by Linda Byler
By Linda Byler,
Author of Running Around (and Such): Lizzie Searches for Love, Book I
Lizzie Glick noticed the change in Dat one evening when he came in from checking things over at the pallet shop one last time before bed. He stood at the sink, washing his hands much longer than usual. Lizzie watched her father from the corner of her eyes, knowing something was about to give.
Things had been tense between Dat and Mam for more than a week, ever since Dat had announced he wanted to move to the new settlement and try his hand at farming. Mam most decidedly did not want to go. Her despair and total dislike of the whole idea had turned the usual peaceful, happy atmosphere of the Glick home tense.
Lizzie and her sisters had done the best they could to keep the peace, trying to understand Dat's ambition to become a farmer like his father and brother-in-law, even as they knew Mam didn't want to move again.
Lizzie thought she knew how Dat felt. There wasn't much of a challenge in Jefferson County anymore. The house was almost paid for, there were few financial concerns, and the pallet shop made an easy living. Dat was bored.
"Annie," Dat said.
Lizzie's heart leaped to her throat at his tone of voice. Dat meant business. Here it comes, she thought wildly. We're moving.
Dat dried his hands on the dark green towel, then turned to face his wife and daughters before he sat down opposite Mam at the kitchen table. He took a deep breath.
"Annie," he said a second time. "Doddy Glick and Daniel were here at the pallet shop this afternoon again."
Mam stiffened, her fingers working the straight pin in and out of her dress, which she often did when she was nervous.
Lizzie bit down hard on her lower lip, drying a plate over and over again.
"They want me to go along over to Cameron County to look at a farm. It's only about two miles from Daniel's place and four or five from Doddy's place. "
"I'm not going, Melvin."
"Ach, Annie, I thought you said the decision was up to me. If I make a choice, can't you find it in yourself to honor it?"
"I didn't say I wouldn't move. I said I'm not going along to look at the farm. You know I don't want to move, Melvin, but I have no choice if you decide to go."
"Annie, why don't you want to?"
"Melvin, think a little!" Mam's voice rose, desperation almost making her choke.
Lizzie felt like running out of the kitchen, her hands over her ears, far away where she'd never have to hear this painful conversation. Her older sister, Emma, sat quietly at the table, playing with their little twin sisters, KatieAnn and Susan.
Mam continued, "Emma will soon be 16 years old. She has all her friends and interests here. As far as I know, there are no other youth in that . . . that settlement, Cameron County, whatever you want to call it."
She clenched her hands.
"Another thing, Melvin," she continued. "We've talked of this before. How do you know we can make a living farming? You've never farmed. You don't know the first thing about it. Even if Uncle Eli gives you a good price for the pallet shop, the cost of starting up, with cows and equipment plus the farm itself, is completely frightening."
Dat sighed. He pleated the tablecloth with his fingers, then he sighed again, watching Mam's face as she stared at the floor.
"Where's your faith, Annie?"
Mam made a sound much like a snort. "I guess I don't have any where Cameron County is concerned. I'm so afraid we're making a big mistake. The Ordnung here is plainer; our young people are well behaved -- "
Lizzie thought of high heels and ice cubes in the refrigerator and gas stoves with a broiler to make toast. "Do they wear high heels in Cameron County?" she blurted out.
Dat glared at her, clearly perturbed that she should even think of anything like that at a time like this. Mam tried to hide her smile, but Lizzie could tell she had to laugh.
Lizzie had loved heels forever. Ever since Mrs. Bixler had stopped in for a visit with Mam when Lizzie was five years old, Lizzie had wanted to grow up to wear shoes like Mrs. Bixler had -- shiny and white with high heels. Maybe Cameron County was her chance to wear fancy things.
Watching the brief smile on Mam's face, Lizzie said, "Because if they do, I'm going to wear them."
Mandy, Lizzie's younger sister, yelled out from the living room, "Me, too!"
There was silence for a while, and not altogether a comfortable one. No one was smiling about wearing high heels anymore. Mam and Dat both looked desperately unhappy again. Mam broke the silence with a sigh.
"Well, Melvin, you know I am supposed to submit like every good Amish wife should. And I will go along if that's your decision." That was said in a much softer tone of voice, but there was a line of steel running through it, too.
Dat looked at Mam, then looked away. Lizzie knew that her mother thought Doddy Glick was responsible for all this. Dat always wanted to have his father's approval and praise. It was just how Dat was, Lizzie realized.
"I need a challenge again," he said. "Besides, I farmed growing up. I know how to milk cows, load hay, plow, and till the soil. I know plenty."
