I grew up in a small Southern town. So small that our tallest building was the water tower, most cultural events revolved around high-school theater, the nicest restaurant was a meat-and-three, and the finest wine was a chilled glass of sweet tea.
I was never what you would call “cosmopolitan,” though I always wanted to be. The only catwalk I ever pranced down was the runway at the mall’s spring fashion show. Being a trendsetter meant convincing my parents to buy me the bomber jacket that all my friends were wearing. Diversity was hard to find in my small town of 800. Nothing ever seemed to change. People thought alike, talked alike, many dressed alike. I often wondered if there was more to life than trying to be like everyone else.
That’s where my love affair with magazines began. Magazines were like a window to a bigger world. Peeking inside their glossy pages gave me a glimpse into a universe full of different people, places and ideas I wouldn’t have known or cared about otherwise. At the time, I had never been to a big city–except Birmingham, Ala.–so magazines were the closest I got to visiting one. If I needed an escape, I would pull one off the coffee table and within minutes be engrossed. Magazines made me smile. They made me question. They made me dream.
Fortunately, my family loved magazines and kept plenty around. The first magazine I remember flipping through was my mom’s Southern Living magazine. Not only did it entrance me with stories and images romanticizing the rustic region in which I lived, it also revealed the diversity in my own backyard, from Amish communities in Tennessee to Mardi Gras festivals in New Orleans. It changed my perspective and perhaps gave me a deeper appreciation for my hometown.
I loved the fact that magazines could surprise me. I was never
outdoorsy, but the ethereal photography on the cover of my grandmother’s
National Geographic magazine would suck me in every time. Before I knew
it, I was reading about salamanders, geo-science and all sorts of
topics I could usually care less about.
There were others, too,
that made a lasting impression: the Reader’s Digest magazines in my
dad’s office that kept me occupied for hours; the inspirational stories
from Ladies’ Home Journal magazine
that my grandmother would clip and share with me; the teen magazines
that guided me through the treacherous topics of love, fashion and
friendship, and reassured me that it was OK to be different.
remember one year when my dad couldn’t afford to take us on vacation. As
a consolation, he let me and my sisters each have our own “day” to go
anywhere we wanted. I chose the bookstore and spent the afternoon at the
magazine rack. If I couldn’t go on vacation, reading magazines was the
next best thing!
I live in a big city now filled with more
diversity and entertainment than I could ever hope to explore. Sometimes
I wonder: Would I have loved magazines as much if I hadn’t grown up in a
small town? All I know is that when life gets hectic, I long to sit on
my deck with a glass of sweet tea and get lost inside the pages of my