I may be a student, but I love the nostalgia of my childhood.

I often watch a show on the History Channel called American Pickers – two guys that travel around America picking (buying) up old treasures from memorabilia to bicycle parts, old toys, collectables, signs and so on. They often resonate strongly with the items that they remember from their childhood as it gives them a sense of nostalgia. The people who they purchase these items from, often collected these from their childhood years. If a collector did not have money growing up, they would go looking for those items they only dreamt of having as a kid much later in life, when they could finally afford it.

The Nash Statesman Super in front of the Antique Archaeology building in Le Claire, Iowa, home of the American Pickers.

The period in which you grew up is likely to have a deep impact on what you enjoy in life. I grew up in the early 2000s, so have been influenced by TV shows, cartoons, books, and collectables of that time. If you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, you may have been influenced by the Space Race. You would have loved rocket ships, space-related comic books and probably wanted to work for NASA and become an astronaut. If I look at my younger cousins growing up today, they are mainly influenced by YouTube, social media, and applications such as TikTok.

One of my favourite memories growing up was my 6th birthday. I was in grade one and my birthday is in June and happened to be on a school day. I remember I woke up early and it was still dark. My parents wished me a happy birthday and my dad walked me to the kitchen for breakfast. As if it were yesterday, on my way back to my room I can still distinctly picture it all, seeing a VHS tape of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on top of my large clothing cupboard in the corner of my room. My parents had placed it there whilst I ate. It was a movie that I had been begging to go and see and I would now finally get my chance. Needless to say, I could not wait to get back home from school to put that tape in the VHS and press play. I absolutely adored the movie and have been a fan of Harry Potter or a Potterhead ever since. If I ever get my Hogwarts letter, I will not hesitate to leave the studying all behind.

Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Growing up, I somehow managed to borrow the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series from my neighbours. The LOTR trilogy is not exactly scary, but I would watch the monstrous character Gollum, giant trolls, ugly looking orcs and Sauron, the creator of the ring, fly around on a terrifying creature called a Fellbeast that created an awful screeching sound. I was unphased by the frightening characters of the fantasy world and I could not get enough. By contrast, as an adult, I do not enjoy scary films at all.

Gollem, a monstrous fictional character from the Lord of the Rings.

If anyone was in school during the early 2000s in South Africa, they would probably have watched SABC 2 at 4 PM every weekday. The anime series of Pokémon, Beyblade, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh were faithfully followed and supported, click here for a link describing each.  At my afterschool care, we would sit in front of the tiny TV, with the antenna perfectly adjusted and watch in silence. You were forbidden to speak, only until the adverts played. If someone’s parent arrived during the show, they would have to wait until the show was over to leave because we did not have the luxury of recording and downloadable content. These anime series defined South African childhoods, and anyone who grew up during that period would agree that those were some of the best memories.

Goku, the main protagonist of Dragon Ball Z.
Pokémon Indigo League

I was exposed to Star Wars much later, one of my friends knew everything there was to know about the series and encouraged me to watch the older films before going to watch Episode VII – The Force Awakens in theatres (2015). I had missed out on so much, but after a couple of days of binge-watching, I had caught up on the previous six episodes. The Star Wars Universe that started a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away is just incredible to me. I love the adventures, characters, stories, space travel, planets, and The Force. The creativity and imagination of the creator George Lucas are absolutely mind-boggling.

During the beginning of the lockdown, I – like most people – watched a lot of Netflix and movies. I enjoy watching new releases, but almost always watch something I saw during my childhood. I have no problem watching a movie that came out in 2004 such as The Incredibles, where I can be my 9-year-old self again. I like to watch an old movie to remember the way things were and get exposed to the feelings I had when I first watched them, using entertainment as a time machine.

I am currently trying to finish off my unfinished Pokémon collection, buying cards that are 20 years old from a dedicated South African Pokémon Facebook group and putting them into my original Pokémon collector binder. The value of such items has grown exponentially since they were released, and especially now during the lockdown. An original First Edition booster originally priced at $2 per pack, now costs over $2,000 if unopened. People want to feel and see the things of their childhood that were once so dear to them, and relive that somehow, a term called regressive re-consumption. I guess it was easy for us all to revisit happy memories of our past during the lockdown as we really had nothing to look forward to, other than uncertainty. You often hear people say: “Yeah, those were in the good old days”. They are most probably referring to a time in their childhood.

Pokémon card collection.

Nurturing sanity

It feels quite bizarre, writing about crafting in times like these. The ongoing extraordinary situation of living through a pandemic has had a lot of people flaunting their acquired skills on social media – whether it is knitting, doing yoga or learning a new language. Anything one can learn online is being marketed with excessively motivational tones.

We have indeed had to find ways to entertain ourselves during the COVID-19 crisis and its restrictions. In the midst of it, the lives of UCT students were, once more, abruptly disrupted. I am writing this blog with an eye on any news update regarding the fire that has been raging since yesterday (18.04.2021). It has forced students to evacuate their residences again with only their most needed possessions, and tragically reduced much of the rich contents of the Jagger Library to ashes. I feel gutted with every wind burst that I hear pushing past my window as it has me imagining the firefighters in an uneven battle with nature’s forces. The interviews I conducted with first-in-family students of the engineering department around this time last year for a project I am assisting Dr Renee Smit with had already given me a glimpse into the effects such ruptures can have.

The shared topic the group of SAYAS bloggers had decided on a while before this disaster is ‘I am a student, but I am also…’ and was meant to be a fun change of pace, talking about our hobbies, interests, and passions. I, too, have cultivated some habits that have helped me to keep my mind from wandering into unwelcome directions and reduce some stress. And even though it seems absurd to discuss them in this acute and painful state of things, it is perhaps just the right topic and something I may attend to after writing this.

The quaint little hobby I want to share with you today must therefore be viewed against this backdrop: we all need things to keep us sane, especially in unpredictable times. Sometimes, the more ‘mundane’ they are, the more enjoyable and settling. When I initially told my mom on the phone that I was doing embroidery, I could sense her grinning through the phone. ‘We had to embroider place settings at school’, she commented (probably with an eye roll). My embroidery is a little different from what my mom was taught at school and she has become a big fan of my designs. Here are a few to give you an idea.

I’m having some fun designing these pieces. The repetitive pattern of sliding the needle through the fabric and seeing the predetermined pattern emerge is calming and helps me maintain an illusion of control – even if only for a moment. It also helps me engage with my own body and how it has been changing (perhaps I should extend my repertoire to male bodies as well). For some reason, the human outer shell and what it appears to hold together has a mesmerising effect on me. Likely also because (or the reason why?) my research focus has been on how experiences become part of our everyday fabric. While writing this, I am also realising the extent to which putting my thoughts in writing has a calming effect on me. Feel free to share your ways of nurturing your sanity or other thoughts in the comment section!