I drove past Salvation Army today, another Wednesday Family Day where clothes are half off, meaning the parking lot is over full. And I remember my excitement, two years ago, when we drove past the SA for the first time on the way into town. It was late, much too late to be hauling most of our earthly belongings the second half of a 700-mile journey. But I was relieved to see the SA. And the Wal-Mart. Two familiar signs in a land of foreignness.
Two years ago, you see, we moved from Charleston, Illinois, where we had lived for a year, to Myerstown, Pennsylvania, where we have now lived for two years, so that my husband could begin attending seminary. Not only was this an entirely different state, it was a culture much unknown to us.
Moving to Charleston after we got married was not as much of a stretch. My husband had lived there during a previous stint at Eastern Illinois University and we were still in our home state. We knew who the governor was, even if we thought he was nuts, and how to pronounce his name, even if we couldn’t spell it (Blago-j? y? a? vich?). We knew its history, thanks to fifth grade, and who its famous people were. We didn’t have to ask, “Where is that, again?” every time people told us where they lived. The grocery and retail stores had the same names as the ones at which we shopped at home.
All of that changed when we moved to Pennsylvania.
But in the past two years, we’ve adapted, like most people who move from one state to another do. I’m not saying we’ve done anything incredible in the eyes of the world, but as I look back, I realize how much fear and wonder has been replaced by comfort and familiarity.
I no longer rush to the window hoping to catch a glimpse of an Amish buggy as it clip-clops down the street. I happily shop at grocery stores called Dutchway, Hornings and Giant. We don’t get lost as much when we go out for a drive, an errand or something fun. And I’m learning, little by little, what it means to be Pennsylvania Dutch.
We’re well settled in, but to most of our community, we’re still the newbies. Most of the people we know have lived here all their lives and if they leave, it’s for vacation. (We sometimes joke that central Pennsylvanians think the world ends at the Mississippi River.) Their families live here, something we often envy. And they know that “Kumm Esse,” the name of a popular diner in town, is an invitation to eat, not a random placing of letters on a sign.
At his current pace, my husband is halfway done with seminary. And Myerstown has become home. Not a replacement for the home from which we came, but an addition to our lives.
We may not be called to be here longer than it takes my husband to complete his education, but if we are, I won’t be sad. I’m just not sure I’ll ever really be Dutch. I think you have to be born into it. They say around here, jokingly I hope, “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” I wonder if they adopt.