Chapter One one
SARAH ANNE MILLER’S GUIDE TO DATING AFTER AGE SIXTY
(I compiled these tips from both my experience and advice from friends.)
• TIP #1 •
If all else fails, remember this: It’s never too late to fall in love again.
Sarah Anne Miller often wished she had two more hands and another set of eyes. Well, that wasn’t exactly the truth. She only wished she had such things when Ruth Schmidt led her brood into the bookmobile.
Yes, whenever the Amish woman arrived with her six kinner, Sarah Anne wished she had those extra hands, more eyes, an unlimited supply of earplugs, and extensive experience in crowd control. Maybe even a degree in psychology as well. Honestly, anything would be more helpful than her twenty-eight years at PricewaterhouseCoopers followed by a two-year online course in library sciences.
One needed a great many tools in order to survive the Schmidt triplets and whatever assorted children dear Ruth happened to be fostering at the time.
But since wishes and dreams were for other people, at least in this case, Sarah Anne was on her own.
Summoning her best kindergarten-teacher voice, she clapped her hands. “Children, please. Do gather around me. And speak one at a time.”
Three out of six complied. A ten-year-old boy, a sweet little boy around seven, and a rather shy eight-year-old girl sat down immediately in front of Sarah Anne, their legs crossed like pretzels and their hands in their laps. “Ah, look at you three. Would you like to hear a story?”
The oldest boy nodded before gazing warily over his shoulder at the three remaining children. The five-year-olds didn’t seem to understand the concept of following directions. Mary, Jonas, and Ian, also known as the triplet terrors, were currently gallivanting around like they didn’t have a care in the world.
Sarah Anne didn’t even attempt to hold back a sigh.
“No worries, Sarah Anne!” Ruth called out merrily. “You go right ahead. I’ll tend to these wild kinner.”
Just then a triplet—Jonas, perhaps?—held up a picture book. It had a badly ripped cover page. “Lookit!” he yelled.
“Ah. Yes. I see that.” Sarah Anne smiled weakly before turning back to the three who were sitting down. Each was still patiently waiting for a story.
What to do? What to do? The children needed their story, but that book needed to be saved before Jonas began his next round of destruction.
When the door opened again, Sarah Anne felt like screaming… until she realized who had arrived. It was Calvin Gingerich.
Calvin, the twenty-something-year-old Amish farmer who was so solemn, so kind, and so quiet. Who loved books and small children. Who visited every week to pick out a history book or a biography during his lunch break.
She knew he loved his few moments in the peaceful bookmobile. Probably looked forward to the time to do nothing but peruse her new titles. Unfortunately for him, this wasn’t one of those days. He was simply going to have to step in and help.
“Calvin, you are an answer to my prayers! Come here,” she commanded, just as Miles, the oldest child in the group, sighed.
After giving the seated children a wary smile, he faced her. “Jah, Sarah Anne?”
Sarah Anne handed him Mr. Brown’s Barnyard Friends, her go-to book in times of trouble. “Calvin, do me a favor and read to these children for a few minutes, would you, please?”
He took the book—not that she’d given him much choice—with obvious reluctance. “Well, now… Sarah Anne, I don’t have much time. Fact is—”
She interrupted. “It’s a short story. It won’t take you long. Please, Calvin?”
Whether it was the plaintive tone in her voice, the faces of the sweet children who were still sitting and waiting, or the way Jonas was grabbing at another poor, unsuspecting book, Calvin sat down on the floor with the three little ones. “Hiya,” he said. “I’m Calvin. What are your names?”
“I’m Miles. This here is Ethan and Minnie.”
“Nice to meet ya. Are you ready to hear about some farm animals?” After the three all nodded, Calvin opened the book and began to read.
And then, praise the Lord, a miracle happened.
His deep voice resonated around the room, presenting a calming influence like a big dose of lavender aromatherapy. By the time he got to page four, even the Schmidt triplets were sitting down and listening to him.
Calmed by his words, Sarah Anne quietly picked up Jonas’s injured book, taped the ripped page, and leaned against one of the bookshelves.
Even Ruth stopped inspecting cookbooks and listened.
The wonderful sense of peace lasted almost six more minutes. Six blessed, wonderful minutes. Until Calvin closed the book. “Well, now. That was a gut buch. Ain’t so?”
“Jah,” Miles said, smiling for the first time since he’d arrived. “It was a real good book.”
