This is a long and often tragic story, which I will summarize: My maternal grandfather was raised Amish. He never joined the church as an adult, but instead married my Mennonite grandmother. They had six children , but died within two years of each other when the children were little. My mother was raised Methodist, but became a Catholic after she married my Irish Catholic father. When I was in my fifties, I discovered I had a small army of Amish second cousins.
Here’s a poem I wrote about that:
An Only Child on the Family Tree
It’s a European Mountain Ash.
Sometimes called a Rowan tree, it likes
light, peaty soil.
Its pale brown wood, tough and strong,
makes tool handles, cart wheels.
The juice of its berries
heals the bowels.
Its magical powers
revered by Druids.
This one came from Switzerland, though.
Sprouted from an Amish seed
rooted in Pennsylvania.
The trunk set deep aggressive roots
in Leacock township, close to Paradise.
Thickened by weather and loamy earth,
the tough trunk sent out
long branches, branching out from each other
with dozens of offspring from each marriage.
Amazing in May
with its spray of white flowers.
People with no electricity,
terse and clannish,
black pants flapping on the clotheslines.
Women with bare feet like cudgels,
walking behind the plough.
Well tended buggies
drawn by dashing horses,
mahogany hides gleaming
along the narrow roads.
One old twig
growing on an orphaned branch
of a larger branch
broken off by a long ago storm,
I’m looking for a way
for the tree to take me back.