Turn off Route 340 in Gap, PA, pull into the gravel driveway, exit your car and walk up the path to the side entrance of a big, white plastered house. Open the door of a spotless mudroom where warm sunshine is beaming through the windows, black boots are lined up inside the door and a wringer washing machine and tub stands in the corner. You’ve just entered “Grussdaudy’s House”, the place where my Amish-Preacher Grandfather and his sweet bride (my grandmother) lived and raised my father – along with his thirteen siblings. I remember my grandfather’s salt and pepper beard tickling my cheeks as he wrapped me in his big hug, and my grandmother’s warm smile and hello, as she welcomed us inside their home.
Our family visited the house pictured above as often as we could. I treasure the busy mornings spent in the kitchen with Grussmommy, making breakfast of eggs and toast with her delectable homemade bread & jellies, along with fried oatmeal or scrapple. With no microwave or modern appliances in sight, it was essential to plan meals ahead of time. As a result, dinner and supper preparations often began in the morning. Grussmommy sent us children to the cellar to fetch canned goods, like a jar of peaches to serve with her delicious homemade chocolate cake for dessert. Sometimes we went outside to hang clothes on the line to dry. Being without the usual amenities was never boring, but instead a delightful and unforgettable adventure.
I loved the smell of fresh wood shavings that greeted anyone entering my Grussdaudy’s cabinet making shop. The fruit of his skilled craftsmanship filled the room. Tables, chairs, benches, hutches, shelves and specially ordered pieces were everywhere. Beside his shop was the phone shanty, used for business calls and emergencies. Sometimes Grussdaudy would take us for a short buggy ride. I can still hear the clip-clop of horse shoes on those Lancaster County roads, and feel the sway of the buggy as the horses turned a corner.
My favorite time at Grussdaudy’s house was in the evening after supper was finished. When the dishes were washed, dried and put away, and all the chores were completed for the day, Grussdaudy lit the kerosene lamps. Their faint hum and soft yellow light flooded the darkening house. We sat together in the great room, playing games, reading books in the soft light, talking and laughing. Grussdaudy sat in his special chair and read the Bible in German. Grussmommy would do needlework or other quiet projects. When it was time for bed, Grussmommy led us up the wooden stairs by the light of a small lamp, where we were tucked into bed with feather pillows and homemade quilts.
I’m thankful to have learned from my grandparents that the Amish are real, loving, gentle and hardworking people, not simply a novelty or quaint show for the rest of us who don’t live in their communities. Their lives are full of much deeper meaning than simply buggies and bonnets. And I thank God for the gift of the beautiful heritage given to me by Grussdaudy & Grussmommy, which I have the privilege of sharing with my children and grandchildren.
Thank you for joining me on this journey called #write31days.
~ Justina Dee
My father’s Anabaptist ancestors left France and came to America in the 1800’s and settled in Lancaster County, PA, where thousands of my relatives still live today. You can visit Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society’s website here to learn some reliable facts about the history of the Mennonite and Amish people.