This post is a departure from the usual, but please bear with me.
Dedicated to Mack Lundstrom, who taught me to write from the heart.
I feel like I’m saying goodbye to an era.
In a recent attempt at simplicity, I’ve been cleaning out extraneous belongings that have cluttered up my apartment—and thus my life. But one collection I vowed to eliminate has proven hard to part with: my 13-year accumulation of Victoria magazines.
My grandmother first introduced me to Victoria when I was a teenager in the early 90s. She kept recent issues in a basket on the floor next to her chair. Every Sunday when my family visited her, I’d curl up at her feet and pour through those pages over and over again. I never got bored of them—or my grandmother’s stories. We bonded over our mutual affection for that magazine. And Victoria opened up a whole new world to me, albeit a world that was decidedly un-cool for a girl my age.
Victoria brought the promise of beauty, luxury, and grace into my otherwise drab existence. To my mother’s dismay, the home in which I grew up was decorated in a distinctly masculine aesthetic: wall-to-wall solid oak with numerous mounted deer heads and antlers. The only two colors found in that house were brown and beige. Even the outside was painted beige and brown! I shared a small bedroom with my two sisters, sleeping in oak platform beds that stacked on top of each other during the day and rolled out at night. Love was there, but beauty—at least my kind of beauty—was nowhere to be found. Then Victoria showed me a wealth of romantic fashions, white furniture (hallelujah!), bright linens, and lush gardens. I was hooked.
For better or worse, Victoria informed my taste for the next 13 years. I grew to admire Nancy Lindemeyer (founding editor of Victoria), her vision, and words of wisdom. One of Victoria‘s Writers in Residence, Madeleine L’Engle, became a favorite author. I savored each photo taken by Victoria‘s most prolific photographer, Toshi Otsuki. (I even tried to hire Mr. Otsuki when I worked for Real Simple magazine, but he had retired because his eyesight was failing.) Victoria magazine was one reason I chose to major in magazine journalism in college. In fact, I secretly hoped to work for Victoria someday.
“We do not observe the world around us without in some way changing it, and being changed ourselves.”
Victoria wasn’t just about a style. It was a way of life. A way of life epitomized by Jane Austen’s world, in which her protagonists enjoyed afternoon tea, rambling walks in sprawling gardens, picnic-lunch excursions, beautifully handwritten letters, and an overall refinement that’s generally lacking today. It’s a way of life, I’m sorry to say, I may never achieve.
I gradually outgrew my infatuation with Victoria‘s pretty but cluttered world. (My Real Simple tenure was probably to blame.) Still, when Victoria folded in 2003, I was heartbroken because my dream of being a part of its staff was over. Four years later, I received a postcard in the mail announcing Victoria‘s relaunch. Nostalgic for the memories we shared together, I subscribed immediately. When the new issue arrived, nothing in it held my fancy. Maybe it was the absence of Nancy Lindemeyer’s touch. Or the dearth of Toshi Otsuki’s photographs. But in truth, nothing was exactly wrong with it. Victoria seemed the same. I had changed.
“When I began Victoria magazine, I always said that it was for the women who loved their grandmothers as I did. And who would never forget the legacy of womanhood they gave them. It was much more than appreciation of a gracious time. It was a sense of what was beautiful in life—of what to hold on to that expresses the best we have to give.”
It was time for me to let Victoria go. Before boxing up the magazines to sell on eBay, I felt impelled to take one last look—at every page of every issue. It took me weeks. When I got down to the last few issues, I didn’t want it to end. Leafing through them, I recalled the power they once had to transport me and stir a longing for that life. Though I hadn’t opened most of the magazines for at least a decade, I vividly remembered how certain photos had enthralled me. But my fond memories of Victoria are just that: memories. And one cannot live in memories.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this journey down memory lane started just before I heard my grandmother was sick with terminal cancer. Though I still loved her and held no grudges, we hadn’t spoken in years. I visited her in the hospital recently. I wouldn’t say fences were mended during those visits, but with Victoria memories fresh in my mind, I at least kept the bad from blotting out the good memories we once shared. The person I knew and loved during those precious Victoria years is how I will choose to remember my grandmother.
So, with a heavy heart and tears on my cheeks, I pack up Victoria and prepare to say goodbye to my beloved grandmother. With their passing from my life, an era comes to an end. One I will not forget.
This is the first of a three-part series. Please come back in the following weeks for a Victoria-themed wish list and a Victoria-themed craft.