Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Life

October 21, 2012

WHOLE FAMILY: Longing to remember a less normal childhood

— It wasn’t too long ago I was complaining — again — about the boring, shallow, seemingly aimless culture into which I was born. I mean I grew up so average American I considered hot dogs and boxed mac and cheese kitchen staples, my second language was MTV and my goals were … um … not very well-defined, I guess.

I sort-of shuffled along with the crowd through high school and into college, hoping my life played out something like a heartwarming romantic comedy.

Boring. Shallow. Seemingly aimless.

“Couldn’t I at least have been born into an ‘authentic’ culture?” I thought. The kind of culture about which sixth-graders write reports for social studies classes? Something from Africa, maybe? Or Orthodox Judaism? Russian peasanthood even? Maybe something from the pages of “Little House” or “Robin Hood” or “Anne of Green Gables?”

In more recent years, I grew fond of the Old-Order Amish culture and had a brief stint wishing I’d been born there. My desires evolved, as my age increased I suppose, from a youth’s wishes for excitement — the African jungle or Robin Hood — to the comfort and security of a homogenous people who love, serve and protect their own while enjoying the riches of simplicity.

If you cannot picture me with 4-inch hoops through my ears or in a kapp and dress, you’re not alone.

I was not meant to wear any of that.

SO IT WASN’T too long ago I was complaining — again — about the boring, shallow, seemingly aimless culture into which I was born.

Funny, but I was at the dining table in an Amish home when doing so. A gaggle of toddlers, including mine, bounded about a set of wooden blocks in an adjacent room while a group of sisters, their mother and I chatted on about the evils of pharmacia, about breastfeeding and babies and expanding hips — and about our husbands.

(Turns out, by the way, Amish or English, husbands and wives have a seemingly universal set of tantalizing issues.)

We talked some about differences between their Amish and my English cultures, both they and I asking careful questions about the other.

And somewhere in that chatting I complained — again — about the boring, shallow, seemingly aimless culture … well, you know.

One of the sweet sisters in her gentle way breathed the best advice I’ve heard in a very long time:

“I suppose we’re all to try to bloom where we’re planted.” Something like that anyway. Bloom where you’re planted.

And she smiled.

You know how you have moments, the ones where something clicks? Well, that was such a moment for me. Just like would happen in a romantic comedy, maybe, the video slowed, softish music swelled and I considered:

I’m not Amish or African or British. I don’t know anything about slaying crocodiles, much less sewing dresses or baking rolls, and my dominant culture is sickeningly poppish. Whether I like it or no, I carry a Blackberry, drink an awful lot of Starbucks and watch what amount to soap operas — medical dramas, I prefer to call them — over the Internet.

Ech.

But I could — I should — bloom where I was planted. Perhaps if I focused more on serving wherever I was and less on what I thought I was missing by being blah-blah American, I would be a better worker, mother, daughter, friends, wife or student?

Regardless of my People Magazine life, through some inadvertent twists and turns in my proverbial root system, I ended up working in the field of maternity care, of all things, and working with an all-out rainbow of cultures at that.

It struck me just how blessed I am to bloom here. Here!

Further, we women were all getting along swimmingly, stark culture differences and all. Didn’t matter they wore stringed kapps while I wore a fuchsia baseball hat meant to disguise dirty hair.

My Amish friends’ tow-headed toddlers and my boy were knocking and swiping the blocks together with joy — though their boys speak Dutch and mine some sort of baby-babble English.

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