Every summer Daddy and Mom planned a trip to Canada to visit Grandpa and Grandma Swarey and all the aunts and uncles.
Mom would spend several days at her sewing machine making new clothes for all of us. It was fun watching her sew my dresses and try them on to see how deep the hem of the skirt needed to be.
We would count down the days until it was time to leave. It was very exciting to help pack our big black suitcase with all our new clothes, and watch as Daddy put a shiny black polish on our shoes to make them look new again. We would take a bath and go to bed. The air of excitement made it hard to fall asleep, but the first thing we knew Daddy was waking us up to get ready. Everything was dark and quiet at three in the morning. We would hurry and get dressed and fill several jugs with water to drink on the way and then wait until the driver arrived.
When the 15 passenger van finally drove into the driveway we all hurried outside as Daddy blew out the lamps and locked the doors. Since Mom had several sisters living in Canada yet, Grandpa and Grandma Mast and aunt Emma and Vernie would travel with us to visit them.
John and I sat on the very last seat, it was bumpy but we didn’t mind. We liked kneeling on the seat and looking out the back window to watch all the other vehicles. I always breathed a sigh of relief when we were safely off the 4 lane roads. They were more than a little intimidating to me because I had heard the preachers say where the wide and broad way leads to and I was terrified if we stayed on the 4 lane long enough we would end up there.
By late afternoon we would arrive at Grandpa Swarey’sand we would all climb out of the van. Grandma Swareywould come bustling out of the house to welcome us and the aunts would soon come and join her. Grandpa Masts would visit for a little bit and then leave to spend time with their daughters.
It was always noisy at Grandpa Swarey’s as everyone seemingly talked at once. Since there were still six of Daddy’s younger brothers and sisters still living with Grandpa’s. His oldest sister, Susie lived there too but after doing her duty in welcoming us she was much more concerned about all the things that needed to be done than enjoy their visitors.
Aunt Ella more than made up for her though. She was very cheerful and had a way of talking with us on the same age level as we were. She had suffered from the dreaded disease of polio which left her crippled. In the evening Grandma would invite all of their married children and grandchildren to come for supper. It used to be fun to play with all the cousins.
Grandpa Swarey was very strict and we never dared to get too rowdy. He never did anything to correct us except bunch his bushy eyebrows together and look sternly at us which always made us quiet down. If we played outdoors we were allowed to make all the noise we wanted to.
Grandpa Swarey’s had a very unique set of toys to play with. There were no animals or dolls to play with because of his convictions that they are graven images. Instead there were empty thread spools to use as animals and plenty of wooden blocks for pens. For dolls Grandma saved empty Dawn dish washing soap bottles and cleaned them and then wrapped them in little blankets. With a healthy imagination we had a lot of fun with those toys!
Want to read more? Visit Mary Ann Kinsinger’s blog A Joyful Chaos.
Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised Old Order Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She met and married her husband, whom she knew from school days and started a family. After they chose to leave the Amish church, Mary Ann began a blog, A Joyful Chaos, as a way to capture her warm memories of her childhood for her own children. From the start, this blog found a ready audience and even captured the attention of key media players, such as the influential blog AmishAmerica and the New York Times. She lives in Pennsylvania.