Yep…on every street corner and in front of just about every business in Historic Nappanee, there it is…a big apple. No two are decorated or painted the same and I was surprised at how many different things can be painted on an apple shape. Apples are a big deal in Nappanee, Indiana now and past. I’m sorry we weren’t there for the apple harvest festival. I bet it’s something special. The flavor of the town would put it somewhere in between the Broadway musicals “Oklahoma” and “The Music Man.”
From a bench on Main Street, we took it all in–or more like it, we were able to think and imagine without having to take in unpleasant distractions. I noticed the bank across the street was built the same year that my grandmother was born, but it didn’t look a day over 30. The cross street was a highway or four, but only the occasional car or truck passed by. We were just as likely to see a horse drawn buggy as a car. It’s remarkable that there still is such a place. Maybe there are many. The train depot was postage stamp sized, but pleasant with a shaded gazebo area for waiting and throughout town there are hitching rails and covered sheds for horses.
I liked that the children of Nappanee weren’t hidden away in fenced back yards, or “seen but not heard.” Instead, kids of every age, size and persuasion were playing in groups on the shaded streets, riding bicycles, playing in parks and in large unfenced yards encouraging and inviting play as a community event. School had just gotten out for summer and they were everywhere. One of the larger stores specialized in playground equipment and the local furniture store featured child sized furniture out front. The farms had large gardens and even larger play areas. Amish girls, in groups of four and five blasted by in their open, horse drawn carts, waving to non-Amish friends. Everybody knows everybody and they have for generations. All were without parental supervision and all were doing and saying kid things in a manner appropriate to themselves and learning the lessons they teach one another. They seemed freer, unburdened and truly joyful. Something a little bit like I remember when I was growing up in the 1950’s.
Most remarkable to me is that on the outskirts of this utopia-like community, there is a large factory manufacturing luxury motor homes in almost complete silence, yet they crank out seven a day. Kirk chose this company because of their reputation for excellence and their Christian principles that reads like a church mission statement. After spending a week among the workers we can attest that they aren’t just words. When we said our goodbyes, I welled up. Not only were we realizing our dream, but we were showered with an amazing amount of knowledge, kindness and most of all…grace.