Amana Rag Balls #7

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘mad.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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Elsie thought she would miss attending classes with her friends and classmates. Yet, something had shifted with the decision of where she’d be working, now that she was of the age of fourteen. There were brief moments over the next few days where she found an empty spot, as if something vital were missing. But she didn’t feel bursts of anger and mad emotions like she expected. Instead, she felt a jumble of excitement as she thought of her new duties and she wondered what they’d entail.

At the next church meeting on Sabbath day, Elsie offered up a silent prayer of thanks to the Lord. She was thankful for having such a loving father that he’d intercede with the Council on her behalf. She also expressed her thanks and gratitude that Herr Klein was so compassionate in rendering his final decision.

It took her a long time to fall asleep that night, anxious about what the new day would bring. Despite getting a late start to her slumber, when she heard the rooster crowing she flew out of bed, lit the kerosene lamp and dressed in a flash. She scurried to the kitchen where her mother stood at the stove tending a sizzling pan of frying bacon.

“You’re up bright and early, daughter. Are you excited about your first day of work with Fraeulein Helga?”

“I am. I could hardly sleep last night. I hope I’ll be an able student and will learn the task of rug weaving well.”

Elsie’s mother laid the fork down on the iron trivet and retrieved a wrapped item sitting on the counter. “Here. Tuck this into your skirt pocket when you leave. A slice of bread and two cookies.”

“I’m sure we’ll partake of a noon meal at one of the community kitchens.”

“Most likely. But in case you get hungry before your appointed meal time. Always nice to have a little nibble available should the need arise. Now grab a plate and sit. Bacon’s ready and so is your egg.”

Elsie polished her plate clean, yet never realized it. Her mind was spinning in a flurry, apprehensive thoughts sparking new worries and concerns. After placing her dirty plate in the enamelware wash tub, she tucked her packet of nourishment in a pocket, gave her mother a peck on the cheek and dashed out the door.

She was out of breath when she arrived at Fraeulein’s large weaving shed. Not sure if she’d hurried too quickly, or if she was just nervous, Elsie turned the knob and tentatively pushed the door open. She barely stepped inside before halting, as if afraid to venture further into the strange room.

A plump, red-cheeked woman turned from a loom where she was passing a shuttle. The wisps of gray hair that dangled around her face defied containment to the tight bun on top of her head. She smiled broadly and merriment shone from her eyes. “Come in, come in. You must be little Elsie. I’ve been expecting you, dear.”

In the dim morning light, Elsie saw two other young girls sitting at looms in the back. Their motions had stopped as they turned to access the newest member of the weaving team.

Elsie stepped up to shake hand held out a shaky hand. “Guten Morgen, Fraeulein Helga. Yes, I’m Elsie. Here to learn how to weave. I haven’t before. Is it difficult? Shall I take a seat at an empty loom?”

 

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Amana Rag Balls #6

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Amana Rag Balls

Sonia paused before answering, appearing to be deep in thought. “I don’t really want to have to work. But since I’ll have to regardless of what I want – or don’t want – to do, I suppose I’d like to work in the kitchens. I know you don’t want to…but me…baking is what I’d like to do.”

Elsie smiled and nodded in agreement. “You’ve always been one to be in the kitchen with your mother. I can see you enjoying that.”

“That’s what comes from being the eldest of eight children. We have to help our mothers a lot more. Besides…” An impish grin turned up the corners of Sonia’s mouth and her eyes beamed. “Learning about baking and how to make the best streusel, franzbrotchen, lebkuchen, and stolen…why, that’s the best bridge to being the best wife. That’s what I really want to be, is a wife and a mother.”

Elsie mock slapped at Sonia’s shoulder. “To Hans, I suppose?”

“Of course. Is there anyone else more handsome or sweet?”

“Silly of me to think otherwise. Sonia, you’ve had your eyes set on Hans since the first day of school.”

Sonia sat up and turned to her friend, the smile gone, replaced with a stone sober expression. “What of you, Elsie? I rarely hear you mention anyone. Is there no one you’ve set your cap for?”

Elsie stared off in the distance, furrows etched between her brows as she contemplated her answer. “No, there’s no one I can think of.”

“How about Franz? He’s a golden dream.”

“No. Too full of himself. I can’t abide arrogance. That’s my problem. Everyone is either too prideful, too mouthy, too shy, too talkative, too brash.” Elsie giggled and covered her mouth as if masking her mirth. “Except for Hans, of course. But I know he’s spoken for.”

Sonia grabbed her pillow and beat Elsie across the head with it, laughter erupting with every word. “Yes he is! You can’t have Hans. He’s mine!”

She suddenly became silent, dropped the pillow and fell back against the bed once again, sighing deeply. “If only he knew it. I don’t think he feels the same way about me.”

“Don’t worry. Once you take him a plate with one of your finest lebkuchen’s on it, why, he’ll be yours in no time at all. Mother always says that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Why, before you know it, you’ll be old, married and settled, and happy with every fiber of your being. Me? I’ll probably still be in the weaving room playing with fibers and waiting for the perfect man to magically walk in through the doorway.”

“How are you going to find someone to love, tucked away in the weaving house with just your looms and your rag balls?”

“I’m not even worried about that. What I’m fretting about right now is how I’ll ever learn a weft from a warp and what to do with a shuttle. I need to be a good student and learn quickly, so that Fraeulein Helga wants to keep me on and doesn’t throw up her hands in aggravation – banishing me to the kitchens!”

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Amana Rag Balls #5

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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Elsie skipped all the way to her friend’s house, excitement bouncing off of her in waves. When she got to Sonia’s house, her friend pulled her in the door and all the way up the stairs to her room.

“Ouch!” Elsie pulled her elbow away from her friend’s exuberant welcome. “You’re going to break a bone tugging at me like that.”

“Sorry. I was just so excited to see you and want to hear everything. What was it like? Is the Council a bunch of old grumps when they assign you? What did you get? Did you get stuck working in the kitchens after all?”

“Slow down, Sonia. I thought I was excited, but you’re as jumpy as drops of water in a sizzling skillet.”

Sonia shoulders slumped and a frown spread across her face. “A skillet? That means you did get placed in one of the kitchens? I’m sorry. I know you didn’t want that.”

Elsie swatted at her friend’s hand. “Silly girl. The skillet was only because of how you were acting. No. I did not get put in any of the kitchens.”

Relief illuminated Sonia’s face as if the sun had just appeared from behind a dark cloud. “Excellent. But…where do you have to work? Don’t keep me in suspense.”

“I’m to assist Fraeulein Helga. She’s one of the master rug weavers.”

A puzzled expression created furrows in Sonia’s brow. “But…you don’t know anything about rug weaving.”

Elsie fell back across Sonia’s bed and laid staring up at the ceiling. “No. I don’t. But I shall learn. Weaving and looms, yarns and cotton strips. All of that is much better than eggs and flour and nasty hot stoves. What I don’t know, she’ll teach me. And soon I shall be one of the best rug weavers in the community.”

Sonia laid back and joined her friend. The two stared at the plank ceiling above their heads as if all the answers of the universe were concealed there. Sonia breathed out a long, drawn out sigh. “I’m so glad that I’m still thirteen and shall be that for many more months still. I don’t want to have to stop going to school and start working.”

Elsie patted her friend’s hand. “Don’t fret. It will all work out. We have to grow up sometimes.”

“Ha. As if you’re so much older and wiser than me. You’re only six months ahead of me in life, you know.”

“So…you’ve never said, Sonia. What type of work do you want to do in the community?”

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Amana Rag Balls #4

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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Herr Klein’s look softened as he gazed into her eyes. “However, I do believe we can come to a satisfactory agreement in this unusual situation. As favor grows with our well made goods, especially the calico and woolen fabrics, more people come from around the area to shop at our establishments. We are in need of a larger supply of household items to sell. Our woven rugs are quite popular and our stock needs replenished with more expediency. Instead of the kitchens, I believe we can assign you to Fraeulein Helga, to aide her with her rug weaving and learn the skill yourself.”

A smile spread across Elsie’s face, from ear to ear as her head bobbed up and down. “Oh yes, Herr Klein. That is an assignment I am most excited about. I know some basics already … and I can help with anything Fraeulein Helga needs … and I can be there at first light tomorrow … and I …”

The Elder held his hand in the air, with an unusual smile on his face. The other members of the Council glanced at him with mixed looks of puzzlement and astonishment. He was acting out of character with this unexpected wavering of tradition. “Settle down little one. You can begin your apprenticeship at Fraeulein’s next week, the day after the Sabbath.”

“Yes sir, I will. And I’ll be the best helper she’s ever had. And I’ll learn and I’ll help the community by making many fine rugs with good craftsmanship and care.”

“I’m sure you will little one. Tonight at worship you may want to offer an extra thanks to our Lord for this opportunity, and also for the fine loving father you have, who was willing to intercede with the Council on your behalf.”

Leaving the Council meeting, Elsie couldn’t suppress her elation. She ached to jump up and down with joy, yet she knew that the stern Council members would frown on such a lack of decorum. She settled for maintaining composure, although she couldn’t wipe the joyful glee off of her face. As she walked alongside her father on the way home, she slid her hand into his large, calloused palm. “Thank you, Vati. Thank you for speaking to the Council about me not wanting to work in the kitchens.”

A rare, brief smile lit across his face. “You’re welcome, mein Schatzi. My little treasure. I know sometimes you think your parents are ogres for our decisions and mandates in the household. But we do love and cherish you children. We do want the best for you. Even though to you it often seems otherwise.”

She leaned in a little closer to her father. “Yes, Vati. I know.”

“Sometimes, my little Elsie, as you grow you will discover that life does not always go in the way we’d like. All too often you will find yourself struggling on a journey that you didn’t plan.” He squeezed her hand tighter. “And…sometimes you’ll find that life does have a funny way of turning out for the best after all.”

As they reached the bend in the road near their home, Elsie stopped and pulled her hand from her father’s. “Can I…do you mind…would it be alright if I stop at Sonia’s house instead of going home? I’d like to tell her about the Council’s decision.”

 

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Amana Rag Balls #3

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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Elsie sat in her seat, hands clasped in her lap in nervousness, yet her head held high in defiance of the meek attitude she knew the Council expected.

“You’re of age now to work for the community I understand,” the elder said, peering over the top of his spectacles.

“Yes, Herr Klein, I am.”

“We have no need of help in this garden at this time of year. And the laundry positions are well filled. Typically we would assign you work in one of the many kitchens in the community.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s been made apparent to me,” at which he glanced at Elsie’s father sitting beside her, “that you don’t wish to work in the kitchens.”

“No, sir.”

“You know the important role the cooks play in our community, do you not?”

“Yes, sir. I do.” Elsie clasped her hands together and tried to mask her trepidation.

The Council members remained expressionless. The elder continued on. “The roasted chickens. The savory potatoes. The fresh thick slices of bread. All the families appreciate the tasty meals provided to us daily. You don’t wish to help in these duties?”

Elsie cast her eyes downward so as not to appear insolent. “I’m sorry, sir. I was not looking forward to that assignment. I fear I get no enjoyment from the culinary tasks.”

“You do realize that the work everyone in the community provides – everyone – is for the best of the community as a whole and not for the individual person. That is how we have been able to provide so well for each other and thrive as the Amana colonies.”

“Yes, sir. I understand that.” Elsie’s lip trembled, but she refused to give the elders the satisfaction of seeing her cry upon getting an assignment that she did not want.

Come back next week to see how Elsie fares.

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Amana Rag Balls #2

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘restless.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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“Off with you then. Gute Nacht, Liebes,” he said, patting Elsie on the top of her blond braided head.

True to her mother’s word, the bell tolling from the village tower rang long before the sun rose. After breakfast, cooked by the women of the community – a task that Elsie did not want to emulate, she headed off for the school house. A sour taste filled her throat when she thought of her school days coming to an end on her upcoming fourteenth birthday.

