Some kids are into dinosaurs, some are into princesses. Some love horses, some love action heroes and some kids love reptiles and snakes.
I wasn’t into any of those things. I was into pioneers.
I couldn’t tell you why this obsession began but it started when I was around six years old. I got the Little House on the Prairie book series and read the entire seven book collection within a couple months. Then I watched the TV series, and then I started getting books from the library about other pioneers. It kind of snowballed from there.
Next thing my mom knew I was requesting whole cream from the grocery store so I could churn my own butter. After one hour of incessantly shaking cream in a tupperware cup with marbles I managed to create exactly 1 teaspoon of homemade butter to butter a single piece of toast. It was glorious.
I started spooling yarn to create floor-sized homemade rugs. Only I was never quite patient enough and these often ended up as coasters. By far, my favourite class trips were always the pioneer village ones. My dream was to someday get a job as one of the costumed pioneer children and live day and night as a pioneer girl. When my parents decided to take us to one of the largest pioneer villages in all of Canada, I used up an entire disposable camera within just four hours. Those cameras were supposed to last for the rest of our two week vacation.
Alas, this obsession did not fade with age. The most delightful perk of choosing the University of Waterloo was that it was adjacent to one of the largest Mennonite communities in North America.
Imagine my delight being only 15 minutes away from modern day pioneer-like people! Horse and buggies, long pioneer dresses, overalls and straw hats and farms which operated entirely without electricity. Local hardware centres actually had sheds in the parking lots for pioneers to harness their horses. It was magical.
Howie has graciously entertained my weird obsession for years. One of the best birthday surprises he ever arranged was spending an entire day at Black Creek Pioneer Village. He also took me for drives in the back roads of Waterloo county just so I could look at Mennonite farms and driveway fruit stands.
Cheryl: Howie pull over! I want to go talk to those Mennonite children!
Howie: No Cheryl I’m not pulling over. Don’t be ridiculous.
Cheryl: What? I just want to talk to them as ask them about their lifestyle.
Howie: That’s not creepy in the slightest.
Cheryl: I’m not going to be creepy! I just want to see how they live. Do you think they would invite me into their house?
Howie: Yes Cheryl. I’m sure these Mennonite children just set up these fruit stands as a trap to meet strange ladies and invite them into their homes so they can tell them all about their lifestyle.
Cheryl: It’s worth a try at least. Please pull over Howie!
Howie: Not going to happen. Now just settle down or I’m not coming along on any more of these drives.
Cheryl: Good! Then I’ll just go driving by myself and pull over and talk to them without you!
Howie: Oh geez….
I don’t know why exactly I am obsessed with pioneers, but I’ve definitely romanticized them in many ways. Maybe it’s the simple, down to earth existence where everything they eat and use was made entirely by themselves. Maybe it’s how feminine the dresses and bonnets were, or how manly pioneer men were with the hunting, and building and farming.
It’s just a weird quirk of mine. Thank goodness Howie doesn’t question my sanity (at least to my face) because of it. In fact, he lovingly indulges my obsessive interest (to a point). Though he won’t allow me to approach the Mennonites, at least he lets me observe them from the safety of our car. And I’m sure if I asked him enough, he might even dress up as a pioneer for my birthday… (TMI?)
Do you have any weird or random interests that you just can’t explain? How does your significant other react to this?