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.