Our Un-Entitled Summer

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“Madison got an iPad for her birthday.  Why can’t I?????” The whining, nagging tone is back and it’s only 9 in the morning.  “Because YOU are not Madison and I am DEFINITELY not Madison’s mother.”  Or as my mother used to tell me: “Because the sky is high.”

This does not appease her.

My fourth grader has taken nagging to a new skill set. She is an unabashed complainer, as committed to getting her way as Karl Rove is to getting the Republicans back in office.  “I’m the ONLY one of my friends that doesn’t have an iPad!  It’s not FAIR!!!!”

She’s only warming up.

To combat this sense of entitlement that I see all around her, I took my girls to an Amish dairy farm last summer.  To say it was “rustic” was an understatement. It was more Laura Ingalls Lite.

My first night, as I unpacked our belongings, I secretly wept like a baby. Our accommodations were located up a 100 year old, creaky flight of stairs, farmhands living right below us, no electricity and no chocolate under the pillow. “Was this grounds for child endangerment?” I wondered. Had I pushed this little experiment too far?  My anxiety over-taking me, I popped a Lunesta and sobbed myself to sleep.

The next morning, we were summoned to the main house for breakfast. A long mission table was filled to the brim with the family, the farm hands and us.  We went around the table and introduced each other and then everyone sang a Christian hymn (being a Jew, I just faked my way through it, bobbing my head up and down ). With this large family all belting out songs, I had visions of us all running in the field as the camera swooped down on “The Sound of (Mennonite) Music.”

Then it was off to milk the cows and gather the eggs from the chickens. The girls were enthralled.  We went off to the Amish version of “Disneyland” down the street, where the girls sack-sled down long, slippery slides and jumped on the biggest rope-held, hand-made jumpies I’d ever seen.  There were goats to feed and shoo fly pies to eat, and magic shows and I kid you not, it was the best fair I’d ever been to.  No bells and whistles, only crafty, well-made games/toys and events that took creativity to a new level.

The irony was that besides all the conservatively dressed Amish children running around in their bonnets and jackets, the park was inundated by conservatively dressed, Orthodox Jewish children, some of whom were wearing the traditional skull-cap.  I did a double take when I saw a kosher pizza booth. The fair obviously caters to this community, these modest, misunderstood, religious groups having more in common than first meets the eye.

Day One, a success.

So was Day Two, where a kind, Amish grandpa gave us a horse and buggy ride, regaling us with stories of his 35 grandchildren.  He was so lovely, I was tempted to ask if he’d take on a couple more.  I mean, once you hit 30, who’s counting?  We stopped at a local craft shop and an Amish one-room school house. Day Three, we went to a chocolate factory (not affiliated with the Amish people) and I treated myself to a box of dark chocolates for the long trip home, a week later.  I hid them in a safe place, as mommy was not going to share these gems.

An Amish farm across the street housed a family with five, sweet daughters, and as they would pass by on their horse and buggy, they would wave to my two girls.  With their big smiles, they looked like the most joyous girls I’d ever seen.  My daughters waved back frantically, desperately wanting a playdate.

“I want to be Amish!” my eldest announced.  “Do you think Daddy would move here and become a farmer?” she asked in earnest. I had to hold back a giant cackle.  The idea of my lawyer husband/prince wearing suspenders and saying ba-bye to hot showers, Shabu-Shabu and his Laker season tickets was too rich an image to bear.

The last day we were on the farm, as I packed, my determined, jean-clad, eldest daughter braved the trek to the farm across the way and knocked on the door of the Amish family with the five beautiful daughters. I held my breath, but they welcomed her in.

When I went to pick her up an hour later, I walked right by her.  My girl was fully decked out in an Amish dress, hair pulled tightly back in a simple, white bonnet. She was totally unrecognizable and beaming ear to ear. They insisted she keep the outfit.

I burst into tears, my weeping reaching that high-pitched tenor.  It was one of those awkward John Boehner moments, but I was so “ferklempt” by this gracious, un-spoiled family, I couldn’t stop crying.  My girls were so embarrassed, they asked if they could stay longer with this amazing new family.  Like forever.

As we drove off, I suddenly stopped my car and pulled a u-turn.  I asked my daughter to hand me my bag.  I knew what I had to do.  I grabbed my untouched bag of beloved dark chocolates.  They were clearly not meant for me…

“How was the trip???” my husband wanted to know when we got back.  We just stared back in silence, unable at first to express the profound, intense experience that had newly defined us.  And yes, it did impact my eldest, who was old enough to “get” it.

Now, instead of an iPad, my daughter nags me for a horse.

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