Last week I had to go to Michael’s to get a new apron. We wear them at work to keep the kids from getting paint on us during craft time, and I realized I needed a new one for home. I had nothing pressing that afternoon, so I decided to walk around and look at all the hobby stuff.

American’s have lots of leisure time, and judging from prices, lots of disposable income. There were crafts for beading, painting, crocheting, knitting, miniature dollhouses… You name it, you could spend money on it.

Which got me to thinking. What kinds of hobbies did my ancestors have?

Mom knitted and crocheted. She mainly did this because my oldest brother was born with cerebral palsy and she did a lot of sitting and waiting. Dr’s offices, hospitals, bedside of a sick child… Knitting lends itself well to traveling and sitting. It doesn’t take up much room, needs very little equiptment, and she could make things my brother could use, like blankets, bibs, socks.

My grandmother knew how to embroider. But I don’t remember her ever doing any. When I was nine, our house was destroyed by a tornado. For three days we moved in with my great aunt Rose, and my grandmother. I was unable to go to school because we had no clothes, and no money yet to buy any, so I got to stay home. For school I was working on a pillow case with embroidery on the top. My grandmother, who never really had time for me before, spent those three days teaching me to make the complicated stitches. I didn’t want the time to end. By the time I was born, my grandmother was older, and already had a LOT of grandchildren, so having one more wasn’t much of a novelty. She always said we were getting on her last nerve. But for three days, I was the center of her’s and my great aunt’s world, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I never saw my grandmother embroider after that. She probably learned how while in the Tennessee Industrial Home, where she grew up after her mother’s death.

My paternal grandmother was one industrious woman. She was always working. My grandfather owned rental houses and she and my mom and aunts were always cleaning, painting, fixing them up to keep them rented out. He also ran a hosiery and candy route, and she worked it. If she had any hobbies, I never saw her doing them. There was never any leisure time for a hobby.

Me, I am a genealogist. I use my free time to research my ancestors and try to understand them better. I wonder if my grandmother would have had more patience with us kids if she’d been raised by her own mother and not in an orphanage.

I don’t have to wonder that much about what made my paternal grandmother tick. My mom says I think and act just like her. She was frugal naturally, liked things clean, and was always busy on some project. Yup, sounds like me. đŸ™‚

My paternal great grandmother was the only great grandmother that lived long enough for me to know her. I adored her. I don’t remember her having any hobbies either, but she was in her 90s so she may have given them up by the time I came around. When we visited, she’d sit on the porch and talk to grandpa while we kids played. Her favorite saying was, “let ’em play, they ain’t hurting nothing.” She died when I was 12. I was too young to ask her any questions about herself, what she liked, what she disliked. Did she have any hobbies?

You can tell how well to do a family is by their hobbies. Hobbies are what we do with extra time and extra money. For some it’s collecting things, for others it’s creating things. I got my hobby from my paternal great aunt. A lot of family members think she’s my mother. That’s fine, I love her just as much as I love my mother. She got me interested in genealogy when her own girls showed not interest in the hobby. Two years ago, she handed down the family reunion to me after years of being in charge. It was one of my greatest honors. I hope I never let her down. With you hobby comes responsibility for caring for the items you collect or create. My mom gives her quilts and afghans to people in the family who need and will love them. She expects you to use them until they fall apart, no putting them behind glass walls. She believes what she creates should be cherished, used, loved, needed.

What is your hobby? Did you learn it from your ancestors?


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