We moved to the farmhouse in Kinzers, Pennsylvania when I was five years old.The few memories I have of the years leading up to that are of the scorching heat in Texas: first in Laredo, where I saw a real, live road runner; then in Mesquite, where we shared a home with my uncle, aunt and two cousins.
We arrived in Pennsylvania in the winter, as I remember it. I had no idea that air could get that cold, or that farmhouses could smell so bad, or that a strange place could feel so much like home. For the first time, there were actual visits with grandma, and not just her voice on a recorded cassette tape sent through the postal service. My twenty-or-so cousins were like guaranteed friends. I watched my parents interact with people we knew in every store we visited, seemingly on every street.
The farmhouse we lived in had two separate living quarters, and with my family occupying one side. An Amish family lived in the other side. I didn’t know what to think of the Amish at first – I guess I watched my parents. But they were at ease with them, spoke Pennsylvania Dutch to them, so I relaxed.
One of the first days we lived in that farmhouse, the neighbors came over to say hello and retrieve some things from our side of the attic. The father’s name was Amos – he looked very serious, with a wiry frame and a black beard. His son came with him. We looked curiously at each other from opposite sides of our fathers’ legs.
They walked out with two pairs of ice skates. I had seen ice skating on “It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown,” but never thought it was something people actually did. Later in the day the little Amish boy came back and asked me if I wanted to go sledding. I looked quickly at my mom.
He and I, only six years old, struggled through the snow, across the fields to a small hill. The fact that we were allowed to wander the countryside at that age reminds me of what a different time it was, and how comfortable my parents must have felt to be returning to the place they knew.
The boy went first, his plastic sled swishing down the snowy hillside, his voice shouting and laughing all the way down. The cold ate at my nose, made my eyes sparkle, while, inside my warm clothes, I was wet with sweat. The sky glared off the white. This place was so different from Texas – I could have been on the moon.
I sat down on my sled, pushed with my hands (lost in borrowed, oversized gloves), and off I went.