I first met Katie when she was barely sixteen. My business was doing well, and my little Italian mother proclaimed that I “needed help with the cleaning”. I was shocked. MY mother suggesting I needed help? But being a good daughter…..I listened! We live near a large Amish community. My friend, Cheryl, had been using Elizabeth to help her clean for a number of years, and Elizabeth suggested her 16-year-old niece. That's how it came about that Katie entered our lives, arriving early one snowy Tuesday morning.
I loved her from the start, and it wasn’t long before she was like a member of the family. Katie is one of the oldest of her 11 siblings. She arrived each week at 6:45 am, kicking off her shoes and socks the moment she walked through the back door. And when Katie cleaned, Katie sang. Always. Religious hymns she learned as a small child. Before too long, Katie was not only cleaning, but cooking meals, packing orders, and filling in wherever she was needed. She filled the house with unabandoned joy. She had such a 'crush' on my son, Jeff, that she blushed whenever he was around! She teased Tommy incessantly. Gently.
Things went well. I had the much-needed help with just-about- everything, and Katie loved us as much as we loved her. When she asked if she could stay overnite, I readily agreed. I could take her to her next job in the morning. First, she had to get the permission of her community’s “Elders”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I wasn’t tickled at the thought of being judged by a group of bearded Amish strangers. What had Katie told them about us? Would we be deemed ‘appropriate’ for this young Amish woman to spend more time with?
We were approved. But I was worried. I had a real heart-to-heart with Jim. He needed to clean up his act! He was not to say “damn” or “hell”, take even a sip of beer or alcohol…and NO television. Did I mention that I was worried? Well… so was Jim. “What are we going to DO with her all evening?”. I told him not to worry, as I knew Katie goes to bed at 9PM.
Things went well. We decided to pop corn and play Monopoly after dinner. And then to my disbelief, Jim offered Katie a beer, and as I heard her response of “Sure”, I was afraid we were going straight to hell! When she asked if she could sleep in Jeff’s waterbed (it's not what you're thinking...he was away at college!), I was sure of it!
Spending time with Katie taught me what was important in life. She lives a “no frills” existence. She doesn't have the encumbrances of material things to weigh her down. She lives a simple life. Her only goal is to help others whenever possible. She fully intends she will go to heaven when her time here is done.
I had to let Katie go 6 years ago when I abruptly ended my business to take care of Mom. She called me every week, and stopped in whenever she could.
Now at the age of 33, she is no longer the shy young Amish girl I met 17 years ago. But now, she brings tranquility to my life that is unequaled. She has taught me patience. And most importantly, she has taught me what it means to have faith.
Katie started back with us last month. She still sings while she cleans. And she still brings peace and calm to my life. But more than anything, she's taught me that life is fragile.
Next: Part 2