August 2007—Hobbies Remembered
Dear Grandchildren—all six of you!
When I first heard the question, what were your hobbies when you were a boy, nothing occurred to me. But the more I thought about it the more hobbies I remembered. I hope I can fit them all in this short letter!
When I was a boy I already loved plants and the natural world. I remember asking my mom if I could use the small triangular space behind our garage to make a garden. I cleaned it out, turned over the soil, and planted my first garden. I wish I could remember what I planted. One thing I do remember is that there was a big pokeberry plant growing back there. I used its dark purple berries to die some old sheeting my mom had in the house. What a pretty color they made. When I became a Boy Scout my interest in plants grew. I quickly learned to identify many trees and wildflowers of the Eastern forests and fields. I collected wildfolwers, and pressed them between newspapers under heavy books. I also learned to identify many species of birds. I still love to walk through the woods or meadows, looking at the wonderful variety of trees, flowers, shrubs and birds that our Heavenly Father created to beautify the earth.
Just like you children, I loved to read. I think I was in the sixth grade when I read all the Nancy Drew books. (We had the whole collection in my school classroom.) I especially liked adventure stories. Some that I remember particularly enjoying when I was in middle school or high school were Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Oliver Twist, Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Christo.
Other books I enjoyed related to American History, which was also an interest of mine. Because I grew up in New York, places that were important in the birth of our country were all around me. As a family we visited such places as Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Ann, Saratoga Springs, and Mount Vernon. New Rochelle and White Plains, both of which were important places in the American Revolution were right nearby where I lived. So I also enjoyed reading about the times and places of the Revolution, books such as Arundel, Rabble in Arms, and The Spy.
Another hobby I enjoyed was collecting stamps, both from our country and from around the world. I wasn’t a serious collector. I wasn’t trying to fill a book or to get particular stamps. I was more interested in the fact that they were so pretty and varied. I enjoyed getting stamps from different parts of the world and stamps that commemorated important events in our country’s history. I still have many of these stamps I collected as a boy.
Another hobby while growing up was music. I sang in choirs at school and at church. I took piano lessons and briefly played both the trumpet and the clarinet in school bands. Music is still one of my loves, and as recently as yesterday at a baptism at church I was asked to sit down at the piano and play a song that is a favorite of the mother of the girl who was baptized. I played the piano or the pump organ throughout my mission. I have always been glad that my mom encouraged me to learn to play the piano.
I guess this list wouldn’t be complete unless I mentioned swimming and dancing, two loves that I acquired in childhood and that are still part of my life today.
I learned to swim in Vermont. While I never had the opportunity to swim on a team, I became a pretty good swimmer. I am happy I can walk across the football field from my office at school and swim during my lunch hour two or three times a week. I keep working to improve my stroke, and I actually think I’m getting better.
I got my love of dancing from my mom and my Grandpa Stoddard, two great dancers. Mom loved to dance. Whenever she heard music she would stop what she was doing and dance around the kitchen or the living room and encourage us kids to join her. My grandpa loved dances like the lindy hop and the cha-cha, and he taught them to me on our living room floor when I was in junior high school. Can you believe that right now your grandma and I have picked this hobby back up and are taking salsa dancing lessons every week? It’s fun. I think you’d like it, too.
Love, Grandpa Evan