Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day Thirty-Six: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Food and bathrooms; bathrooms and food. See that? And here I thought I wasn't writing enough about my pregnancy.

Okay, so things were winding down and Mike was as anxious as ever to arrive at our western Massachusetts destination. He tried several times to talk me out of Amish Country, but I wasn't having it. I wanted to check out the life of the horse and buggy. I also thought it might be a really cool thing for Isaac, aka Rocket Boy, to encounter a culture that was choosing to forgo the modern technology he so dearly loved. (Isaac regularly asks me to look up videos on the computer about new technological breakthroughs, he can tell you anything you'd like to know about rocket lift off, and he starts about every third sentence with “When I grow up I'm gonna invent...”)

After grabbing a map and some advice at the downtown Lancaster welcome center, we meandered through the farms, guided by small, hand-painted signs advertising eggs, goat milk, quilts, bird houses, root beer, mailboxes, and my very, very favorite: “Custom Pea and Lima Bean Shelling.”

We made stops here and there, bought some lemonade, some pretzels. Isaac was not at all thrilled with the stop and start afternoon, he wanted to get to our campsite and be done. His motivations didn't quite mimic his dad's “the destination, not the journey” attitude, as I happen to know what he really wanted was to be released from the van to study anthills and beg us to roast marshmallows. However, he was in fact fascinated by the idea of Amish culture and excitedly pointed out horse-drawn plows in the fields.

I made Mike U-turn for the driveway marked with the sweet potato plant sign. There were only a couple days left of our trip and I figured they'd probably survive. Besides, the succulents we'd brought from California needed some company.

We pulled in and we waited. A couple of mellow bulldogs showed up to slobber on us. Children spied us from the safety of the screened porch, then went running, announcing the arrival of the strange white van. Only the smallest was left. As a sweet-faced boy, about three, stepped out into view in his wide-brimmed hat and suspenders, my hand went into virtual spasms trying not to lift the camera. (Photography is frowned upon by the Amish.)

Eventually, a woman appeared and asked how many plants I'd like. I, in turn, asked how much they cost. Twelve cents each. Excuse me? Twelve cents. ----. I. Uh. I....

Mike had to rescue me. I was speechless. We left with three dollars worth – enough for a whole garden of sweet potatoes should we actually find a house where we can plant them. That's what this was, this stop. An act of optimism. I'd battled pit toilets, pig farmers, and Interstate 80. I'd survived gargantuan RVs, fried cheeseballs, and Nebraska. It was almost over, and somewhere deep inside, maybe I still believed that at the end of it all we'd find a home. That we'd make a place where the food was all-natural, the gardens were priority, and the fucking cars just weren't. Okay, two out of three, then. No Amish in Massachusetts that I know of.

Driving from west to east has more than a little in common with labor. Things tend to move slowly at first – big, square western states that never end. And painful. Then, just when you think it'll last forever, things begin to hurry along – roads get busier, states flying by, the next and then the next.

When I was in labor with Isaac, it actually progressed very fast. When it came time to push, I didn't, really. My midwife told me afterwards that she thought I wasn't yet mentally prepared to see the end of this process. (Hell, yeah! I still thought I might be having a litter of kittens!) So my brain and body were essentially stalling to give themselves time to take it all in.

I am not ready for this trip to be done. Everyone keeps suggesting I must be. My husband was eight states ago. But I am not. I can wait. Maybe I'm just afraid of the next step. Or maybe I just need time to catch up.

Whenever I go hiking with Mike, I am always waiting, journal and trailmix in backpack, for the next place to stop. He wants to go further, go longer, go. Sometimes one manages to convince the other of the benefits of his or her preferred method. This trip has been that dance magnified.

“Do you think you'll become Amish one day?” Isaac asked me when I exclaimed for the fiftieth time my affinity for the lifestyle.

“This place is awesome,” Mike said almost to himself as we passed another buggy.

The next day, I was sorry to go, but camping in the Hudson Valley called, and we all said we'd come back. As we left and headed north to New York, I took note that Virginville, Blue Ball and Intercourse, Pennsylvania were all within a short drive of each other. Things were definitely starting to make sense.


Rita said...

I love this post! What is Isaac going to invent? "Custom Pea and Lima Shelling!" When you're the neighborhood sweet potato(e)lady, should we all come help with the harvest? I love the little ones and the pit bulls (and sympathize with the camera-reaching spasms).
I just love the whole feel of this post!

Susannah said...

yes, yes, yes, I do too!

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