A few weeks ago I was thinking about driving over to Shipshewana (10 miles away from my home in Middlebury) to sing for Mrs. R.—I’ve written about that previously. I try to stop about once a week at the farm where she lives with her son and daughter-in-law.
I left a message with the daughter-in-law, asking if Thursday was okay. (I’ll call her Mandy. She has become a good friend.) Mandy said, “I’m taking Mom to her elderly aunt’s house on Thursday. Her sister and some nieces will be there, too. Why don’t you come over and join us?”
So the next morning I found myself driving to the address Mandy gave me, near Shipshewana, with my hymnal on the passenger seat. My destination was a snug little Dawdi Haus on an Amish farm, home of Mrs. R.’s 92-year-old aunt. (I’ve written about the Dawdi Haus tradition before, also.)
I walked in to find a snug little dining room with long table full of food. Around it were eleven Amish women, ages about 35 to 92, eating and talking. A few of their small children played on the floor in the living room. When I walked in, the room went silent and all of them looked up at me. My friend Mandy quickly said, “We saved you a spot down here, at the head of the table!” Yikes!... I’m not usually nervous in any Amish situation, but this was throwing me a little.
So I made my way to the far end of the table… The others had been eating for half an hour already, so they said, “Why don’t you have something to eat, and we’ll sing to you!”
So I sat and ate while these eleven wonderful Amish ladies sang to me… Then I sang to them… Then we sang together.
By the time I left, I had made some new acquaintances, and one of the ladies took me aside and said, “My mother is Mrs. R.’s sister. I know she would really like it if you came over and sang to her some time.” I promised that I would get her name and address from Mandy, and I will.
P.S. Earlier today, I drove over to sing to Mrs. R. again. This time, her widowed sister was up from Arkansas for a visit. She’s a sweet old lady whom I’ve met before. After we realized we both like genealogy and talked about that for a while, I got out my hymnbook to sing.
Around the middle of my second song, Mrs. R.’s sister disappeared—and reappeared with a harmonica. By the start of my third song, we had figured out how to start out on the same key. So we serenaded Mrs. R. together for a little while on a dark autumn day, under an electric lantern in a cozy Amish farmhouse.
I’ve never sung with a harmonica before, but it was otherworldly and wonderful. And most important of all, Mrs. R. enjoyed it.