taleblazing . . . travel tales from around the world   . . .
  . previous tale  .
opal fever
. next tale  .
getting to gorky
. more tales  .
. . . . .

Check out Dennis' debut novel
Soul Identity - Dennis Batchelder's debut novel
. . . . .

amish memories
By Dennis Batchelder 15 August 2003

Nana loved the Amish country. She and Papa went there thirty or forty years ago with Uncle Don and Aunt Gwen, and I guess it brought back good memories each time she returned.

Every time Nana came down to Maryland, I’d spend a day with her touring the funny-sounding towns of Blue Ball, Bird in Hand, and Intercourse. Over the last fifteen years, we’ve seen lots of buggies and cows and barns, eaten at most of the area restaurants, and been shopping at every single last Amish tourist trap and market.

On our visits, I was always treated to the details of Nana’s previous Amish country trips. Nana remembered where she ate, where she and Papa camped, where the other tourists were from, where the old dead oak tree used to be, and how many cows were in a particular field the year before. The Amish country was really a special place for her – full of happy memories.

Kathie called and said that she and Nana would fly down to Maryland together, and that it would be Nana’s last trip. She could only walk a couple steps without resting, and she was having a hard time catching her breath. Her memory was failing, and she really struggled to remember names of people and places. But she wanted to see the Maryland branch of her family.

We had a great visit with them when they arrived. Nana told us all that it would be her last trip down, and we made sure that she got to spend time with Mom and Dad, Grandma, Pam, Alison, Holly, Jonathan, Irina, and me. She told us again and again that she didn’t think she’d be able to come back, and we all made sure that we soaked up as much time as we could with her.

Of course we took her to the Amish Country: though Nana was afraid that we wouldn’t be going. She really wanted to “go back to that place, um, what was the name… it’s on the tip of my tongue… where all the people… oh you know… where they have those… I can’t remember what they're called – isn’t that something… the place I like so much.”

Dad, Kathie, Nana, Grandma, and I piled into the car and headed north to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I told Nana that since it was her last trip there, she could choose all the places we’d go. And so we set off.

Nana wasn’t the only person on the trip with a faulty memory. Grandma was keeping up her end just fine. I asked her if she’d ever been to the Amish country, and she said that she was there with her first husband right after they got married. “What was his name?” Nana asked. A long silence followed. Dad prompted, “Was it George?” “Oh, yes, that was his name - George!” said Grandma. “Have I met him?” asked Nana. “I don’t remember – I don’t think so,” said Grandma, “he’s been gone for a while now.” You get the picture – the trips down memory lane were full of blind corners.

We arrived in Intercourse, and Nana wanted to go shopping for a shoo-fly pie. We got her a motorized chair (her first one – imagine that!), and she did a really nice job zipping around the store. Grandma got jealous that she didn’t get to ride on her own motorized chair, but she got over it when i bought her some carob covered apricots.

After the store, Nana wanted to drive around and “just look.” She showed us where she and Papa camped one time. We drove past some more memory-laden places, and ended up at a tourist trap.

The grandmothers were too tired from all the sightseeing to get out of the car. On the other hand, Kathie, Dad and I were dying to get out. So we left them in the back seat, where they were still trying to sort out who George was and what had happened to him.

On the way out, I decided it was safer to lock the car. That way the grandmothers would stay out of trouble. I told them we’d be back in a couple minutes, and we left.

We ended up getting stuck at the jam and pickle store for longer than we expected, and after fifteen minutes, I was feeling pretty guilty for leaving the grandmothers alone for so long. So I bought two bowls of sugar-free ice cream, and headed back to the car.

As I walked through the parking lot, I heard a car alarm that sounded familiar. And I remembered that my car’s alarm system has a motion detector. And I realized that it must be my car making all that noise. Oops.

I ran the rest of the way, slopping ice cream all over my shirt. You can imagine the scene. Grandma was behind the steering wheel, pushing and pulling all the knobs and buttons. Nana was in the back seat, yelling at her to leave it all alone.

I hit the remote. The alarm stopped, and I started apologizing. Nana blamed Grandma for nosing around, and Grandma said Nana caused it by moving too much. I told them that it wasn’t their fault, and that I was the stupid one who forgot to shut off the motion sensor. I don’t think they understood the technical reasons, but it stopped the bickering long enough for me to give them their ice cream.

I went back to wash the ice cream off my shirt, and met up with Dad and Kathie. We went back to the car, and I started apologizing again for the terror I had caused. “What terror?” asked Nana. “The car alarm,” I said. “What alarm?” asked Grandma. “We’ve just been having a good time here, waiting for you to finish,” said Nana.

Some Amish memories are best forgotten.


We were blessed to have Nana and Kathie come and visit us, so close to the end. Nana’s final trip down here was a celebration – we talked about life and death and memories, and what would happen next. As she put it, “If it’s my time, I’m ready. But I don’t want to die, because I don’t want to miss what will happen next.” Four days later, Nana passed away. She might have been ready, but I sure wasn’t.

I’ve been trying to write this story for fifteen months, but I found it really hard to do - these Amish memories for me have become bittersweet. But today Nana would have turned 77, and I figured that if I didn’t get it down now, I'd never do it. So Happy Birthday, Nana – I miss you.

amish memories - usa