Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A recycled post for someone special....

Last night at a book signing for Sam Haskell's "Promises Made to My Mother", I once again ran into one of my favorite people. We always meet in passing, and I've never been able to really, really tell her how special it is to see her. So, I gave her my card and told her to go to my blog and read for herself.
Mrs. Ann Hand, this is for you.....

Earlier this year it made my whole life when Hoffman media brought back Victoria magazine:
Yes, I know what you're thinkin'. 'Kathie, don't you think that's a bit of an exaggeration? How can a magazine be that important.' Simple. But this'll take a while, so you might wanna get up and get a few hankies and then come back and get yourself all comfy.
The year was September of 1987. September 10th, to be exact. I was on the way home from Freeman Hospital in Joplin, Missouri after giving birth to a baby boy. A stillborn baby boy. My husband was off running errands, making memorial arrangements, and my mother drove me to her house, but not without stopping at the store first. Knowing how much I loved antiques and how much I loved to read, she picked up several magazines. One of those magazines was called Victoria and had the most beautiful coverI had ever seen. However, when I got home I quietly put the magazine aside and tended to a 3-year-old daughter who was very angry at Mama for coming home without the promised baby. We lived on a ranch at the time that was about 40 miles from El Dorado Springs, near a small town called Sheldon. I didn't know anyone there, and El Dorado was too far away to just load up and go on a whim, and it was really too far out for anyone to come out and visit me. To call in or out would have been a long distance phone charge (this was back before the cell phone days). So I was not only sad, but I remember feeling incredibly lonely. One day I passed by the stack of magazines and the beautiful cover of Victoria seemed to jump out at me. I was hooked. I won't even take the time out to explain to you the contents of this publication - it's just something you must experience for yourself.You will either love it or you won't. I became obsessed with it from the moment I opened my first issue. I simply could not put it down. To say that Victoria transported my life is a gross understatement. It took me to a graceful, peaceful place in my mind where there was no unfairness (is that a word?), no worries, and most of all no grief. For the 2 or more hours it took me to read that issue from cover to cover there was no ache in my heart - only peace and comfort. I found myself reading and re-reading and memorizing every picture. I couldn't wait until October to buy the next issue. Then the next. Mama got me a subscription for Christmas and I cried tears of joy when I received the notice in the mail that I not only had a 1 year subscription but two!

Each month for the next 5-10 years my family knew that when my Victoria came in the mail they might as well order out Pizza or Chinese because I would be absolutely worthless for the rest of the night. It was never enough to just read the magazine once - each issue for all those years was read, and re-read over and over and over again. (I still have every issue and every time we move I treat them like family heirlooms - drives Jay nuts!) Some of my favorite issues talk about Ann Hand, a famous Georgetown (DC) jewelry designer and discusses the National Museum of Women in the Arts, also in DC.

Ann and Lloyd Hand

While still on the ranch in Sheldon, I remember thinking to myself that one day I would visit Washington, DC and go into Ann Hand's shop. After that I would take a whole afternoon perusing the National Museum of Women in the Arts - then I would hop on the train and have dinner that evening at a swanky restaurant in Manhattan. I spent many, many afternoons dreaming about the places I would visit - someday, knowing full well that 'someday' never really truly comes.

We moved around to other places after the ranch - each time taking Victoria with me - the one piece of familiarity and comfort I'd always found regardless of the whirlwind of changes and surprises that life inevitably brings our way. Ironically, some of those inevitable changes brought us to Washington D.C.

It was just a few weeks after we were settled into our new neighborhood in this fantastic new city that another change came about. Victoria got a new editor. That new editor decided to give Victoria a more, 'modern, updated' look. I knew from the first issue that it was the beginning of the end. And I was right. A few months later the notice came in the mail. Hearst was stopping the publication of my beloved Victoria. I am not the least bit ashamed to tell you that I cried. I grieved, and not just for several days but for months. Out came the boxes of old issues and I went through them over and over. Each one had a memory - September 87 - the first issue Mama gave me all those years to comfort me in the best way she knew how all the way to September 2001 when our nation riveted after September 11th.

