I spent an hour with an Amish family today. The lighting was beautiful and I had my Nikon…tempted as I was to take many pictures, I decided to use my words instead. Everyone can be happy this way.
The child waits at the top of the dirt path on his family’s farm. The dust is clouding around him, and he stands with his arms against his sides and his belly outstretched like an old man staring down strange kids on his lawn. Faras is three. His sandy blonde hair is unkempt and long, flattened against his cheeks where the hat has left it matted with sweat. Dirt streaks his upper lip where a runny nose has met a grimy hand, and a raspy cough confirms a cold. His yellow straw hat has only a circle of black ribbon at its base. His shirt is dark blue, ragged on the left where one sleeve hangs lower than the other. A single suspender crosses his small shoulder, which hooks to the front and opposite end of his black trousers by a loose button. He has about another week before the worn, faded knees of his pants give way to tears and holes. He stands barefoot, and the grass stains on the sides of his feet contrast the mud that cakes his toes and heels. Beside him is his brother Toby, who is just two. His hair is a golden blonde and he wears a similar hat with a dark purple dress. His eyes, blue and hooded, are the most memorable part of his round, sober face. He’s not yet old enough to wear pants like his brother and his father. Toby is following behind Faras, who’s hopping from stone to stone to collect all of the yellow dandelions that remain. Toby teeters cautiously behind, stopping only to pick up one that has gone to seed and put it in his mouth. “Nein.” Their mother emerges from the patio. Steam rises from the white plastic bucket on the floor; there is blood under her nails and on her weathered hands. Two yellow hocks poke out from a feathery mess just behind her, inches from where the baby Anna is playing. Anna is bright-faced, with very little hair. She is wearing a thistle purple smock. She sits with her half-moon arched feet curled under her and one hand in her mouth. At a year old, she crawls; she does not yet walk. The mother wipes her hands on her black apron, tied behind a dark blue, ankle length dress. She has the same sandy hair as Faras but fewer teeth than both boys combined. Her gaping smile fills a face encircled by a black bonnet, and the windblown strands of hair missed by the bonnet have been tucked behind her ears. She has been plucking chickens for dinner and is interrupted when Toby begins to sob. He is standing on a softer part of the ground where the dirt hasn’t dried from an earlier rain. She walks over to him, brushes him off with her hands and picks him up harshly before scolding him: “Schweige,” she scolds, and he stops crying immediately. As she wipes the tears from his eyes, she explains that Toby doesn’t like the mud. On cue, the baby begins to cry and she turns inside to finish the chicken. “Was ist das?” I ask. Toby, still sniffling, holds up his dandelion. “Blume.”