Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Kindred Spirit

The first time I met Mrs. Miller was at the town dump, well close to the town dump. She had her wagon parked on the main road where everyone around here turns in on Saturday and brings their trash. A more entrepreneurial type would call it a great location. Set up in front of her wagon was a table with all sorts of pies, gorgeous produce, jams, cookies and candies. Inside her wagon were two darling daughters making pot holders. No idle time for these children. The oldest  helped her mother deal with customers and make change as necessary. She was there with her wagon and her girls every Saturday of the summer selling her wares and her wares were good! We would do neighborly chat about gardening and  cooking and meet again the next week.

When strawberry season came Mrs. Miller had the best berries around, the most flavorful and the biggest quart boxes you ever saw. One night she and her daughter drove their wagon to our home to see if we needed some more strawberries and of course we did. This is a small town where everyone knows where everyone lives and it was delightful to see her wagon come up the drive with its beautiful gelding pulling the load.

This year Mrs. Miller's berries were so good that I had to have more.  After work I drove to her home on a quiet dirt back road. I bought the last of the  strawberries from one of her 7 daughters, the one assigned to work  the little stand out front of their home. When Mrs Miller saw my car she came out to chat. We talked raspberry blight, deer flies, weather. She and her daughters wore their summer bonnets while working around the home and I just couldn't help admiring Mrs. Miller's. They were of a cotton organdy. The crown of the bonnet was ironed into the finest stiff pleats, less than a 1/ 4 inch deep. Where the tiny pleats met the brim was what I really couldn't help staring at. Each pleat was a perfect matching depth and stitched to the band  with the tiniest of stitches along the idea of a fagotting stitch. The thread crossed a one eight inch space between the brim and the crown. It was perfection in execution.  She promised to come by the house when the raspberries came into season. I couldn't get these bonnets out of my mind.And where did the fabric come from?

Yesterday afternoon as I drove home from work I passed a UPick Rasberry sign and wondered if Mrs. Millers were in yet. I stopped by the home  and yes, they were in . After handling our transaction it was time to chat and I asked her daughter if she purchased her bonnets or made them. She smiled as if the thought of buying the bonnet was comical and told me they made them. I asked where they got the lovely fabric and she insisted on getting her mother, who was quite busy, to tell me. Mrs. Miller came out and beckoned me into the house. I didn't want to intrude but she is so friendly. When I passed through that doorway,  behind her and her trailing dark skirts, my breath was taken away. The beauty of the utter simplicity of her home stopped me in my tracks. She was in the midst of canning her peas. A spare trestle table, surely made by her husband, was covered in spotless white vinyl. Sparkling glass jars loaded with hundreds of fat little peas were arranged on the table. All I could think of was that I had walked into a Rembrandt. This very very large room was the kitchen. It had no cabinets. It was ruled by the 5 foot wide black enamel wood fired stove, a beautiful beast , that sat center stage along the empty long wall of the room. It was filled with copper pots of all sizes, dinged and dented but polished to showroom shine. What remained in the room, opposite the trestle table, was a simple sink and counter and a pump to bring up water.

We sat at the table with her jars of peas and discussed fabric and bonnets. She could not tell me enough about them. It was clear she loved to sew, loved fabric, and even had a stash. She showed me the different organdies she used and the advantages of each. She ran out to a mysterious room behind a curtain and produced a box of fabric samples from her source, Stauffer's Dry Goods in Pennsylvania. We went through the samples. There were many. Then she explained how she got her tiny stitches and pleats, all  so perfectly straight and matched. She admired my bag and asked if I made it. I was honored that she even noticed, but another passionate sewist always notices these things. We talked and talked. I left with an order form for Stauffers and a promise to bring some of my smocking to show her. She clearly loves her way of life but is very interested in how others, the "English" live and loves to talk and learn about it. I felt like I had found someone with the same  passion for fabric, hand work, and sewing. She just could not tell me enough about her sewing.  I know I will go back to Mrs. Millers. On the surface our lives are VERY different. In reality, we have a lot in common....

The other day Mrs. Millers husband came up our drive by mistake. He tied off his horse and my husband walked him through the woods to a neighbors where he would close a deal to put a dormer on the roof. This is the world I live in. Sometimes it can be isolating and other times it is very very special...Bunny

26 comments:

  1. My goodness - a horse drawn cart - very quaint - sounds just charming!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is amazing! I wish you could have taken a picture of the bonnets and the kitchen!

