BY KEVIN L. WILLIAMS
Do you hear me? I’m talking to you. Across the water across the deep blue ocean. Under the open sky, oh my, baby I’m trying. – Jason Mraz & Colby Callait, Lucky
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Michigan north of Grand Rapids can be a lonely place. US 131 snakes north towards Traverse City like a frozen garden hose, through sparsely populated pine barrens and gently rolling hills. Small cities cling to 131 offering diners that serve breakfast all day and mom-and-pop motels that beckon the weary traveler. But I wanted none of those now. I was on my way someplace special: Manton, Michigan.
Ever since I had left my wife behind in Ohio the day before, my mind had been swirling with questions. Why would I want to have cameras following me around for what I was told would be 10 hours a day, 6 days a week? It was crazy. But the reality is I felt like I didn’t have a lot of choice given the opportunity. I would be crazy to do it, but I’d be equally crazy not to do it. Pay, by the way, for “reality TV participants” is pretty minimal, unless your show really takes off. Think Honey Boo Boo or Snookie. The real appeal for me was the exposure it would give the column, our cookbooks, and the website. The exposure would put my business on sound ground for years to come and I would become a better person in the process. I’m not a big believer in panaceas, but this sure seemed like one.
The lights of Grand Rapids had long ago faded in my rearview mirror and I contemplated the empty, desolate drive ahead.
There was another reason for pursuing it. It seemed like it was finally “my turn.” I’ve watched production companies create works of fiction about the Amish (think, Amish Mafia), cash in on the public interest, and go laughing all the way to their bank. I didn’t want to laugh or even go to the bank, but if I could have a hand in producing something wholesome, respectful, and special and strengthen my business in the process then I was all for it. This seemed like the route to go. It felt like it was truly “my turn.”
“This will work, honey, I promise,” I assured her as I kissed Rachel goodbye and headed to Manton.
When I arrived in Manton my instincts were accurate. The Amish of Manton proved to be a very welcoming group and they are less opposed to pictures than others. One Amish man who saw me carrying my camera even asked me if I could take his photo. Soon after my arrival I met a young Amish farmer and we struck up a conversation about my project. He said since his children were young he could definitely use an extra hand on the farm. They even had a guest cottage on their property that I would be welcome to use as my living quarters during my stay. Yes, there was the issue of cameras and the publicity, but he didn’t think that would be a major issue. Still, he wanted to talk it over with his wife and church before committing. I told him that I needed a decision from him within two weeks. I left for home riding a wave of hope. Finally, Rachel, things would turn out well for us. Finally, Lovina, The Amish Cook column would get the exposure I so longed for.
But as I headed for home something was nagging at me. I wanted to meet Bill and Tricia Moser. The Mosers are successful Seekers, one of the few families I know of who have successfully gone from living English to becoming Amish. In the Mosers story I saw some of my own. I’m not sure I could have ever become Amish, I’m not sure that’s what I ever wanted. But part me is so drawn to Plain churches, I thought if I heard the Moser’s story first-hand it might help me understand myself a bit better.
I turned my car southeast and headed for the community of Marion where I learned they lived. I got an address from the most recent Michigan “Amish directory.” I entered their address into my GPS and it took me deep into the central thumb of Michigan, squeezing over a fragile one-lane bridge, onto a tight gravel lane, and then I saw the house….my heard began racing….soon I could visit the Mosers and hopefully come away with some answers about what might have been in my own life had I chosen that path….The Moser’s house grew closer and a wave of unease swept over me.
“This will work, honey, I promise.”
I thought of Rachel back home….
“I hear you in my dreams. I feel your whisper across the sea, I keep you with me in my heart. You make it easier when life gets hard.” Jason Mraz and Colby Callait, “Lucky”
TO BE CONTINUED