Some people are simply born into the wrong family, I thought, recalling my disappointing morning. My parents were older, and being the only child in the house since my sole sibling, Mahlon, married seven years ago, I’d come to believe that all the other families in our Plain community were more close-knit and interesting than my own.
Then, when the Gingeriches moved into the farmhouse near us, it seemed like an answer to prayer. Quickly, they became as close as any of my blood kin here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Closer, really.
So I could hardly wait to visit them whenever possible. And this fine October afternoon—a Lord’s Day set apart for reflection and visiting family—was no different.
The sky was the color of Mammi Speicher’s Blue Willow plates and just as sparkling, too. No matter the weather or my circumstances, though, the divine peace of the Lord’s Day reminded me to count my blessings. Dawdi Benuel, my father’s father, had urged me to do the same.
Only this morning Dawdi had asked, “Do ya realize you spend more daylight hours over at the Gingeriches’ than ya do round here, Leona?” We were feeding the livestock.
Neither my father nor mother had ever voiced this, not being ones to share their feelings much. But I supposed Dawdi Benuel was right and had every reason to say so. In that single look from him, standing there beside the feeding trough, I had witnessed a hint of frustration, perhaps even disapproval—not that it could change my affection for Gloria Gingerich and her family.
My mind jolted back to the present as, unexpectedly, I heard someone coming on the opposite side of the road. Nearing, I saw it was my lanky cousin, Orchard John, looking nearly like a large crow in his black broadfall trousers and Mutze—frock coat.
“Leona,” he called, “if you’re headed to see Gloria, she’s not home.” He crossed the road to me. “Seems odd ’cause they’re all home ’cept her. How’s that figure?” He grimaced and shook his head.
Since John had been courting my seventeen-year-old friend for nearly a year now, I assumed he had a right to wonder. “Did they say where she is? You could’ve waited for her to return, maybe.”
“Not sure when she’ll be back.” John gave me a wave as he kept going, clearly peeved at coming all this way for naught. His father’s one-hundred-and-fifty-acre orchard of fifteen varieties of apples, as well as cherries, prune plums, and peaches, was more than a mile away on Farmdale Road, so I couldn’t fault him. Even so, it wondered me why he hadn’t made plans with Gloria beforehand, like usual.
As for me, I would be content to visit with Gloria’s mother for the time being. Jeannie Gingerich’s big blue eyes always lit up when I knocked on the back door, and her warm greeting made me smile. Oh, such a babblich and vibrant woman, seemingly interested in whatever I had in mind to tell her. Still youthful and perty, too—no more than forty, surely. All the things my own Mamma wasn’t.
And Gloria’s father, Arkansas Joe, was charming in his own right, always making me feel comfortable in the house, drawing me into conversation—unlike my own Dat—joking with me, kidding me like he did his own children.
The perfect family . . .
Slowing my pace, I breathed in the damp, woodsy scent of autumn and savored the view of sugar maples aflame with deep crimson along the road where it dipped, then crossed over a creek.
I caught sight of the Gingeriches’ redbrick house ahead and hurried my steps, anticipating the prospect of spending time there. This was the home where I’d played Dutch Blitz, baked apple dapple for dessert, and made faceless dolls out of leftover dress fabric. Oh, the many fun-filled days we’d shared together!
A family of five deer moved through a thicket of leaves in the woodland over yonder and then scampered out of sight. Forever friends are sometimes closer than kinfolk, I thought. A blessing, for certain!
And after these wonderfully happy years living side by side, I had every reason to believe the future with my dear sister-friend would be as bright as the afternoon sun.
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Beverly Lewis, born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, is the New York Times bestselling author of more than ninety books. A keen interest in her mother’s Plain heritage has inspired Beverly to write many Amish-related novels, beginning with The Shunning, which has sold more than one million copies and was recently made into an Original Hallmark Channel movie. In 2007 The Brethren was honored with a Christy Award. She has been interviewed by both national and international media, including Time magazine, the Associated Press, and the BBC. Beverly lives with her husband, David, in Colorado.
Her latest release is The Wish.