Could something you loved as a kid (and then forgot about) be the source of a bucket list dream? Don’t neglect reviewing your childhood for ideas when you make your bucket list. You never know what might be possible!
When I was a young girl, I loved the Little House on the Prairie series. I read all of the books and watched the TV series (starring Melissa Gilbert & Melissa Sue Anderson and, of course, Michael Landon). My friends and I would even pretend we were Laura and Mary and imagined doing farm chores and attending a one-room schoolhouse. How I wished I could dress like girls and ladies from that era with their dresses, bustles, and petticoats.
Like me, my girls have had their favorite historical characters whose stories they have enjoyed following and imitating, only theirs have been from multiple time periods in American history. The American Girl books especially ignited a love for history in my eldest daughter, Bethany. She enjoyed playing pretend about periods past as much as I did.
So you can imagine her delight when we visited our local living history museum, Naper Settlement, and she saw boys and girls dressed in 19th century clothing depicting the experience of attending a one-room schoolhouse. Bethany decided then and there, as a kindergartener, that when she reached the required grade (4th), she too would volunteer there.
By the time that day arrived four years later, her sisters had made the same vow. And noticing a father-daughter duo that volunteered together as costumed interpreters, I made my own promise: I would join as well when, Bethany became a high schooler and moved into giving building tours. It became a bucket list goal of mine. In the intervening years I sewed four costumes for my girls, visited them often while they volunteered, and even took my own turn helping at a Halloween event on the museum’s grounds.
But this year, finally, my turn came. As Bethany moved inside the log cabin as an interpreter, I joined the ranks of Naper Settlement volunteers as an interpreter in the print shop. I attended training and learned the basics of an 1890’s newspaper and printing business. I dove in to tag-team tour leading and even ran the shop on my own one day. But I also spent the past few months sewing all seven period appropriate garments that make up my costume. Last Sunday I made my debut in full attire.
Two of my daughters were on the grounds that day also, Evelyn (11 years), right outside my shop on the village green, and Katherine (14), up the hill outside the log cabin. As we strolled down the walkway before our shift began, the three of us were stopped by a visitor. “Are you Amish?” she asked, looking over our outfits. I quickly explained our role as interpreters and she nodded before asking directions to the meeting house where she was attending a special event.
So yeah, you won’t see me wearing my costume outside of my volunteer time. Which makes it all that more precious for a historical clothing geek like me. I still love pretending I live in a different time period as much as I did as a young girl. I enjoy talking to others about what the experience would have been like. And I especially relish the swish of petticoats under a long, full skirt. Thankfully I’ve found an outlet for my passions. This is one of those bucket list experiences that keeps on going.
If you visit Naper Settlement over the next six months, poke your head into the print shop. You just might find me there, living my bucket list dream!