It hit me some time around Operation 12, Step 23 of Section Four. Surrounded by instruction booklets and sundry bits of what might someday be a garden bench, I retreated to an old fantasy. My whirring mind spun into a rich, sordid daydream bent on pulling me away from the pain of tin-sliced hands, sore shoulders and blurring vision.
I realize that delving into a grown man’s twisted fantasies may be inappropriate for a family paper. Still, we all do it and a healthy society depends upon people willing to confess their vices, no matter how lurid. So I must confess my dirty little secret.
Sometimes I fantasize about having Amish neighbors.
It’s true. I have a long-standing dream of residing next door to the hardworking folks of the Old Order. It’s a fantasy that comes up most often when I’m in the midst of some project my “of the world” hands really hate.
The scenario is pretty much the same each time. I’m standing in my backyard wearing my favorite Buddha’s Barbecue and ‘Kraut T-shirt while neighbor Jebadiah and his four hulking sons raise the final wall on my new mower shed. Jebadiah puts his massive hand on my shoulder and squints out from beneath his broad brimmed hat. “Mighty fine lawn shed you got there English,” he says with a smile of satisfied exhaustion. “It’s good of you to let us do all the work for you.”
Meanwhile his wife, Hester, scurries about her kitchen whispering orders to their three comely daughters as they prepare a post-raising feast.
“You’ll need more lard than that if you want that pie dough flaky,” she instructs one of the girls. “Certainly Mr. Mills deserves a flaky crust after such a hard day of watching work being done.”
Later in the evening Jebadiah and I sit over a cup of chicory and talk about that biblical loophole that lets him use battery-operated power tools while Hester and the girls patiently attempt to teach my wife about humility and obedience.
Once in a while the details change. Sometimes the boys are putting in my new water heater or mowing the lawn. But it always involves good, hardworking folks and, of course pie.
As fantasies go, it’s a sweet one.
The Amish neighbor fantasy isn’t my only one. I am, after all, a man of imagination. Before I met my wife I used to fantasize about marrying into a big, Mediterranean family. It would be a massive clan of dark-eyed beauties singing and weeping as they fawned over my exotic pink-skinned beauty. They would all live in huge, old houses reeking of wild oregano and sea salt with grand plank tables straining beneath heaping platters of lamb and calamari and flaming cheeses. When we left, they would stand by the door loading our arms with jars of cured feta and olives to nourish us as we drove home.
The most important element of this particular fantasy is the going home part. While I adore visiting our passionate Mediterranean brethren, I suspect the hugging and hollering would grow old about the time the baklava cooled.
Fantasies are, or course, just that. I doubt the Pennsylvania Dutch will be moving into my neighborhood any day. And in reality, I married a Scott, the one people more notoriously misdirected in the kitchen than the Irish.
But when the sun is scorching your neck and your hands hurt from hammering and instruction 47-B on your new bench calls for a tool you’ve never even heard of, it’s good to have somewhere else to go. Like a secluded tropical beach, just the waves, a 6-foot Asian redhead swimsuit model and me.
And don’t forget the pie. There should always be pie.