My mother and I just returned from two gorgeous days in Holmes Co., Ohio, also known as Amish Country. The weather was superb (although hot), the fields are still green as opposed to the dry, crinkly grass of drought-ravaged Southwestern Ohio, and bright leaf color is exploding into view.
I haven’t had a chance yet to work with the photos I took, so instead I thought I’d share a few observations. Although this was our fifth trip to Holmes Co. since 1998, I don’t recall seeing or experiencing these things before:
- Some of the Amish wear flip-flops: I thought I was seeing things when I noticed flip-flops on a young girl in a market, but today I spotted an older Amish woman wearing them as well. (I hope I wasn’t openly staring at her feet.) I’m pretty sure I’ve seen walking and running shoes, especially on the kids, but the flip-flops came as a surprise.
- It sounds funny to hear the Amish say “you guys”: I heard this at least three times, usually from young women dealing with the public at the market, in shops, or in restaurants. “Did you guys enjoys your meal?” “Did you guys find everything you were looking for?” In at least one case, the girl who said “you guys” had just been speaking Pennsylvania Dutch to her co-workers. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. It just seemed so familiar and colloquial, even in an area where I’ve always found the Amish to be extremely friendly.
- There are a lot more sheep in Holmes Co. than there used to be: I may be completely wrong about this, but I swear we saw more sheep this time as we drove the rural backroads, admiring the scenery. I love sheep, as I described in this post! I certainly notice when there are just one or two grazing in a small pasture. Large flocks, or even a few dotting farms at regular intervals, would not have escaped my attention in past visits. Naturally, I was in my glory, but I did come away wondering whether there was some growing agricultural trend regarding sheep in Holmes Co.
- Dresses worn by younger Amish girls and women are more stylish: I admit I’m not always certain if I’m seeing an traditional Amish or a Mennonite girl or woman based on dress alone. However, the dresses that seemed “stylish” were being worn by girls in the yards of rural farms as well as in the businesses in Berlin. Since I don’t have much of a fashion sense or an eye for fashion detail, it’s hard for me to describe how these dresses were different. Sometimes the fabric seemed something other than solid cotton (I swore I saw an oyster-colored knit used for one dress), the dresses themselves seem more form-fitting, and often the short sleeves have a breezy flourish to them. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the bright colors of the dresses and the men’s shirts, but this was something entirely different.
- Chapel veils instead of caps: Again, I may have been seeing this on Mennonite girls and women instead of traditional Amish. The circlets of lace were usually black and reminded me exactly of the chapel veils we girls had to wear in Catholic church in the 1960s and earlier. In one case a middle-aged woman wore the veil covering the top of her head, but I saw younger women wear the veils folded and pinned near or over buns. From the front, it was impossible to tell the girl was wearing any head covering at all. (We used to fold our veils in half, too, although I don’t think the nuns would have allowed us to expose the tops of our heads by tying the lace around our ponytails.)
- Are the Amish allowed to use computers and other electronics?: This question arises out of the many instances when I observed Amish girls and women using computerized cash registers. Also, in one traditional small hardware store where I’d purchased a few gadgets, the girl checking out my items couldn’t get a slotted spoon to scan correctly. She grabbed a microphone and called, “Mary, assistance at the front register, please. Mary, assistance at the front.” Her voice was broadcast throughout the shop full of bearded farmers browsing the aisles. It just gave me pause, this slim girl in her lavender cotton dress, with her severe hair tight under her white cap, peering through plain dark-rimmed glasses — holding a microphone and speaking with the unconcerned but officious manner of a Wal-Mart cashier. One of these things is not like the other.
It was a terrific getaway. More to come…