I tried other publications, but nothing was ever the same. So, here's what I did. I decided to deal with my disappointment by visiting all the places that I could in this area that Victoria had feautured at one time or another. As a novice city driver I bravely drove my car into the city and spent the afternoon at a lecture at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I loved the place so much (remember - I'm a hillbilly girl - I know nothing about art!!!) and the patrons made me feel so comfortable that I ended up being a volunteer during some of their evening lectures! Can you believe it? Years earlier I had only dreamed of this place - now I was a volunteer??!! And Ann Hand, the famous jewelry designer who not only designs for Miss America and other celebrities, but also Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush? Well, I ran into her at an event at the Japanese Embassy and before I could get two words out she came up to me and said - get this - "I love your hair!" She loves my hair!! I wanted so very badly to tell her what that meeting had meant to me. That as a young mother grieving the loss of her infant son, the idea of meeting the people and going to the places in Victoria - even if it was only in my dreams was what kept me going. How can you possibly tell all that to someone you've just met in a crowded embassy at a gala event with people chattering, music playing -((sigh)). I left that party that night feeling that our meeting was a gift from God. That I had somehow come full circle - a gift for moving on from the country girl who thought it impossible for her heart to heal - to the adult woman who had forged ahead and got on with life anyway.

Return of Victoria - Christmas 2007

Five years later lo and behold! I get an e-mail informing me that Victoria is back!! Phyllis Hoffman of Hoffman media (Southern Lady, TeaTime) was not only resurrecting this beloved publication but was bringing it back in its original format - not the modern, updated, cold version, but the old, wonderful, beautiful version. I googled "Victoria" and immediately renewed my subscription. Not only is it back - just the same and great as ever - but I found there was an on-line community of women who were and are every bit as much in love with Victoria as I am!

I immediately registered to be a part of this Victoria 'chat-room.' Mind you, I have never met these women. We only 'talk' and 'get together' on-line - and when I first started I wasn't sure what to expect. What do we talk about? Well, I've droned on long enough so I won't go into details. We're simply just a group of women who love and yearn for a gentler, more graceful time, when men were gentlemen and women were ladies. A time when manners, courtesy and etiquette really mattered.

These ladies have come to mean the world to me. In a city where image is everything, where are there are more BMW's and Lexus' than you can shake a stick at - (I drive a beat up suburban named Dixie), where the fashion of choice is mostly Prada and Manolo Blahnik (I wear cowboy boots or wellies) - it can be very hard to fit in. These ladies don't care what I drive - how I look or don't look - they care about the inner me, what I think about a new issue, the latest book I've read, what's on my bucket list. I cherish these daily visits and the first thing I do each morning is check the chat room board to see what's new - do I need to add anyone to my prayer list? Should I try that new recipe? How many guests is Loragene expecting at her bed and breakfast today? Oops - there's a note from Bluestocking that she thinks I'm paying too much attention to my blog and not my novel (she's right). And many, many notes from so many saying they were praying for me during my surgery last week. I smile when I think about these ladies, because it reminds me that not only have I gained the old, unimproved version of Victoria that is so near and dear to my heart - but I have all these new friends that I can't wait to get up and 'talk' to and 'catch up' with every single day. I love these new friends in my life. Because I know if we ever meet we've gotten past the awkward stage of 'sizing each other up' as people so often do in this world. We already know the important part of each other. That is such a gift to me.

editor of Victoria, with one of her other famous publications

This September 10th will be the 21st anniversary of the birth and death of our baby son. Each birthday is difficult but this one will be a milestone - the birthday when a child legally becomes an adult. I will no doubt play through my mind the 'should have beens', the 'what ifs.' It will also be the 21st anniversary of the first time I first laid eyes on Victoria. I plan to take that day, settle in with a cup of hot tea in antique tea cup, and curl up in my big comfy chair and do what I've done so many years before - get lost in my new edition of Victoria magazine - and I'll also take advantage of what I didn't have available to me 21 years ago - my Victoria online friends.


Joan said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us! For those who haven't met the great ladies at the Victoria chat room, please join us!


Ashley said...

well...that is the loveliest blog post i've read in MONTHS! i love it! i love your story and i'm saddened by your loss. my good friend just lost her baby girl the same day she was born...and this was the second loss like that she's had to endure. maybe a copy of victoria would take her away for even moments. anyway...i'd love to know about your little group, even to read what other victoria lovers have to say. (i, too, own every issue and just drown in them all year after year...i even own the cold "revised" post-nancy lindemeyer versions.)

blessings! and thanks for the description and story...wonderful!