As you may know if you’ve seen my previous two blog entries, it’s been a rough week; on Monday, I had to have my dog Peri euthanized. In the great realm of human tragedy, this is a mere nothing, but I’ve spent the week feeling shredded and raw even so. And yet there’s comfort in even the greatest pain. In my case, comfort came in the form of kind words and dry noodles.
Tuesday was sunny and relatively warm. (The recent cold snap has defined “warm” as “any temperature above zero that involves two digits.”) I decided it was a sign that I should tamp down my sorrow and go for my first dogless walk in over thirteen years. But to ease myself into the experience, I concluded I should stop first at my Amish neighbors’ house and return the book that Jonas had so randomly and kindly lent me. (He’d flagged me down as I walked by on a bitterly cold day a few weeks ago and handed me a musty red book, saying he thought I would enjoy it. One would think that coming from an elderly Amish man, it would be some kind of religious tract, but both this one and the one he’d lent me a few days previously were more adventure stories with surprisingly feisty heroines. I’m hoping to write more about my Amish book club in a separate entry.)
Anyway, I’d been done with the book for several days and had meant to return it, but Peri’s sudden illness and death had derailed that plan. It was time to re-rail it, though. I thought having a pit stop and a chat with my kindly neighbors would ease the sting of Peri’s absence. And so it proved.
I heard Emma, Jonas’s wife, cheerfully bidding me to come in when I knocked on the door. I entered and was faced with a row of white covered tables, noodles already drying on the end one, and Emma busily kneading dough for the next batch. Despite the lack of central heating and electricity, the room radiated warmth—and so did Emma. She listened sympathetically to the story of Peri’s death. I would have thought that Amish people would be no-nonsense and unsentimental about animals given their austere lifestyle. Not so.
After expressing her condolences, Emma told me about a dog named Skipper that she and her family had loved as intensely as I had loved Peri. He’d gotten old and passed on long before, but there was still a distant look of regret in Emma’s eyes as she told me about him. “Of course,” she added, looking at the family’s current pet Chihuahua, “We like Trixie too. But she is what she is, and no dog will ever be like Skipper.”
Once our bond of commiseration had been established, Emma went on to give me a lesson in noodle making; she was especially profuse in her praises of the Noodle Chef that she’d obtained fairly recently and was using to roll out the dough. I told her how I’d heard that store-bought noodles can never compare to homemade ones, and Emma agreed. Her wheelchair-bound sister Laura rolled over to listen to us, and before I knew it, an hour had passed. I told Emma that I’d best be going since I had to work at the library soon, and I thanked her for her time and teaching. “I tried to make noodles a few years ago, and it was a complete flop,” I told her. “But now you’ve inspired me to try again.”
Emma disappeared into the pantry and re-emerged with a plastic bag of noodles. “These are from before,” she explained, “But they’ll still taste good, and now you’ll know what homemade noodles taste like.”
I walked down the road, blinking in the sun and clutching the Noodles of Human Kindness, feeling like maybe my heart would heal again after all.