Thursday, September 25, 2014

Somewhere, An Amish Lady Knows Victoria's Secret

Last weekend was the fall garage sale held at my brother's lakehouse. Thankfully, the weather was sunny and delightful as we hawked our strange collection of stuff. I was still basking in the blisses of my previous triumphs: my two bought breadmakers, my purchased punchbowl, that set of bedroom drapes and bedskirt, finally gone after five sales! Bobby and I decided we were in a Giving Mood, a Blowout Mentality. Our patrons didn't know it, but no offer would be rejected. We were getting rid of everything, and everything could be had for a song.

"I've got plenty of bags, too," my brother informed me, showing me an impressive array, including many pink striped Victoria's Secret shopping bags. His daughter is a devoted client, and he is a fanatic Reducer, Reuser, and Recycler. Immediately, a plan--no, A Plan--hatched in my brain. "I love those," I said, "and I say we reserve them for the Amish women only."

"Absolutely we will," he said, serious and resolute. "Without a doubt."

I cannot express to you the Joy that I felt each time I tucked away the Amish women's little purchases into those gaudy bags and watched them walk away with them over their arms. Most of the ladies, I swear, moved with a little jauntier step, making the pink bag swing or bounce against their skirts. The contrasts were overwhelming. Not only were the colours startling--that brilliant hot pink against the black, navy, or strange washed-out purply black, but the very idea of one of The Plain People, in muslin bonnet and heavy black shoes, carrying a sexy lingerie bag...the irony was gorgeous. And that's without considering the contents, which varied from several pairs of dark socks to a softball to a wallet. Oh, and cans of Pepsi.

Bobby sells cold beverages to supplement his garage sale...sales...from a small dorm refrigerator, and he makes a tidy profit.  Sales of bottled water, cans of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and the occasional pouch of Capri Sun fruit punch are usually brisk, especially in the spring.  For some reason, the Amish, usually the women, are big fans of The Pepsi.

One small, hawknosed woman, her back humpish and her overall appearance dumpy, spent quite some time among our tables while her husband sat in the buggy parked out front. It was pulled by a gallant-looking black horse that would have been far more suited to a romance novel cover than standing there shitting all over the road in Ashland County, Ohio, at a garage sale. After holding up several items from the men's table to her husband for his consideration, she finally got a brief nod. She hurried over to us with her purchase.

My brother immediately drew out a pink striped bag while I shook out the teeshirt she had chosen, preparing to fold it. We exchanged glances and fought our involuntary smiles. It was a Blue Moon beer teeshirt. "And one Pepsi. I almost forgot," the woman said, her voice heavily accented in their Pennsylvania Dutch/German dialect. She carefully counted out four quarters for the entire sale, and I handed her the bag. As she walked away, I desperately tried to discreetly take a photograph, but was thwarted yet again. After holding it closely in front of her, she stowed the bag in the back of the buggy, and as her husband flicked the reins, she trudged alongside while he rode on to the next sale. I couldn't even grab a picture of the bag in the back of the buggy; it's inappropriate to take a picture of the Amish without their consent, and they eschew photographs. It is Vanity; it is not Plain.

"Do you see that? He's making her walk alongside!" St. Patsy could not contain her irritation nor her fascination with the scene we were witnessing. Bobby and I were generally philosophical. "Mom," I said, "he's probably not making her. The next sale is right next door. What's the point of getting up in the buggy only to get right down again? Besides, it's the culture. It's only a big deal to you, not to her."

"He's taking her shopping. He's even driving! What more do you want?" my brother joked. Oblivious to his intended humour, my mother shot him a look that conveyed equal parts disappointment and disgust, and packed enough disdain to curl upper lips across the entire Midwest. Thankfully, the couple rounded the bend and we could all, all of us, move on.



  1. I wish I could have seen these Pepsi-drinking Amish women carrying "English" shopping bags. That being said, I'm glad that you were respectful of their desire to not be photographed. I can be content with the image in my mind that your words created. Delightful.

  2. Yes, Ally Bean, Nance has created quite a lovely "picture" of this Amish lady and her bag. I wonder if she - and the others - knew what "Victoria's Secret" is>

  3. Oh, you two are Evil... But I mean that as a compliment.

  4. Gina and phoebes--The whole "Victoria's Secret" thing is quite the legend. Queen Victoria was known outwardly for being very prudish, but she and her Prince did have 9 offspring, so they did ... have a great fondness for one another at least that many times. Once he died, she was plunged into deep mourning and remained in that state.

    Other stories have her as a hormonally charged sexual profligate, whose appetites may have hastened Albert's demise at 42.

    Either way, most of her royal subjects saw her as quite the Victorian moral standard of the time, and her famous "We are not amused" is still one of my favourite lines.

    If you saw Queen Victoria played by Judy Dench recently for the story of the Scottish groom who stole the royal heart, that is another one of Victoria's Secrets that is fascinating to read of further.

    Ally Bean--thank you. And I was completely thrown when I Bing'd for an image of VS shopping bags and found one that included a can of Pepsi. Totally unexpected and random. Loved the coincidence.

  5. Nance, you didn't take the picture of the VS bags and Pepsi? That's hilarious.

    I love the picture you drew, and I'll admit, my first thought when you said she was walking was, "Hey, why's he making her walk?" Then I thought, "Nance said it's a nice day, maybe she ENJOYS walking a bit."

    We lived in PA for 2 years, in Philly. We never traveled out to Amish country, though they sometimes came into town to sell their goods. I didn't find them to be particularly friendly, but then again, I didn't find many people in Philly to be particularly friendly.

  6. I love this story. Subversive lingerie bags! And I would probably LOVE to get a cold drink if I was out "yard saleing."

  7. Bug--Thanks. We like to think that our customers are Number One with us.

    J@jj--Most of the Amish don't make it a habit to converse with The English. They aren't in the habit of being friendly. There are several exceptions, one notable one being the family who runs the vegetable stand near the entrance to the lake community. We are good customers there, and they've gotten to know us. A few others have patronized our sale, so they've become less stiff around us. And there are varying levels of adherence to the Amish way. It's funny--you'll find some who are perfectly fine with asking English people for a ride here and there; some Amish building crews will use electric tools as long as someone else plugs them in and turns them on; a few will leave their stands open on Sundays, but not staff it, leaving it on the honor system with a money box for payments.

    St. Patsy and I were vastly intrigued when one Amish lady purchased a pair of bright red fuzzy socks to be stowed in her VS bag. Even the babies and children wear the adult versions of the dark Amish garb, so we remain mystified by that sale.

  8. I missed this post while on vacation, but I'm so glad it was still in my In Box! I could totally visualize the whole scenario! How funny you guys are. Smart move on making some income selling cold drinks, too.

    I'm guessing that the fuzzy red socks either make the cold winter bed much more bearable or they're secretly being sent to a child who has left the family/faith (don't know the actual term for that). We learned about a band called The Amish Outlaws recently (longish story), with several of the members actually being Amish and having left. At least one said his parents were okay with it. So maybe this lady has a daughter who has left and she's sending her some love via fuzzy socks. Fuzzy, warm socks mean love to me. ;-)



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