    ReplyDelete
  3. There have been many times when I was canning in my hot kitchen or gardening in my plot that I wished I had some "plain" folk around to answer my many questions. How nice to have such an interesting community. Thank you for sharing such a great story.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really enjoyed reading this story. Isn't it amazing how you both live in the same part of the world, at the same time, but have such very different lives? There's a lot to be said for what we call "the simple life".

    ReplyDelete
  5. Please, please write more about the Millers. What a gorgeous buggy and gelding, and what a lovely picture.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a lovely story. Thank you,
    Terry

    ReplyDelete
  7. You must write more of the Millers. What a great post!

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a beautiful "story", Bunny. And so beautifully written -- felt as though I were reading a fine novel!
    That way of life is certainly intriquing and I envy you the diversity that your little village affords. Would love to see those bonnets!
    Cissie

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, your writing had my imagination formulating detailed images of Mrs. Miller's kitchen and bonnets.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My first thoughts were "surely Bunny is not that old!" lol. Then I understood. You have a beautiful way with words and telling a story. I really felt I was there.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It sounds like you've found a kindred soul. Their way of life is hard for me to imagine, but it must be so peaceful. You are so lucky...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Bunny, you're an "old soul" in a very young body! How wonderful that you've met a kindred spirit to share your passions.

    I know well the Mennonite or Amish bonnets you've described. The Amish built this home & did all the framing for every single on in our development. They don't live far from here & are occasionally seen shopping.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with them.

    fondly,
    Rett

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hola Bunny... esta semmana he leido intensamente tu relatos.. nesecitaba algo de manulidades y ... vine a ti... voy a esperar que publiques de nuevo sobre la Sra milller... estube visitando tu block leyendo ese articulo que habla del smocking.. y estube investigando.. he retomado un poco la aguja... tengo dos proyectos en mente... un bolso de noche y un costurero.. ambos con estas puntadas en el...
    un beso.. ha si escribes ponto capittone veras cosas maravillosas en la web...

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really enjoyed this post, Bunny! We live in a small town too and if you are calling someone and dial it wrong, you still end up talking to the person you called for 15 or 20 minutes. :) I love it and I wish I could meet you and the Millers' in person. Thanks for sharing about them.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Bunny you are a marvelous story teller.
    Those bonnets must be awesome !!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. How wonderful - it is amazing how kindred spirits in thread recognize each other! Their whole way of life, reminds me of old Bert Southwick around here, who up until a few years ago, still delivered his eggs and butter around town in a horse drawn cart. It was a town thing, we all knew Bert and his green cart. Some years, the mare would have a foal which would be tied to the back of the cart and would come along on Bert's route.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love the picture you included in the post...doesn't that just say it all! Glad you found a kindred spirit!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wonderful story. Thank you for writing and sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I loved your story. Thanks for sharing with us!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Bunny, I loved your story. It made me feel like I was with you. A few weeks ago I went to Lancaster, PA and experienced some of what you wrote. I hope that you get to visit the Miller's again and share the experience with us. Thank you. Gita

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Bunny,
    I've been following your blog and have learned lots from your tutorials. I am excited about your order from the dry goods store. I see they are in Snyder county and I grew up in Union county. I hope to go for a visit in the fall and I'll have to go check out that store.
    Thanks, Jeannie

    ReplyDelete
  22. WOW! Just WOW!
    I'm wondering Mennonite or Amish?
    Love the story and the picture of the horse and buggy. Thank you!
    Off to google Stauffer's Dry Goods in Pennsylvania! I'm thinking they probably DON'T have a website though. :-(
    I'd love to see the bonnets also, although taking a picture of them might be a no-no I'm thinking?

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love reading this post. I grew up in Indiana which is close to an Amish community. I love the peacefulness of the Amish lifestyle. Does Mrs. Miller sew all by hand? Many Amish that I know will use electricity at a location for a specific amount of time. They often use a Bernina!

    ReplyDelete
  24. WOW! I really enjoyed this post. It took me back to childhood. I'm from a large family & growing up my father used to go the the Amish farms to get eggs, milk & cheese. It brought back many wonderful memories. Sometime my family and our neighbor's family would go together and they allowed us chidren watch as they milked the cows etc. The Amish are so pleasant to be around. Thanks for re-kindling the memories.

    ReplyDelete
  25. You are right, Omega. They are very pleasant and sociable people. Cindy, our local Amish community is very old school and will tell you that. They use no electricity and it is ripped out of the homes they buy as soon as they move in. Mrs. Miller has a treadle machine which her daughter was using the day I visited. Did you know they do not use buttons? All of their clothing is pinned with straight pins. Buttons are considered "fancy" and therefore not appropriate. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences with this special community of people.

    ReplyDelete

Engaging commentary: