The tribute that I wrote back in August actually fits nicely after the one I posted yesterday, which puts this next excerpt from my book in context:
I continued to go to Olin Clara’s house on Saturdays for several years. I learned her methods of baking pies and cookies, and I learned through her appreciation of my mother’s homemade bread that Mem made the best bread in the community. I had assumed every mem in the community made bread like hers, but once when I brought a fresh loaf to Clara, she praised Mem’s bread so highly and in such a sincere way that I began to realize Mem’s bread was indeed a specialty. That day when I got home and told Mem how much Clara liked her bread, her face turned pink, and she said, “Oh, she is just saying that to make you feel good.” But I could tell she was pleased as she tried to suppress a smile.
Mem did not often get compliments from other Amish people. First of all, compliments were not given as freely as in mainstream American culture, because the belief in the community is that people should be humble. But Mem’s situation was more complicated than that. I came to understand later that somehow she was a threat to many other women in the community, especially the bishop’s wife. They did not want Mem, who was married to “Sim” after all, to be better respected than they were. Olin Clara did not seem to be motivated by these same sentiments. Later in life, she became Mem’s one true friend in the church district, after all her daughters had left the community.