Do What You Love. (Even if it’s Surprisingly Crafty, Like Making Christmas Stockings.)

I’ve heard it said before that if you want to know what you should be “when you grow up”, if you really want to know what your passion is, that you should think about what you loved doing as a kid. What made you the happiest when you were a kid? Now go do that as an adult and you will be a content human. I get the question and I appreciate it, but I’m not really sure that it’s guaranteed to produce results. I mean it kind of all depends on what age you go back to. It could lead you to being a professional freeze-tag-player or you might end up playing cards for a living. My husband would be a professional golfer. And by professional, I mean full-time. 

Whenever I think back to what I really loved doing when I was younger, it’s always the same two things: playing house and playing school. I also always wrote the most long-winded, homemade cards Of All Time. Just ask my brother and my parents, who have been reading the things I’ve written that have taken up all four sides of every birthday and holiday card since I could write, including arrows to find their way through the maze of words. So I guess it’s kind of a no-fail formula for me since I went from teacher to stay-at-home-mom to writer. 

When I was around the age where my destiny could have easily been a hide-and-seek manager as a friendship-bracelet-maker, my grandma introduced me to cross-stitching. I used to visit her and my grandpa for a week in the summer at their house in New Carlisle, which was down the street from a town that hadn’t changed since 1950 and also most of Ohio’s cornfields. Which, side note, made it all the more unfortunate that I happened to stumble upon the two VHS videos that they owned, one of which was Children of the Corn. What I’m saying is that, outside the visiting of my uncle’s farm, there wasn’t much to do. She spent the entire day preparing dinner (because it was always every, dang thing from scratch and those green beans take their good, sweet time) and watching her “programs” which started with The Price is Right and went right on through to The Wheel of Fortune and well into primetime. It was the ideal situation to learn to do something like cross stitching because it occupied long periods of time in front of things like, Days of our Lives. I could only play with paper dolls for so long. 

It didn’t lead to a passion for sewing, I still don’t know how to work a sewing machine, nor did it make me all that crafty. It was really just something that I did while I was at my grandma’s house, watching TV like it was our full-time job. Until I became a mom. And then somewhere, deep inside, I felt this calling to Make Things. To create heirlooms for my children that they could show their own children and say lovingly, look what my mom made for me when I was a baby. But the only marketable skill I possessed in the heirloom department was cross-stitching. So as I was trying to decide what cherished item I would create, I landed on a Christmas stocking. That felt both manageable and like it would be very well appreciated since it would be taken out during the most magical time of the entire year. 

So I made Emma’s and then Kate’s and had them both up in time for one of their first Christmases (let’s just say, they were hanging by the time they could notice that they were stockings). Then I thought, wouldn’t it be so fun if we had matching ones? And so I made one for Ryan. Which took considerably longer. And so by the time I was finished with his and handed the flat, rectangle of stitches to my mom who turned it into an actual stocking (because I can’t make the actual stocking, I can only do the cross stitching and also because my mom used to make her own actual, real life clothes and so she can make a dumb stocking blindfolded while also cooking a full Christmas dinner), I was sort of over the whole cross stitching phase. Like for my whole life. 

But the thing is, every time we hang up our stockings it looks like this:

Excluding the dog’s stocking on the far right, please take note that the three stockings in the middle are lovingly handmade. Left to right, they say: Daddy (and I’m thrilled and proud to tell you that, now that our girls are teenagers, they find this “gross”), Kate and Emma. The stocking on the far left is some generic, quilted number that is both unattractive and unpersonalized.

You know that part of Sesame Street where they would show four pictures and that song would play that went, “One of these things is not like the other; One of these things just isn’t the same!”? That is my stocking. Ryan offered to buy me a stocking that was cross stitched to match. Which is really sweet and some years I’m tempted, but I keep thinking that I’ll get around to it. And every year I say that I’m going to do it. And every year I don’t.

There are a variety of reasons. One of which is that we have taken up Move Into A New House or A New City as our family hobby for the past few years. And because life has gotten busier and busier and the last thing that I have wanted to do after driving the carpools, making dinner or finishing up work is sit down to another freaking project. And because I’m always waiting for someone to be like, “You have time to cross stitch?” And then I’ll have to be all, “Well… kind of. But look, I don’t even watch Days of Our Lives anymore. I swear. I barely even remember anything. Except the guy with the patch and maybe Bo and Hope. And also John Black.” And I will have to awkwardly defend this weird, crafty-adjacent, outlier gene I seem to have that loves puzzles and crosswords and, apparently, cross stitching. And how I can’t really manage to mop my floor regularly, but I am managing to hand make stockings? Look. Motherhood is complicated. But now that some of the dust has settled from the last few years, I can imagine having a little extra energy at the end of the day to work on something that made me really happy when I was eight-years-old. 

So I’m back to that question: What did you love to do when you were little? What made you happy when you were a kid? The more I think about that question, the more I’m down with it. The things that you chose to do as a child, the things that made you truly happy, are very likely to be the same things that you will enjoy once you grow up. Although, be warned that playing pretend house and being a pretend mom with dolls is different than being an actual mom in an actual house with human children. Different like life on earth is different from life on Saturn or how a centipede is different from a lion. Like they aren’t even a little bit the same. It’s simultaneously so much worse and so much better than I ever could have imagined. 

But some things are the same. Like when Ryan plays golf and he can remember the endless hours spent on golf courses as a kid or when I’m working on a puzzle and I remember the days that I dragged a card table into my room and listened to songs on my boombox and put puzzles together. Or how much I actually enjoy working on these stockings. And while those hobbies aren’t our careers, we can always hope that when our children are older and they are professional Instagrammers or You Tube stars, we’ll know that they are also living their passion and doing what they loved best when they were growing up.

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