They can be life-savers . . .
Took me a long time to finally understand and respect many of the words Gram would often so casually say to me.
But many of her thoughts have stayed with me, and oh how I wish she could know how her words, such as these I use today, have helped me.
“Ethel’ she said, “for a woman (and also for men) to be happy, they must find something, in addition to her home and family, that will bring joy into her life. And the more hobbies she (or they) have, the better off they’ll be.”
I listened, but really didn’t ‘hear’ her, for after all, I was still in that euphoric stage after marriage when you took for granted you’d live happily ever after. Impossible to think she could really mean that I might someday need anything more than my husband, her son, to bring happiness to my life.
But I also knew Gram didn’t waste words, and so I filed her thoughts away into the ‘hard drive’ compartment of my mental computer (although such things had not even been dreamed of then) and when the day did come, and I found that ‘ family’ wasn’t enough, her words re-surfaced and I began to follow her advise. See, she had ‘been there and done that’ and was doing her best to pass the wisdom on to one she loved. Me.
Gram was not alone, for others have said the same thing. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, is the old peasant way of telling us the very same thing. And Pearl Buck, that wise, wise author of so many best-seller books, wrote that if a woman tries to confine all her energies, attention and love into the sole outlet of husband and family, she will put a burden upon that relationship that it was never meant to carry. And I remembered.
The husband or wife will retreat (escape) in true self-defense, to their own hobbies, to TV, reading, a garden, golf, or the neighborhood bar. Your children will stay in their rooms, ‘live’ at a friend’s home, retreat into silence or rebel in any of the thousands of ways a teen can find or devise.
And when I first attended some meeting or demonstration that held no interest whatever for my husband, I felt guilty, but went ahead with a friend , and was startled to find that he liked those times when his presence or participation wasn’t needed, as well as I did. And slowly I saw that he had his own interests that I didn’t care one whit about. And it was all to the good.
What Gram had learned, as we all must, if we are to gain any measure of happiness, is that not one of us can (or wants) to spend 24 hours a day with just one person. No matter how loved that one might be.
Gram knew that kids grow up and leave home. Death does come, and that jobs, life and sickness, both mental and physical, can separate people, even loved ones, and so for our own balance we must find outlets that absorb and bring delight to us. In addition to our families.
Women’s lives were woefully limited at Gram’s time, but I think that “Cooking”, and experimenting with different recipes was her first (or second) joy, and it utterly shattered her when Jake, one of her sons, ‘fell in love with cooking’ and so casually became ‘head’ of that domain. She simply could not believe it and I felt for her, but was helpless to change it back to ‘where it all had been’. Straight to her.
Gardening was her second, (or first) hobby, and I never greet Spring without recalling her delight in ‘getting outside’ to dig and plant. And Gram is my companion as, each year, I spend my first days in my own garden.
I have hobbies, and if you haven’t found yours, get busy and scout around. My friend Beverly Wheeler Mastrim amazes me, for now in her 80’s, she is taking piano lessons. Her lifelong dedication to oil painting had been crippled when failing eye sight increased, and she recalled the joy her husband Ray Mastrim took from the piano and organ, and just like that, she is now doing the same thing. And urging me to do the same. And I’m thinking.
And one of Gram’s most succinct phrases of all, and as true today as when she passed it along to me, “Ethel, remember, we marry for life, but not for twenty-four hours a day.” In other words, that wise, wise woman, was telling us to get some hobbies, and I hope you read and remember. Just might save your own sanity one of these days.