There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I would come home at night, bone-weary and mentally exhausted, to find a stack of newly-arrived magazines waiting for my perusal. Victoria, Country Living, Country Home and others were dubbed "lifestyle, shelter or women's magazines," but to me and I suspect many others (and not only women!) they offered escape, inspiration and relaxation.
A red barn surrounded by countryside, a basket of flowers, an old maple bed dressed in lace and soft comforters drew us into the photographs and sent us to attics or antique stores or sheds in search of the perfect props to create that magic in our own lives. Some of the magazines - like Country Living - were born of a renewed interest in our collective past, spurred by America's bicentennial in 1976. I've always been a history buff, a genealogist and a lover of antiques and casual style, so these publications were a boon to my imagination - and my stress level.
I learned yesterday that Country Home is folding. Last week, I read that Cottage Living, a relative newcomer, will stop publication. Victoria magazine, the gracious and genteel creation of a thoughtful editor named Nancy Lindemeyer, folded in 2003 (when I need it most!) and came back last year, a pale shadow of its former literary self, published by another company that just doesn't seem to understand that the presentation must come from broad base of cultural knowledge that perhaps can only be possible with an editorial staff of a certain age and education level.
What will I read at night?
Oh, we've got hundreds of books on our shelves and two lovely libraries to serve us. I've purchased dozens of lovely coffee table books over the years. But the experience of turning a new page to some unexpected loveliness will be gone. I will still have Country Living to sooth me, but that too is a mere copy of its cozy self, the self that it was when the late Jo Northrup wrote "Simple Country Pleasures" (shades of Gladys Taber and Faith Baldwin!) and Bo Niles was on the editorial staff. (Read the magazines long enough and the editors and writers become your friends.)
I'll get by.
I think there is an upside to this. These publications, lovely as the were in their heyday of about 15 years ago, are similar to the glossy, high-fashion mags in that they often create unrealistic expectations of what our lives and homes should be like. I like fresh flowers in my office, but I'm afraid that they only make an appearance in my home two or three times a year. And my kitchen cupboards are never tidy, nor are my countertops. My coffee table and some of the chairs in my dining room are piled high with - what else? - magazines.
Maybe without these pretty friends to page through, I can come up with some lifestyle ideas of my own. Maybe, just maybe, my home will begin to reflect me, not some style editor's idea of who I should be.
Now to be fair, these magazines and others like them are descriptive rather than prescriptive. But really, don't you think they raise the bar just a little too high for the average person? I think they might.
Still, I will miss them. And - perhaps perversely - I miss the person I was when they meant so much to me at the end of a bad day: Eager, bright-eyed and looking for new ideas.