This I Believe

Carleen - Denver, Colorado
Entered on August 14, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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“You have a hobby?” Papa asked my husband before we went into his garage.

I had taken Dirk home to Omaha to meet my grandparents for the first time, and Papa was about to show Dirk *his* hobby. Knowing we didn’t do anything near what Papa would consider a hobby, I whispered “Say no” and Dirk shook his head.

Papa lifted the garage door and Dirk started laughing. “Oh no,” he said. “I don’t have a hobby!”

More than 40 years ago my grandfather started collecting black music and sports memorabilia. The walls of the garage are covered with posters and 8 by 10s of great black athletes like Jackie Robinson, Archie Moore, Bill Russell, and Johnny Rodgers. The shelves are loaded with scrapbooks, baseball cards and trophies.

The music collection takes the whole of the basement. There are 2 jukeboxes, thousands of records, statues of saxophone-playing M&M’s, a life-size cardboard cut-out of Tina Turner, and photos of he and my grandmother with Count Basie. In the main music room, even the ceilings and the floors are covered with album covers and photos. Papa is 85 years old, and there is not a speck of dust on anything.

As he showed Dirk around, he said, “I always tell people to get a hobby. Something you can learn that keeps your mind busy. I could be down here for a year and still not read all the books I have or listen to all my music.”

A few years later, Dirk and I dug up the grass in our front yard and planted drought-tolerant trees, shrubs and flowers. Xeriscaping it’s called in Colorado. We weren’t thinking about hobbies, just that in a drought a lawn doesn’t make sense.

But overtime, we ended up not just creating a garden, but becoming gardeners. And now that I have a hobby I understand. A hobby is something you do for the love of doing it. It educates, cheers and transports you. Sometimes I’m so eager to get outside in the morning that I don’t stop to change out of my pajamas. I go outside just to pull a few weeds and hours can go by. Just like Papa, I could be in my garden forever and not learn all it has to teach me.

The word hobby sounds so trivial. But this is what I believe now: that having a hobby means opening yourself to passion. And there is nothing trivial about that.

Last May, Papa and Grandmama came to visit for my birthday. We had had a heavy snow in April so the California poppies, dianthus and blue flax were so large and luscious strangers stopped to stare. Dirk and I walked my grandparents through the garden, telling them how we had chosen and planted everything, showing what was planned and what were happy accidents.

“You’re out here all the time, aren’t you?” Papa asked, smiling.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Beautiful,” he said, and I knew he meant more than the flowers.