When I heard my Amish grandparents’ farmhouse was being razed because of black mold, and a new house would be built, I knew change was coming to a place that seemed timeless. I spent summer vacation there, hanging out on the big front porch, hiking back to the woods, finding the spring that provided cold water on a sweltering day.
My grandparents bought the 200-acre farm in the 1940s and by the 1950s, as is the custom among the Amish, a dawdy house was added so my Uncle Andy could take over the farming and he and his new bride, Amanda, could move into the farmhouse, now set for demolition.
As I thought about the farmhouse disappearing from the landscape, I wondered how Aunt Amanda, now 83, was dealing with the loss of the house where she and Uncle Andy had raised 17 children. For more than 60 years this house had been a central part of her life.
Over the years, the 200 acres had been subdivided to provide homesites for other family members. A third house where Aunt Amanda has lived since the passing of Uncle Andy had also been added near the original farmhouse. Now four generations live in close proximity.
Recent travels took me to Holmes County, Ohio, giving me an opportunity to visit Aunt Amanda. Across the fields I could see the old farmhouse was still standing, and a new, larger house was being built. Aunt Amanda was living temporarily with her daughter Katie further up the lane.
Amanda met me at the door and welcomed me with open arms. I wasn’t sure how to broach the subject of the farmhouse being razed, but when I mentioned it, she didn’t hesitate a second. “It’s time,” she said, “the mold makes people sick. We raised 17 children in that house with one bathroom, and now it’s time.” She said her grandson living in the farmhouse had seven children, and a new house would be a big benefit.
We walked over to the large picture window, and she pointed out the addition under construction to Katie’s house. Katie’s son and his family would be moving in, and Katie and her husband would be building a dawdy house for themselves.
Aunt Amanda asked if I remembered that she made some quilts for me. I assured her I did. I told her I still had several of them. Other quilts had been given to family members or donated to fundraisers. “I still make quilts, but they’re not perfect,” she said. “I need to keep my hands busy.”
By this time, her daughter Katie had joined the conversation. “Mom, show him what you’re doing now when you’re not quilting as much,” Katie said. Soon, several coloring books appeared with intricate designs filled with beautiful colors like the quilts she had stitched.
“I’m also making a picture book for the grandchildren,” she said, displaying a scrapbook filled with pictures cut out of magazines.
Before I left, the guest book appeared. I was not the first guest that week. In fact, it appeared that hardly a day went by that she didn’t have visitors. I understood why. Aunt Amanda is happy. Surrounded by her family, she loves life and the people she meets.
She seems to embrace the changes happening around her. Finding new hobbies and seeing old houses replaced by new ones are just parts of a life well lived, not looking to the past but the future.
JB Miller lives in Sarasota, Fla., and attends Covenant Mennonite Fellowship.