Read Almost Amish Online

Authors: Kathryn Cushman

Tags: #FIC042000, #FIC026000, #Self-realization in women—Fiction, #Amish—Fiction, #Tennessee—Fiction

Almost Amish (7 page)

BOOK: Almost Amish
12.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Susan’s right hand held her chin, her mouth moving, although no sound was coming out, and she was slowly shaking her head back and forth. Her forehead crinkled together in worry lines that Julie had rarely seen. She reached out and touched her sister-in-law’s arm. “Are you all right?”

Susan’s eyes regained focus, and she looked toward Julie. “Fine. I’m fine. I was just thinking through all the work we should be doing.”

Julie put her arm around Susan’s shoulder and leaned her head on top of Susan’s in a playful manner. “We’ve got to teach you how to relax a little. That’s what Amish living is supposed to be all about, right? Living simply? De-stressing?”

Susan shrugged. “Their living may be simple, but I’m guessing that the workload on the average Amish farm leaves very little time for actual relaxing. If we’re going to really do a good job of living like them, then we need to work as hard as they do, too.”

Julie squeezed Susan’s shoulder with her hand. “Nobody wants us to become Amish, Susan. It’s about balance. We’re not going all out with all their rules—otherwise this wouldn’t be part of a television show, now would it? Besides, I read some Amish-based novels before we came here, and what captured me—and I bet what captures a large part of our target market—is reading about the small things—their homemade pies, their quilt making, spending time with the family. Not working their fingers to the bone. Although”—Julie pulled her arm away—“I don’t disagree with you that true Amish life has a harder reality than that. It’s just not what we’re here to do. I’d say the three window air-conditioning units in our house confirm that.”

Susan nodded. “I know we’re not going all-out, but we’ve got to be good enough. Better than that. We’ve got to do this amazingly well. We
have got to
make the best almost-Amish family that America has ever seen.”

“And we will. We’re all here to do this, and we’re all going to do whatever it takes to make this a success.”

The kids started skipping rocks across the surface of the water. Julie reached down and picked up a couple of flat stones, handing one to Susan. “Come on, let’s go stick our feet in, too. Then I’ll help you corral them back toward the house.”


That night, after everyone had gone to bed, Julie lay staring at the ceiling as usual. Yet the yellowed paint and road map of cracks across the plaster helped remind her this was not the usual. At all.

She stood up, pulled on her robe, and walked outside. It all seemed so unreal.

From the general direction of the creek, a dull chorus of bullfrogs serenaded the dark. Closer by, the cricket choir added their own twist to the tune. A glass dome of stars twinkled above, creating the most beautiful scene Julie could ever remember.

This place was all so new, not yet comfortable in a familiar way, but as Julie stood beneath the sky, she felt warmth begin to seep into her tense muscles. She took a deep breath and felt her shoulders relax. It had been so long she had forgotten what this felt like.


She remembered that day in her car when she’d thought about driving away to another place. A place without all the burdens of her regular life.

I think I just might have found it.

Chapter 7

“This is going to be interesting, don’t you think?” Julie nudged Whitney, trying her best to get a spark of excitement out of her daughter.

Whitney shrugged noncommittally. “Maybe.” She’d been in a grumpy mood all morning. Julie suspected it was a combination of last night’s evening-ending chores, poor sleep the first night in a new place, and the withdrawals from twenty-four hours without texting or Facebook.

“Come on Whitney, I’m counting on you to be the leader of the kids. If you go into this with a bad attitude, you know that Brian and Angie will follow.”

“Angie’s older than I am, and this is her mother’s deal. Why isn’t it up to her to lead?”

“You’re the most outgoing of the group. You know Angie’s always looked to you. Come on, it will be fun. Besides, you’re wearing your own clothes, aren’t you?”

Whitney actually grinned now. “I have to admit, Mom”—she tossed a frizzy blond strand of hair over her left shoulder—“it was a stroke of genius when you ‘suggested’ ”—she put air quotes around the word—“to Kendra that it would make a nice contrast for the cameras today, showing us in our California clothes and them in their Amish stuff.”

Julie tried her best to make her shrug seem blasé, but in truth, she, too, was proud of her brilliance. “A mother does what she can.”

They walked down the stairs to find the rest of the family already assembled in the living room. There were several additional crew members, one holding a camera to his shoulder, the other what looked like a long stick with a microphone on the end. It was obvious from the way Brian and Angie never looked directly at the camera that they were all too aware of it.

Susan looked up from the baseboard she was dusting. “At last, our stragglers have arrived. Is everyone ready for a tour?”

There was nothing but silence for the space of a couple of seconds. Julie looked toward Whitney, wide eyed, and nodded slightly—slightly enough that the cameras wouldn’t pick up on it, or so she hoped—and said, “This is going to be fun. Isn’t it?”

Whitney walked over and put her arm around her brother’s shoulders. “Sure is. Don’t you think so, Brian?”

“Let go.” He shrugged her arm off of him, glanced toward Julie long enough to understand the message in her eyes, and said, “I always enjoy learning about new cultures, so I’m sure this will be enjoyable. Don’t you think so, Angie?”

“I can’t wait.” She spoke the words almost like a sigh . . . but a happy one. Well, after the faked enthusiasm from her own family, it was nice that at least one of the kids seemed truly excited.

“Okay, people, let’s load up. Reynolds family, you’re in the first Suburban, Charltons, you’re in the second.”

“Why can’t we ride together?” Whitney twisted a strand of hair around her finger.

