I am frequently confronted with the detritus of abandoned hobbies. I requested a sewing machine a couple of Christmases ago with the idea of taking sewing classes. Eager to play with my new toy, I promptly tangled some fabric in the mechanism and the sewing machine has been sitting in our downstairs storage area ever since. The recipient of a sweet, free piano, I signed up for adult piano classes, which I attended for two sessions before determining I did not have enough time to devote to practicing. I have gadgets in my kitchen that seemed like the start of something beautiful but have instead wound up on top of the upper cabinets, out of reach and gathering dust.
I think I come by this short hobby attention span naturally. I fondly recall a few of my mother’s discarded attempts at self-actualization during her nest-emptying period. The most successful and long-lasting hobby was the yard and garden. We were among the first residents of a cornfield development. Eager for shade, my Mom and her wheelbarrow would set off towards the nearby woods, returning a short time later with a small, rooted tree. She stole trees for the first few years we lived there, and the house, which was recently sold, is now dwarfed by a beautiful grove of miscellaneous trees.
Mom also created a gorgeous vegetable garden, located down a hill, not visible from the house. Mom had very distinct ideas about vegetable gardens. One should never, under any circumstances plant vegetables in their front yard, and a backyard garden should be planted out of sight. Unfortunately, some vegetables benefit from human eyes. Mom’s zucchini got a little out of hand. Some squash grew to be the size and shape of caveman clubs, resulting in an overabundance. She made fried zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes, zucchini casseroles and a number of other dishes, but she just couldn’t keep up. She started leaving these green clubs on the neighbors’ doorsteps, and she even once put one in the mailbox, raising the little red flag to be sure the mailman got his delivery.
Another consequence of the unattended gardening resulted in Mom’s next hobby – canning. I can vividly recall returning home from high school to a kitchen filled with glass jars and pots boiling on the stove. The aroma of cooking tomatoes still makes me a little queasy.
In keeping with the bulk food theme, Mom once ordered a freezer full of compressed steaks called “Steak Tonight©.” I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I think this meat was similar in concept to the composite wood used in the construction of pre-fab homes. (But actually didn’t taste too bad.)
And there was the time Mom joined the cheese co-op, another unfamiliar concept resulting in large wheels of cheese being brought home. Mom would spend hours grating cheddar cheese in her food processor to be bagged and placed in the freezer along with the Steak Tonight©. We once had a problem with mice and Mom carefully set the traps before heading to bed. I woke up in the morning to find a large wheel of cheese on the kitchen counter, filled with teeth marks and mouse poop, and a few empty traps. That was really the beginning of the end of the cheese co-op membership.
Perhaps it’s because I am roughly the same age as my Mom was when she went through her hobby stage, or because I am staring down the barrel of an empty nest, but I can perfectly understand her hope of finding time and reward with a thing, and the sad realization that there were neither. And like my Mom did, I’ll keep trying until I find them.