Sarah Anne was so pleased about that, she felt like her heart was about to burst.
Then chaos erupted yet again. In a flash, Mary shoved Ian, he pushed her back, and then, with a shrill squeal, she scrambled to her feet and ran to her mother.
When Jonas grabbed two more books off the shelf, Sarah Anne knew she couldn’t take another second. “Mrs. Schmidt, I’m sorry, but you all are going to need to check out your books and be on your way. I’ll need to be getting to my next stop soon.”
Ruth blinked. “Oh! Oh, jah. Of course.” Taking hold of one of her children’s hands, she smiled at them all. “I think it’s time we moved on, kinner. Everyone, take the buch you chose to Miss Sarah Anne and then come to the door.”
Wonder of wonders, the children began to do just that.
After glancing at Calvin and mouthing “Thank you,” Sarah Anne was busy again. But not too busy to notice that Miles seemed very taken with Calvin. He was gazing up at him with wide eyes.
Calvin bent down to speak with Miles, then walked him over to a section of chapter books and pulled out Charlotte’s Web. From the way Calvin was smiling at the boy, it seemed like the admiration was mutual.
Ten minutes later, Ruth guided all six of the children out the door. “See you next week, Sarah Anne!” she called out. “Goodbye!”
“Goodbye,” Sarah Anne replied with a half-hearted smile.
The door slammed.
And then, amongst the displaced books, a wad of discarded tissue, and what looked to be the remains of two pretzels, gratifying silence returned.
Calvin looked shell-shocked. “Is it like that every time Ruth Schmidt visits?”
“Oh, yes.” Looking through the window to where Ruth was still attempting to organize the six children and double that number of books, Sarah Anne chuckled. “Sometimes, things are even worse.”
He gaped. “How can that be?”
“Every once in a while, some of the children she’s fostering are as unruly as her own. It can be headache-inducing.”
“Wait. Those aren’t all hers?”
“Oh, no. Only the three youngest. Those are her triplets.”
“One would think three would be enough.”
Sarah Anne smiled. “I’ve never been blessed with children, so I can’t say for sure, but I would have thought that, too.” Realizing she wasn’t sounding very kind at all, she added, “As unruly as the children are, I know the foster kids are in good hands. Ruth and her husband have been foster parents for years. Do you not know Ruth and James Schmidt? I thought you would, since they’re Amish as well.”
“I know who they are, but we’re in different church districts.”
“Ah. Well, it may not seem the case, but Ruth has a knack for fostering. She’s a very caring woman… with a high tolerance for noise.”
Calvin folded his arms over his chest. “Sarah Anne, what will happen to the foster kids after they leave the Schmidts? Will they get adopted?”
“If I’m not mistaken, I believe each case is different. Some of the boys and girls will go back to their parents. Others will go to another foster home. And, God willing, hopefully some of the children will get adopted. I, for one, would love to hear that each goes to a place where they feel wanted and loved.”
“?‘Wanted and loved,’?” he murmured.
“Calvin, thank you again for helping me today. If not for you… Well, I don’t even want to think what could have happened!”
“You caught me off guard, I tell you that. But I liked reading the book. I enjoy kinner.”
A shadow appeared in his eyes. Sarah Anne wondered what made him so sad but didn’t dare pry. She’d already intruded upon him enough. “Do you need any help finding books?”
“Nee. I came in for a couple history books I’ve been thinking about. I’ll go see if any are available.”
She pointed to the computer station. “You can always order books, and I’ll bring them next time. That way you won’t have to read to children. You’ll be on your way.”
“I know it might be quicker, but I didn’t mind reading to them. It was kind of fun.” Obviously still thinking about the foster children, he turned to face her again. “Sarah Anne, about how long does Ruth keep each foster child?”
“How long? Oh, I don’t know. Usually a couple of months. Sometimes longer. Why?”
He smiled in a distracted way before walking to the small nonfiction section.
She watched him, wondering what was on his mind. Anxious to not be caught staring, Sarah Anne sprayed some hand sanitizer on her hands—really, those kids were a messy lot—then busied herself by putting the picture books back to rights.
She was going to need to get on her way in thirty minutes’ time.
Glancing at Calvin again, she slowed her pace. She might be a little late departing after all. Calvin seemed to really need this visit today. Since her goal was to serve her patrons and their needs, Sarah Anne was happy to give Calvin as much time as he wanted. After all, he’d just saved her day.