This article is part of the series “Put down your life’s story in 52 weeks” in which I accepted the challenge of writing down snippets of my own life’s story in 52 weeks.
- What are some of the things you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
- If you could go back in time and spend an hour visiting with yourself at age 15, what would you tell your younger self?
- What are some of your talents? Explain how you discovered them and what you have done to cultivate and improve them. Describe how your talents have they affected your life.
- What did you do for a career? Explain how you chose that career.
At my daughter’s wedding just a few weeks ago her best friends came up with an icebreaker to help both sides’ family and friends get to know each other. Half of the guests received a piece of paper with three statements about a person they probably didn’t know – yet. Then they had to ask around about the particular person’s traits and hope to find the right person.
I probably was one of the first, if not even t h e first, to be identified. Was it the short statement “has five kids”? Or maybe the information “loves to carriage her kids’ friends home after a party” (which I probably did for almost a third of the guests during the past twenty years or so…). Maybe it was the hint that that person “is creative” – which my kids of course had
suffered from experienced more than once during the past decades.
No matter what, someone “caught” me pretty quickly. And we both had a really nice chat about our creative hobbies and a good laugh about some failures: icebreaker mission accomplished.
My creative parents and grandparents
I come from a family where a lot of things would be mended, overhauled, recycled or simply stored until they’d be needed. Both my parents (and my grandparents too) grew up during or shortly after a major war. People really couldn’t afford to throw away anything still halfway intact just to buy something new with nicer colors or something.
My mom always had a stack of old clothing that didn’t fit us any longer. But since the fabric itself was of good quality she’d keep it to sew new clothing from it. She also had a box full of old buttons, zippers, even zipper pullers and sliders, just in case. Sometimes I was allowed to use some of those items to sew something for my dolls. Never looked as perfect as my mom’s creations but I was happy enough.
And my father had a small personal ironware store in the basement: nails, screws, drawer handles and door knobs, shelf pins, dowels… name it, he probably had it. When my grandma died, my father built a new and better hall closet for my parents’ apartment out of grandma’s furniture and a bunch of his ironware collection. Some other pieces of grandma’s furniture ended up in my kids’ rooms, overhauled and painted of course, with new-ish (and freshly painted) door and drawer handles. One of those still serves me as armoire for bedding and bed linen.
My father put a lot of his ironware collection to good use when we built our house in the 90’s, and he took the chance to show his older grandchildren how to use and attach everything. Not that all of them really listened all the time… And now that some of my kids have their own small families as well, it always warms my heart when they call home and ask if we have a replacement for a broken thingamabob stored in the basement. Just like we did when we needed a replacement, “Ask mom, ask dad, they possibly have one – or a better idea how to fix it”.
What I learned from them
So, is it a surprise that I learned to see a possible new use in old things? I watched my mother sew new clothes for me and my brother out of old fabrics. She seemed to love it, and she was happy when it turned out the way she planned it. I watched my father carefully create new furniture out of old wooden boards. And he loved to explain each and every step since he was proud of the results. Both of them were always happy to explain and show new tricks to me and my brother.
I didn’t have the feeling that my parents considered those things “real work”. Sure, they (silently) cursed now and then when things went wrong, and the main reason for them was to accomplish something they couldn’t afford otherwise. Nevertheless, all in all they seemed to enjoy creating something new, in their leisure time, at their leisure.
My journey is my main reward
A lot of things that I like to do in my own leisure time is related to history, more or less. And none of those things is “real work” to me, even if it sometimes saves us a buck or two.
Yes, it’s hard labour to haul a new-old cabinet up the stairs and then paint it while I listen to a podcast or audio book or while I watch TV. And yes, I could simply haul the cabinet outside and spray paint it. Quickly done if you just aim at the result. But I love painting furniture. So I’m doing it the good old fashioned way with paintbrushes (and not even the big ones), stroke by stroke, such a calming activity.
Brewing concoctions is another thing I have done and liked: smelly medieval ink or fragrant sirup out of “Spitzwegerich” (ribwort) or “Waldmeister” (sweet woodruff). This year I sadly haven’t been able to make “Holunderblüten”- (elderflower) sirup, very disappointing for my kids. Next year I have to find a way to make it just as tasty without a drop of lemon juice. One of my possibly-future-daughters-in-law unfortunately is allergic against lemon juice. A new challenge for my witchy kitchen…
And of course I also have other, “female” hobbies like crocheting and embroidery, sometimes even sewing. And the best of all? Most of them are able to complement each other in one way or another. Old cabinet with glass doors? Mend and paint the cabinet, sew and embroider curtains for the doors, done.
HCI: Historical Criminal Investigation…
Hah, and don’t forget local historical and family research which partially sparked my interest in papermaking and bookbinding as well. All those activities also take time and patience, but for me the journey is the main reward. Of course it’s always nice to finish one project and admire the result in the end.
Books, books, books…
Reading has always been one of my favourites. If you’d have a look at my book shelves you’d mostly find books about local history, of course. But there also are a lot of instruction manuals about – guess what – paper making, paper marbling, book binding, book mending, furniture mending and painting, for example. But I also have books about embroidery or even one book about tanning hides (don’t ask…).
A lot of historical/fantasy fiction puts the finishing touch to my book shelves. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite authors of that genre. My own book collection is far away from that of a good friend who owns 10k (mostly historical) books and more. And I’m not counting the also 5-digit amount of his folders with copies of historical papers, ancestry charts and similar. Step by step, book by book…
And the downside of all this?
There’s never enough time for all of it – laundry and dishes and grocery shopping are often getting in the way, aren’t they?
Are your hobbies somehow related to each other, like mine, or do you prefer completely contrary hobbies? Do you prefer something adrenalin-rushing over a quiet and relaxing kind of leisure time activity?