Kendra looked at her with that annoyed expression that was becoming too familiar for Julie’s liking. “Because you won’t all fit. Now, come on, everyone. We’ve got a schedule to keep.”

“What do you mean we won’t fit?” Brian rubbed his chin. “Suburbans hold eight people in relative comfort. There are only five of us, plus a driver.”

Kendra didn’t bother to turn toward him when she answered. “Camera crews and equipment take up space, too—not to mention producers.”

Brian rolled his eyes and shook his head. Whitney nodded her agreement with her brother.

Angie followed Kendra to the cars. “About those cameras. The Amish don’t allow their pictures taken, isn’t that right?”

Kendra checked the fingernails on her left hand. “Not usually, but they’ll make an exception in this case. I’m sure of it.” She turned and climbed in the front Suburban without ever looking back.


The man wore faded jeans and a gray T-shirt, which fit too tightly across his ample midsection. The stubble on his chin was gray, as was most of his hair, and something about the way he looked told Julie he’d lived in the country all of his life. “Hi, everyone. The name’s Joe. I’ll be leading your tour today.” He looked at the cameraman. “Film what you want now, but you can’t have those cameras out once we hit the Amish areas. They don’t believe in having their picture made.”

“Let me talk to them,” Kendra said. “I’m sure that once we explain what we’re doing—trying to show the average American about their more simple way of life—they will be more than happy to let us do our thing.”

He shook his head. “No, ma’am. It all comes down to respect, and that’s where I draw the line. I don’t allow photography or videos of Amish on the tours I’m leading, and that’s the end of it.”

Kendra folded her arms and glared at him. He stared back evenly and didn’t even blink, as far as Julie could tell. Finally Kendra threw up her hands in exasperation. “Okay, okay. But the cameras can come with us, right? As long as they’re only filming our families during the tour.”

“So long as you put all those things away when I say so.”

“All right.” She walked away and pulled the crew over into a huddle. There were several nods from the group, but Julie couldn’t hear what they were saying until the very end. As the huddle was dispersing, Kendra stood whispering to one of the cameramen and Julie caught the word “naive.” He snorted a response as they walked toward the group.

Joe called for attention and pointed them to what could very well have been a trolley, except that the motor was two large horses. “Everyone take your seats and we’ll get started.” Joe extended his hand toward Kendra, in an offer of assistance.

She turned her back to him. “The camera crew goes up front with Joe. Susan and Julie, I want you on the bench just behind them, and then the kids.”

Soon, they were moving down a narrow country road, dotted with farms and pickup trucks and barns. The horseshoes made a pleasant rhythmic sound against the well-worn pavement as they wound slowly along the road. After several minutes, Joe turned around. “See them white houses up ahead? Those are some of our Amish homes.” He turned to the side then. “I’d like for you fellas to put your cameras away now.”

The men nodded their compliance and began the work of properly stowing their equipment into hard black cases. As they passed the first house, Julie noticed multiple lines of laundry—line after line of dark blue trousers and white shirts, ruffling slightly in the light breeze.

To the right of the house rested a large vegetable garden with a dozen or two neat rows of young plants. Two women stood out in the midst of it, hoes in hand.

“It seems awfully hot to be out gardening in the middle of the day like this. Especially in all that dark clothing.” Julie looked at the women in their black caps, dark long-sleeved dresses, and aprons. The morning’s humidity was already pressing on her, and she was wearing a knee-length khaki skirt and a sleeveless cotton top.

“This ain’t nothing. It’s nice today compared to what it’ll be in a month or two. Up in the nineties, air so thick you’d think you could drink it. Them women’ll be out there in it every day—gardening, doing laundry. They’re always working. It’s their way. Kids too. Those kids don’t sit around playing video games in air-conditioned comfort. They work.”

“Oh, the poor things.” Whitney leaned toward the other side of the buggy to get a better look. “That must be so miserable.” She glanced toward Susan and shrunk back a little. “The heat, I mean, not the video games.”

“That part sounds pretty bad if you ask me,” Brian mumbled, mostly to himself, but he did look up and grin at Julie before turning his gaze outward.

Joe shrugged. “I reckon it’s all they’ve ever known.”

They rode on, passing white house after white house. They all looked very much the same—comforting and homey in a way Julie found appealing.

“We’ll make a stop at this next house. They sell molasses and homemade candy. There’s also a woodshop out back I’ll show you.”

Julie climbed down, excited to see true Amish wares. They walked inside a little shed. On one wall hung dozens of woven baskets. Julie picked one up, considering where she might use it in her home. She turned it over and saw that it was signed and dated. “That one was made by Sarah. She’s the youngest . . . ’cept for the baby.” Joe looked over her shoulder at the baskets. “They make some nice pieces here.”

Julie nodded her agreement, then turned. Opposite stood shelves of neatly aligned jars of molasses with homemade jelly. She turned to Joe. “Will someone come out so we can pay?”

He pointed toward a simple hinged box on a table at the back of the shed. “Honor system. You just put your money in there. If someone’s around when we pull up, they’ll tend the store. If not, then you do it the old-fashioned way.”

“Somehow I don’t think that system would work in L.A.,” Kendra said.

Julie laughed, looking out the window of the little store. She noticed one of the cameramen walking around the side of the house. “What’s he do—” Only then did she notice the camera in his hand.

Kendra immediately picked up a basket. “What do you know about who made this one?”

BOOK: Almost Amish
12.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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