On her way to worship service that day, Elsie walked slowly around Lily Lake on the way to the small white chapel where services were held in Middle Amana. Each of the seven villages had its own church located in the center. These were simple structures, reflecting the simplicity of the German immigrants that had come to this new country in search of a place to practice their religion free from persecution. The plain brick or stone buildings were void of the flashy stained glass windows and high steeples that many of the other churches in America displayed.

The history of the colonies, starting in Germany’s villages in 1714, was well known to the 1800 residents of the seven Amana colonies. The religious movement call Pietism had many followers that banded together in a common belief of faith renewal through reflection, prayer and Bible study. They believed that God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired individuals to speak. This gift of inspiration, or prophecy was the foundation for the group that became known as the Community of True Inspiration.

When persecution continued, Christian Metz led the community to a new home in a new world, looking for religious freedom, much as the first American colonists were searching for. They pooled their resources and bought 5,000 acres near Buffalo, New York. As the community grew and adopted a constitution and formalized communal way of life, they needed more farmland to support them.

A move to Iowa in 1855 gave them the land they needed to grow and flourish.

While well known to everyone, as this community history was passed down through the years, none of this mattered to Elsie. She was conflicted about not wanting to do the work she feared the elders would designate as her job.

During the quiet worship service, Elsie offered up prayers for a solution to her dilemma. Please Lord, let there be another job for me that’s not in the kitchens. I don’t want to be selfish. You know my heart. But the thought of standing behind a hot stove all day long does not bring joy to my heart. She didn’t know if her quiet pleas were heard, but her heart was eased.

The month passed quickly. Too quickly. Elsie repeated her prayer daily. At the many worship services throughout the week, and at times in between too.

After her fourteenth birthday, she was called to the Council of Brethren. The elders sat, clearly outnumbering her, with stern countenances.

 

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Amana Rag Balls #1

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, Amana Rag Balls. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘restless.’ Keep reading to take a peek at Elsie Ackerman’s life in Middle Amana, Iowa in 1890. Then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Amana Rag Balls.jpg

Amana Rag Balls

Middle Amana, Iowa, 1890

 

“Aber Vater, muss ich das?” But Father, do I have to? Elsie Ackerman asked, a pout on her face.

“Ja, meine Tochter.” Yes, my daughter, he replied. “You know that the Council of Brethren assigns jobs to everyone in the community. Once you turn fourteen, your schooling is over and you have a job assigned, like we all do.”

“But I don’t want to work in the kitchens. I don’t like to cook and bake all day. And sewing and mending all day isn’t fun either.”

“What you want to do meine Tochter is not the concern of the Council. Their concern is what’s best for the colonies. Most young girls are assigned to the kitchen, the gardens, or the laundry. And with winter approaching, there is little need for help in the gardens right now.”

“I can’t help it the winters here are so cold and snowy that we can’t garden.”

“It’s very mild here. I was a young boy when the Ebenezer Society moved here from Buffalo, New York. Now, that was a place that has a winter. This here is merely a pouf of snow compared to what I grew up with. May I remind you that you’re lucky that I’m in a pleasant mood this evening, or there would be harsh consequences for you speaking back to me in this manner?”

“Es tut mir leid, Vater.” I’m sorry, Father,” a contrite Elsie replied. “It’s just that the thought of working in one of the kitchens to serve three meals and two snacks a day to everyone just sounds like so much cooking. You wouldn’t think we’d need to have fifty kitchens going. Couldn’t I go to work at the mills with you? You know how restless I’d get stuck in a small kitchen every day. Working with the blue print cottons would be much more exciting.”

“No. The mills are no place for a young girl. Neither the cotton mill nor the woolen mill. The work there is hard and strenuous. You’ve never been inside where the heat and the smells from the dye vat fill the air with their fumes.”

“Vater, there are some women that work in the woolen mills.”

“No, even if the Council allowed it, I would not allow my daughter to be subjected to a life of this type of labor.”

Elsie’s mother, Emma, entered the small front room, wiping her hands on the dish cloth tucked into her indigo apron waistband. “Carl, let the girl head for bed now, if her studies are completed. The bell will be ringing early in the morning.”

 

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