Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Courtship Story: The Plot Thickens

Continued from Best Laid Plans

May 2000     Michigan

To recap, I was aware that Chris had sent Dad (Scott*) a letter last month, but could only speculate about its contents. Chris, operating under the delusion that the letter expressing his interest was a secret from everyone but Michael, was awaiting Scott's permission before discussing anything with me. Still, Chris hoped I already had feelings for him. Was it not common, in the tales of blissful courtships, for God to already have prepared the girl to welcome her perfect match?

My siblings dragging Chris inside
When Chris arrived at our crowded farmhouse, though I don't remember what, I'm certain I served up something delicious in his honor. The boys' room opened off the dining room and one of my brothers, probably Amos*, had already offered to sleep on the couch so Chris could have one of the four bunks.

Chris's car had given him some trouble on the journey, so before darkness fell he went out to the driveway to look it over. The rest of the family dispersed and I noticed that Chris was outside alone. Knowing how much companionship meant to him, and feeling a bit sorry that his adorable little sports car had embarrassed him on such an important day (it was a big day, right? perhaps part of some grand romantic scheme?), I joined him. I was glad for the chance to visit alone with Chris, but my radar did not pick up any romantic signals.

My curious inquiries as late as the week before had met with vague responses like "Chris is Michael's friend" and "Chris is coming to visit our family". So, partly to make a statement to all concerned that my life would not be put on hold for anyone's unvoiced expectations and much to Mama's annoyance, I voluntarily scheduled extra hours at work that week. If Chris was truly coming to visit Michael, or "the whole family", he could just do that! At the office, though, when I told my favorite salesman about Chris's visit, he was impressed. Anyone who would drive two thousand miles round-trip in an old Fiat--well! That took some determination. Grrr, this wasn't helping me convince myself that Chris's motives had nothing to do with me! Surely, if they did, I would know by this time?

Andraste marked her high school graduation with other homeschoolers that week, the first of us siblings to have a cap-and-gown ceremony. I was suffering from at least a twinge of envy and was grateful for Chris's company. As we milled around the auditorium both feeling a little lost, Chris filled me in on the latest gossip about mutual acquaintances--who was courting whom and whose courtships had not worked out. Chris did not reveal any out-of-the-ordinary interest in Andraste, but then, I could not detect that he had any new feelings toward me, either! Alone with Chris in the crowd, I cherished the rare opportunity to visit with my good friend; at the same time, it was utterly maddening.

On Sunday, several of us, including Chris and I, decided to tag along with Amos to attend an Amish church service way out in the country. In the car, I treated Chris to an Italian aria I had recently learned from my voice teacher, and helpfully gave him the English translation: "Victory, my heart! Bondage to love is over." Naturally, he wasn't sure how to interpret this musical outburst!

When we arrived at the farm in the middle of nowhere (I still don't know where we were), we girls stood out sorely with our flowing hair and printed dresses. Some people arrived in buggies. Separate entrances admitted men and women into the building where the service was to be held. I had spent my teens reading about "singings" in authentic Amish romance novels, but this was the closest I'd come to experiencing one. At twenty-four years old, I was probably the oldest single girl in the room. We sat on backless benches and sang gospel songs a capella, reading the lyrics by gas light since the place lacked electricity. We had a long drive home in the dark to process the whole surreal evening.

The week went on, with Chris signalling nothing and me giving as many contradictory signals as possible. I tried to tell myself there were no secrets afoot, but could not dismiss the fact that Chris had mailed Dad a letter. Could that mean... Courtship? Was this what I had been keeping myself for? Despite sermons decrying them, I knew well what crushes felt like and I did not have a crush on Chris. Though I couldn't bring myself to think the words "sexual interest", I knew there was none. No romantic attraction. No unhealthy "soul tie". I had told Dwight Fredrickson as much back in his Headquarters office when he expressed concern about Chris and I associating too closely. "I am not here to find a husband!" I had declared with spirit. And I'd meant it.

Growing bolder by the day, I now studied Chris's hairy arms, the hands he never knew what to do with, his long bony fingers, the curve of his ass in jeans. I had fantasized many things about various men, but never about Chris. And I couldn't bring myself to start now. Did he find me attractive? Could that possibly be why he was here??

Rolling down the dune
On my day off, the whole family took an excursion to the sand dunes by the lake. Chris let my siblings bury him in the sand, and I got comfortable enough, or giddy enough, to roll down the dune with the others. This was a mild flirtation because my pleated denim skirt wound up high enough to reveal the long lace-edged homemade bloomers underneath--and I just knew my mother was watching my bold "immodesty". Displaying my undergarments to Chris on the dune!

On the morning of Chris's departure, I made a point of saying goodbye before I left for work. He was still pajama-clad when we shook hands in the kitchen. I don't know why I expected it, but all morning I thought about Chris's route and hoped he would surprise me at the office before leaving town. Maybe if he could see me alone, he could clear up the mystery that had hung suffocatingly in the air all week. What was the good of secrecy, anyway?

But Chris didn't come.

*Names are pseudonyms.

Continue reading at In Which Things Get Messy


  1. Found your blog through reading about former ATI people. I was never part of it, but my family and I were in a cult (though not fully immersed) for three years that strongly upheld Gothard and Pearl teaching. We kept our faith but I have been trying to make sense of it all. Anyway, just thought I should introduce myself as I have been so enjoying binging on your blog-particularly your courtship story.