Magazines arriving in the mailbox have been eagerly anticipated throughout my life. They’ve punctuated different phases and interests, different things I wanted to learn and know. I’ve always preferred reading books from and about the past – American, European and Russian authors of previous centuries, and historic fiction – so for me, magazines supply contemporary writing and ideas, and are a window to the world beyond my life and home.
The first I remember with great fondness is Highlights. Dad assigned the reading of Highlights as extra homework. I loved reading about Goofus and Gallant, which is how I learned the phrase “moral courage.” The Timbertoes and Aloysius stories were adored, as were all the activities in the magazine.
National Geographic explored different countries, exotic cultures, outer space, and the depths of the ocean. Ranger Rick depicted the mysteries of nature and panorama of wildlife. My favorite place to read magazines was curled up on the couch. Still is.
Adolescence introduced new magazines that delved into my interests. Even though I was a violinist, I really wished I were a ballet dancer. Every month I devoured Dance Magazine, hoping for the latest pictures of my idol, Rudolf Nureyev. In high school I brought a copy of Ms magazine to music class one day. My teacher said to me, in all seriousness, “I can’t believe you’re reading that subversive literature.” I calmly explained my father gave me the subscription and was insistent I read it.
My parents subscribed to many magazines, too many to name. I loved my mom’s Yankee magazine about life in New England, which seemed romantic and quaint to my teenage mind. The New Yorker was a mainstay. Sports Illustrated was frequently in our home. Although I’ve deviated far from sports, growing up I was a die hard New York Knicks, New York Giants and Boston Bruins fan. Why would a Jersey girl root for the Bruins? Easy – I wanted to marry Bobby Orr. His pictures were plastered all over my bedroom wall, next to Rudolf Nureyev’s pictures.
During college I read many literary and arts journals for the first time. Young motherhood carried on my mother’s tradition of The Ladies Home Journal, along with some parenting and political magazines.
During the motherhood years, progressing from one to four children, I was grateful for my mother-in-law’s annual gift subscriptions to Bon Appetit, Gourmet and Cook’s Illustrated magazines. I loved to cook and wanted to be culinarily literate. Reading those magazines transported me from soiled diapers to a southern Italian dinner party menu for six with the turn of a page. They also taught me a great deal about gracious entertaining and the gift of food.
Today, I read most periodicals online, but there are two magazines I subscribe to – Southern Living and Our State, which is about North Carolina. Our State is unparalleled, and must be one of the best magazines in America. There are several things that make Our State exceptional.
The first is its editor, Elizabeth Hudson, who is an outstanding writer. Her monthly column is quietly exquisite, a blend of childhood memories, current experiences and thoughts about her native state that is never too sentimental and always poetic in essay form. Ms. Hudson as a writer is like an Olympic girl gymnast who executes a brilliant routine and always nails the landing off the balance beam.
Our State publishes many talented writers who write persuasively, engagingly and longingly about North Carolina history, people, traditions, culture, places to go, things to do, and food to eat. They succeed in making me want to quit my day job and take off in the van, Jack Kerouac style, from one end of the state to the other and back again.
The photography in Our State is sensational. Remember the scene in Mary Poppins where Bert, Mary, Jane and Michael jump into chalk drawings on the sidewalk? Our State’s brilliant, beautiful photographs create that same desire. They’re breathtaking.
My husband teases me because I won’t start reading Our State until the first of the month, even though it arrives in the mail nearly two weeks before the new month. It’s a silly hang up, but to me, it’s also a ritual akin to savoring a visual, literary slice of pecan or lemon chess pie…and red velvet cake, sweet potato pie, banana pudding, coconut cake…