|House and Garden magazine, December 1969.|
|Inside H&G, Dec., 1969, a Gloria Vanderbilt Christmas. One of her collages on the wall above. Source.|
Once upon a time I had a well-traveled, frequently-moved stash of December issues of all the house lovely magazines of the day. Decorations, recipes, wrapping, homemade gifts. Revisiting them each year was a source of inspiration and comfort. I'd collected them since the end of the 1960s, through the 70s and into 80s. Each year around this time, I'd pull out the stack and wander through them, one by one.
As I write this on Saturday, November 14, I recall how life's harder moments were softened by the sight of Christmas lights, thoughts of package wrapping to come, extravagantly decorated cookies that reminded me of those my mother created when my brother, sister and I were young children. It was the early 1950s and, until Martha Steward introduced us to the art, perhaps in this century, I'd never seen anyone but our mom paint frosting on cookies. A woman ahead of her time.
Too many changes of residence, not really so many in the larger picture but enough that shifting stuff from place to place lost its luster. and one November day I realized that my mood-lifting magazines weren't with me. Earlier this year, an artist friend wrote to tell me she'd found on ebay a copy of the now-fabled and rare House and Garden December 1969 issue with the Gloria Vanderbilt Christmas and how it was all that she remembered before her copy had gone missing. Trust me when I tell you these are photos we would all look at through magnifying glasses, wanting to capture each shy figure or nuanced grouping. I was delighted for her and I wish there had been two copies.
I enjoy Christmas most by looking backward, at my own celebrations and those of others. I still harbor dreams of stumbling into the shuttered shop or flea market booth where all manner of extinct gift wrap nestles in dusty cellophane, for sale at its original price. When our hearts ache for any reason, we know instantly what will ease that sadness. Mary Engelbreit and Martha Stewart, with their ribbons and color are perfect companions for me today, offering a place on their pages where all is merry and bright. No more news, maybe fewer tears. I do not believe it is shallow to find solace in beauty and memories of joy. I believe those things exist exactly for that purpose.