Thursday, August 21, 2008
I know I crack on Pennsylvania a lot. I mean A LOT. As in, I never could live there again, the cold kills me, the people (for the most part) are rude, etc. etc. However, as hesitant to admit it as I am, the Keystone State has some redeeming factors. The general lack of humidity in the summer, the fact that fire ants can't survive there, and the awesome soil that allows for growing all sorts of cool pumpkins, melons, etc. that don't grow well here in middle Georgia are a few of them. I also (on occasion) miss the landscape. My parents live in northwest PA; that's directly north of PIttsburgh, just east of Cleveland, and slightly south of Lake Erie and the New York border. The land is utterly beautiful there. Rolling hills are everywhere, and everything just seems so, well, green. Anyway, my hometown is tiny. It has (at last count) 3 traffic lights, 1 decent gas station, and numerous dairy isles (for you Southerners, as dairy isle is kind of like an independently-owned, smaller version of a Dairy Queen, but somehow a million times better). I graduated from high school with, like, 85 other people. As small as Cambridge Springs is, I didn't even grow up within the town's borders. I lived out in the country. Seriously. As in, we lived on a dirt road (gasp!), my parents had (have) a dairy farm, and for the longest time we had an address like this: RR3 Box 101, Cambridge Springs. RR, by the way, stands for "rural route." It was a sad day when we got a new address, one that complies with the 911 code (to make it easier for emergency services to find you). 29727 Hogback Road just doesn't sound as quaint.
One of the cool things about growing up where I did is that we had some, well, different neighbors. Several Old-Order Amish communities make their homes near us. I grew up familiar with the buggies that drove by, the bearded, plainly-dressed people who stopped to talk to my dad, and the barefoot children racing each other home from school (see post below), bonnet strings blowing back in the wind. Now, these aren't the kind of Amish that people normally think of, the kind that inhabit popular places like Lancaster, PA. The Amish that live near my parents are infinitely more strict in terms of plain living. We're talking lighting a lantern to walk through a woodstove-heated house, out through three feet of snow to use the outhouse in the middle of winter. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. I bet they probably have bedpans for those occasions.
One of the things I find most interesting about the Amish are their enormous families. As the oldest of seven children, I definitely have a big family, especially by today's standards. However, compared to Amish families, my family is very small. The family that lives closest to us, for example, is composed of a man, his wife, and their 17 children. That's considered normal. Being as extremely interested in midwifery as I am, I am dying to know about Amish birth traditions. I know for a fact that they practice home birth in nearly all situations. Once the neighbor lady, knowing my mom's background in both nursing and neonatal care, came and asked her to attend her delivery and help. My mom refused, for several reasons, one of which being that the woman said she was carrying twins. This leads me to believe that Amish women likely either practice unassisted birth, or are attended by female family members who aren't necessarily trained in midwifery. Another possibility is that there simply wasn't a midwife available. However, because the Amish community near our home is so big, that seems unlikely. Anyways, I will be keeping my ears and eyes open to learn more.