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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.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bus Stop

For the past few weeks, I've been watching the same sad drama unfold outside my living room window every morning at about 8:30 AM. It's not that I sit and wait for it; I'm already in my big armchair, reading the newspaper and having my second cup of coffee. Or, if Piper has decided it's Time, I'm having a Snuggle with a huge orange marmalade cat, rendering any movement at all completely impossible. (More than once, I've mistakenly played an Unintentional Word in Words With Friends; it doesn't always work out advantageously.)

But I digress.

At 8:30 in the morning on Mondays through Fridays, a school bus pulls up to the house two doors down, and the sound of a child crying and wailing begins. Soon, a little boy of about six appears, backpack on his back. Sometimes his mother carries him; other times he slowly walks, rubbing his eyes or his head with one hand while holding his mom's hand with the other. It's crying only--no words, no complaints--just a steady bawling which reaches a higher pitch as soon as the doors whoosh open. Each day, the little boy and his mom have been greeted by a cheery, merry bus aide. She calls out his name--it sounds like it might be Charlie? Marty? Barney?--and asks how he's doing. Is he ready for school today? She carefully takes his hand and helps him to walk up the steps to the bus. She won't carry him; he has to walk himself. The doors close, and the bus lumbers away.

The first time this drama unfolded, I initially focused on the little one, naturally. My heart broke for him. He clutched at his mother; he looked so tiny and his backpack looked so large. He's so afraid! I thought. And he has to go on that big huge bus! That poor baby. What if he cries the whole way there? What if someone is mean to him? Then I looked at his mother, who lingered at the end of the driveway, watching and waving, then standing there, hands clasped at her chest. How awful for her! To know that her baby is so sad and so upset, and to be unable to do anything but watch. I remembered my own guilt: I couldn't take my own kids to school on their first day because it was always the first day of school for me, too. I would always spend odd moments of the day wondering. So much of raising children is Heartbreak!

In the ensuing days, the tears have not subsided when the bus comes. Each day, the mother brings the little boy to the bus, still crying. The bubbly aide tries her hardest to jolly him up, but nothing has worked thus far. "He's a little crabby today," said the mother yesterday through the wailing. I wondered why she bothered to say anything. Maybe, though, he does stop crying on the bus at some point. Certainly he would at school. I'm not entirely certain, however; today as I was gathering my mail, the bus dropped him off. He was crying.

All of this is in stark contrast to the other little boy three doors down from me the other way who used to get picked up by a van for his school. A happy-go-lucky sort of kid, he was very hyperactive and didn't seem to have any sort of concerns about going off to school at all. As a matter of fact, one morning as he was leaving, he yelled loudly, "So long, suckas!"

A performance that was never, at least to my knowledge, repeated.

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