about them later. I want to tell you about an Amish woman I came across. Her name was Sharon Troyer. She was a waitress at the Amish restaurant that I ate at whenever I went through Berlin.
I always waited to see which area she was in so that I could be seated there. Whenever she waited on me, she was very cordial. She explained to me that all the food served there was home cooked. Most of the time, I ordered the special of the day. The first time she walked away, I couldn't help but watch her. She seemed so different from other women to me.
I should mention to you that I was in my mid-twenties. I later found out that Sharon was in her mid-forties. She always wore a blue dress that buttoned all the way up the front and a white apron. Her hair was in some sort of bun held by a comb and she wore the cap or scarf. It reminded me of the olden days that I used to see in the western movies.
I began stopping at the restaurant about twice a week, always sitting in Sharon's area. She would smile and we would talk for a few minutes. I became intrigued with this woman and caught myself thinking about her when I was alone at night.
She wouldn't talk about herself much at all but was always interested in what I had done that day. She asked me about different things that were just daily happenings. It was so strange; it was as if she had never been anywhere or done anything. Here she was twenty years my elder and knew nothing of the world around her.
I tried to make a date with her but she always said she couldn't. I could feel she wanted to go but always refused. I guess that was part of what intrigued me. I asked her if she had family, but she would just smile and walk away.
About a month after meeting her, she finally told me where she lived. There were a few small apartments in the rear of the restaurant for some of the waitresses. She told me that they stayed there during the week and returned home on weekends to their farms.
I had to admit that this really seemed odd to me, but I didn't want to push it. I was finally getting her to talk to me about her life.
Sharon was a good-looking woman. She wore very little makeup, if any. She wasn't beautiful or anywhere near it. Some might call her a Plain Jane where I come from but she totally intrigued me.
Her figure, on the other hand, was like an hourglass. Even with that stupid blue dress, I could see the swelling of her breasts and that the apron wrapped around a tiny waist. She did wear dresses that came just below her knees, with white stockings or hosiery.
All the women working there dressed the same but her figure stood out to me. When she sat in a chair, I could see nice tight calves and wondered about her thighs where the hosiery ended. Some of the younger staff sat with a little more abandonment. You could see their white panties. I know some of them were showing off on purpose. When you looked at them, they would spread their legs and pull their long dress up to their knees. They would then smile at me.
It was kind of their way of going against their elders, I figured. I later found out that many of the young women snuck out at night, changed their clothes and saw some of the life from the outside world, so to speak. They always seemed to return home after their adventurous evenings.
Sharon wasn't like that; she was more like an unsolved mystery which I wanted to delve into. It's kind of funny, but Sharon said the Amish community calls the rest of us the English community. I read up on the Amish culture and asked Sharon about it. She was happy that I was interested in her culture but would only verify what I had already found out.
I tried to go in the restaurant when Sharon wasn't busy. She would sit down and talk to me for a few minutes. I looked forward to our short discussions. I was learning so much about the Amish communities and more and more about Sharon.
I asked Sharon, "You don't have telephones?"
"Well, most New Order Amish do have phones in their homes. The rest manage to live without them. I am in the New Order Amish but I don't have a phone.
"Nearly all Amish have access to phones. There are little buildings, like phone booths, here and there, at the end of the lane and in town, where the Amish may use the phone when needed. Most 'English' neighbors also let us use their phones, especially in emergencies," Sharon said and smiled.
Then she told me about the 'Amish Grapevine'.
"The 'Amish Grapevine' is a word of mouth way that news travels among the members of Amish communities. Local auctions as well as church and family gatherings provide opportunities to share information."
Then she added, "The rumor mill is often wrong, though. Take what you hear, subtract seventy percent of that and then divide it by two, and you'll have the facts!" We both laughed.
I was curious what she did for fun. I showed her an article I had and she said it was pretty much true.
Spare time is quite rare in the busy life of an Amish woman, it seems. When she's able to, she often spends her extra time socializing with family and friends. The Amish discourage "entertainment", but heartily encourage visiting with others.
An Amish woman might attend a quilting party, the article said. She would take her children (and lunch for her and them) and enjoy the day of fellowship with her family and friends while stitching a quilt.
It also mentioned that Amish women enjoy home demonstration parties since these combine fellowship and shopping.
I laughed when Sharon told me that Amish women enjoy shopping just like "English" women, however they probably look a little more often and are more frugal. She went on to say that flea markets are popular shopping destinations for Amish women, and often their husbands went along. The men like to search for bargains too, Sharon told me.
The article added that young married Amish women often go back to visit their mother and father once a week or so, especially if they've moved very far away. Sometimes several Amish women get together and prepare meals for a family in need. They then deliver the food and stay for a visit.
Another point it made was that Amish weddings are huge undertakings and take the help of a large number of women. This is work and socializing at the same time, and it often begins days before the wedding.
"Young married Amish women enjoy getting together to share ideas and talk about babies. Single Amish women often get together for Bible study, traveling, visiting in nursing homes and to make birthday, get well and Christmas cards to send," Sharon remarked.
"What about marriage and divorce among the Amish?" I asked.
"Those whose husbands have passed away have their own special groups where they can get together with each other to socialize. Sometimes they quilt or write letters. Often they get together weekly for lunch and spend the afternoon playing board games," she replied.
"Widows often go visiting. They just sit down and visit with each other nearly a lost art today. During these visits, the older women encourage the younger ones in the Amish way of life. Sometimes they go on vacations together to visit family members," Sharon explained.
"Amish widows are supported by their families, and if needed, their church community. The security of belonging to a "church family" is comforting to the widows. They may remarry if they wish." Sharon looked off into space as if lost in memories.
"Sharon, are you a widow or divorced? Do you have a family somewhere?" I asked.
She got up quickly and went about her duties. I knew I had struck a nerve. I could tell she wasn't coming back to my table, so I took some time to finish the article.
.... There is more of this story ...