When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

Hancock Shaker Village (Hancock, MA, July 11, 2010)

July 12, 2010.  Yesterday Pat and I took the kids to Hancock, Massachusetts to visit a Shaker Village that once bustled to the peaceful, insulated rhythms of more than 300 souls.  As we strolled the grounds, stopping to explore buildings or speak with the costumed gardeners, woodworkers, and other caretakers, I couldn’t help but think of Peter.  I could almost see him there, transported to the early 19th Century, an young adult working in the fields, wearing rolled up sleeves and a straw hat, his sinewy muscles rippling under deeply tanned forearms.  Peter seemed at home there, darting quietly between the slats of the magnificent circular barn, and walking between the apple trees, their fruit plentiful tart with greenness.  Somehow his strange body language became exaggerated in this place, almost as though the environment didn’t require any accommodation.  It was as though he sensed this, and gave himself permission to be free.  His head leaning forward, almost lunging, I watched as he skipped irregularly along the planked walkways, his form shimmering in the heat like a lonely mirage as the distance between us increased.  Happy in the private sanctuary of his revelry, a chaotic storyline I try so hard to penetrate, much less understand, I knew he felt peace in this place, a religious compound that closed its doors a half century ago.  Although his brain often fails to make the connections that most of us take for granted, he understood implicitly the harmony that still permeates this village.  Dr. Federici, when we saw him last month, told us that he knows of several couples who have “given” their troubled FAS adolescents to the Mennonites over the years.  Funny how strange but absolutely logical that sounds.  Peter would no doubt flourish in such a protected, insulated, simple environment, where members are expected to contribute to the extent of their abilities, no more or no less.  Choices are greatly limited but so are temptations; an ideal template for those living with the crippling consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure.  Not only could a youth like Peter be safe and remain safe, he could be productive and experience genuine fulfillment.  The very notion would be entirely intoxicating except for one serious, sobering drawback: the parents must agree forever to relinquish custody, guardianship, and any future relationship with their child.  Although I can envision Peter living contentedly among the Mennonites, I glimpsed as much in a hazy dream during our visit to the Shaker Village yesterday, I cannot envision living without Peter.  In the last declining decades of the Shakers, most of the men had left the movement, leaving the remaining women no choice but to hire male laborers to work and live among them.  If only Peter could reach across the time-space continuum, he might find refuge there in the fast approaching decade of his own adolescence.  Pat and I might find peace too, peace in knowing that we found a place where our Russian son could live safely, in pursuit of a purposeful existence, and where simplicity is a gift, not a hindrance.



  1. Yes, simplicity does also work with my child. Maybe there is a way to learn from the Mennonites how they help these children, possibly even more so than the environment of simplicity. It would sure help us with our FAS kiddos. I know my child loved to visit the ‘bakery in the woods’ (my terminology) near here where there were a group of folks similar to the Mennonites. My child even had thrown herself on the floor of the bakery one day and was doing snow angels. Luckily, the people in the bakery just smiled, as I apologized. They were kind enough to ask her name, and share with her where her name was in the bible. My kiddo was fascinated. So, it turned out very positive. I also enjoyed visiting the bakery with kiddo because I could feel the peace all around, and see my child respond well. There was just something in the air… 🙂

    Comment by Lori — July 12, 2010 @ 8:32 pm | Reply

  2. Make you wonder if so much and so many choices is at the root of problems today in America. Just got back from a trip to Europe. Germany, Sweden & Denmark. Crime is less there and problems for young people less too. Things are more regimented, orderly. True less freedom & less choices 1 or 2 salad dressings not 20 but simpler. Maybe the freedom to go so many ways and make so many choices is really hard on our kids trying to find their way.

    Comment by Victoria Campbell — July 14, 2010 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  3. Mary, your writing is so evocative – I immediately found myself in that village, having visited it in the past. It is a beautifully simple and peaceful place – no wonder Peter responded to it. That response made me think of the Simple Gifts song in a different light, a clearer one:

    ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

    ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

    And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

    ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

    When true simplicity is gain’d,

    To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,

    To turn, turn will be our delight,

    Till by turning, turning we come round right.

    Comment by Nan — July 15, 2010 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

    • Nan, thanks for taking the time to brighten my day with the lyrics from that song, which I haven’t thought of in some time. They’re lovely, and quite resonating. Thanks again – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — July 16, 2010 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  4. […] July 12 […]

    Pingback by A Family Blogs About Dr. Ronald Federici… « Ronald Federici’s Blog — November 25, 2010 @ 10:26 am | Reply

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