Suddenly enthused, excitement lighting up his blue eyes, he said, "Well, I'll tell you what, Annie. I'll go look at the farm, and if it's alright, I'll come back, and you and the girls can look at it before I buy it, okay?"
Mam didn't answer.
"I want to," Lizzie said. Emma and Mandy nodded.
"It's 120 acres. Can you girls imagine how much you would have to do? There's a large creek bordering the property and hills to sled-ride! Doddy said it would be perfect for you girls."
"It sounds exciting," Emma said politely, but her heart clearly wasn't in it.
Dat's smile folded up like an unplayed accordion. The light went out of his eyes just as quickly, leaving his face a picture of disappointment mixed with false bravado. His shoulders sagged, and he turned to go into the living room, first looking searchingly at Mam, who would not return his gaze.
Lizzie felt sorry for Dat, she really did. She knew how much it meant to him to be able to buy a farm and live in a new community. She wished Mam wouldn't act so stubborn and would be nicer to Dat about moving.
Later that evening, lying in the bed that they shared in the little room at the top of the stairs, Mandy told Lizzie, in her wiser-than-her-years kind of way, that a husband should honor his wife's wishes.
"But, Mandy . . . " Lizzie said lamely.
"I don't care, Lizzie. I don't care what you say. If Dat loved Mam with all his heart he would not make her move to a place she does not want to go. I pity her so much I can hardly stand to even look at her poor face. Her hair is so gray, Lizzie. She coughs all the time."
Mam's hair was turning completely gray so rapidly it almost scared Lizzie, especially since she so often looked pale and tired, too.
Lizzie rolled over to face Mandy. "Mam is not pitiful. She's stubborn."
"Lizzie!" Mandy was furious. She seized her pillow and flung it at Lizzie.
"You don't know one tiny bit, Lizzie Glick!" she yelled. "You were always Dat's pet. You can read German better, drive ponies better, and you even stole nails out of the nailer and he never blinked. So why wouldn't you pity Dat? Huh? Huh?"
Lizzie muffled her giggles in her pillow, but her shaking shoulders gave her away.
Mandy made a fist and got a few good raps on Lizzie's shoulders. "So there. You don't have to have such a righteous attitude about Mam. I pity her. You can just see how hard she's struggling to let Dat have his own way."
She plopped down on her side of the bed, turned her back to Lizzie, and mumbled a "Good-night." It didn't sound like a real "Good-night"; she just kind of swallowed the word till it sounded like "Gnat."
"Gnat!" Lizzie said loudly.
There was a sputter and Mandy burst out laughing. She snorted and laughed, rolling off the bed, hitting the floor with a whump, all the while whooping and laughing. It was so infectious, Lizzie stuck her head in her pillow and laughed along with her.
"Be quiet!" Emma called from her room.
"What is going on?" came Mam's anxious voice from the bottom of the stairs.
"M-M-Mandy fell out of bed," Lizzie gasped. "Gnat, Mam!" Mandy called, which reduced them both to helpless waves of mirth.
Mam had flown up the steps to see what was going on. She shook her head and then leaned down and blew out the kerosene lamp that sat on the table next to the girls' bed.
"Sleep tight," she said as she closed the bedroom door.
Soon Mandy's breathing became regular and even, accompanied by soft little snores. But Lizzie lay awake, a thousand thoughts and fears swirling through her mind.
She wondered what God thought about all this. She also wondered if he cared. Surely Dat had prayed for direction. She wondered if Dat and Mam had asked God for exactly opposite things. How could he answer each of them fairly?
Lizzie rolled over and rearranged the blankets. Mam had said there were hardly any young people in Cameron County. What would that mean for Emma and her, so close to 16 but with no one to date? Besides, she had heard that the bishop in Cameron County was strict, so she would probably never have high heels or anything fancy at all, so what did boys matter anyway?
And of course there was the farm, too. What if Mam was right and Dat wasn't a farmer? Then they'd live in Cameron County with no money. She had absolutely no clue what the farm looked like. Dat didn't even know. Why wouldn't Mam go with him to say if she thought it was alright to live there? What if it was so old and tumbledown, it wasn't even fit to live in? What if they had no money to fix it up? Mam would stay angry and grouchy for the rest of her life. It was all too troubling to think about.
The above is an excerpt from the book Running Around (and Such): Lizzie Searches for Love, Book I by Linda Byler. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Reprinted from Running Around (and Such). Copyright © by Good Books (www.goodbooks.com). Used by permission. All rights reserved.