Friday, November 6, 2009

Tradition At Home

Dear All,

Your comments continue to gladden my heart. And while I valued every one of the readers of Victoria, it is especially wonderful hearing that young people were coming to our pages. And one all the way around the world from Sydney.

I am in my home in Ames, Iowa, where we plan to spend Thanksgiving. Going back and forth between two residences--1,500 miles apart--has its charms and its hassles. For example, the night I left the New York area, the Yankees decided to play in The World Series. I am (and have always been) a Yankees fan, but the traffic jam getting to the airport made me wonder. They redeemed themselves by winning. And the pilot of our plane got us to Des Moines a whole 45 minutes early. What culture shock coming from streams and streams of cars to highways almost deserted. Of course, it was ten o'clock at night. While New York is the city that never sleeps, Des Moines most definitely does.

A few years ago, the city of Ames took it into their heads to tear our house down in order to widen the street I live on. We live in an old section of the city, and our house was built by a local architect in 1937. (Would you believe that the apartment I live in on the Hudson River was built the same year by the same chaps who were responsible for the Empire State Building?) Ours was not the only house or property in danger and what was really lovely was that the citizens of Ames came to our rescue saying they didn't mind waiting a few more minutes at a traffic light. They didn't want to see fellow residents lose their homes. There's something about these Midwesterners that makes one very proud.

Our house is here for this Thanksgiving and we hope for many more to come. Because it is near my husband's Iowa family roots, it's something of a museum of family things, although over the years we have given some treasures to an historic house nearby. Our son's artwork still graces the wall at the bottom of the staircase, and my mother-in-law's "art treasures" hang in the dining room. She bought them on her world tour of Europe, and my husband grew up with them. How different my two homes are. While I have many family treasures in both places, the ones here seem to defy time. They seem to defy whim. There's a certain "don't tread on me" when it comes to style and sophistication. Rather nice.

Great-grandfather Robert Walton looks down from the mantel--his elegant profile made more majestic by the Grand Army of the Republic hat he is wearing. His picture is next to an old clock that belonged to my husband's grandmother from his dad's side. It hasn't worked for years and has defied all effort to have it keep time. Today I found a huge laundry bag at the back of the closet--our son's name was stamped on it. It's the one he took to camp when he was 12. How could I part with it? Back it goes.

We have all been talking about keeping traditions--and the best part of the discussion is the creation of new ones. I must admit that my family always tells me I call forth tradition on anything that's been done more than once. So be it. As so many of you have suggested, it's the glue that makes families. I've loved hearing from you, and hope you continue to jot down ways you keep the holidays as we travel along this season.



  1. Six years ago, just before Thanksgiving, we lost two family homes, not to disaster but to sale. My husband's family home was sold following his mother's death and my mother's maternal family home, purchased by my great-grandfather in 1883, was sold when an elderly family member could no longer care for it. This was a sad time for us. But over the weeks during which the houses were emptied, our dining table became a repository for items we wanted to keep: Pressed-glass goblets, Depression-glass desert dishes, and McCoy pottery. These items keep us connected, even as we miss the traditions that grew around these two late 19th-century homes.

    The family who purchased my family home were neighbors, and they gutted part of the house, adding new elements and wiring that moved it into the 21st century. Now an entirely new family will grow up here and call it home.

    This Christmas, I will give them a copy of a photo of my great-grandparents and their six children, circa 1910. Along with that will be the old blue-covered abstract, the house's pedigree. It belongs to another family now. While I miss the old house because of its sale we have acquired another branch to our family. They allow us to visit anytime.

    The old house is still part of our lives.

  2. I was just telling a friend that we tend to forget these are our children's "good old days". My oldest is married with four children but I still have one teenager at home.

    I now have some of my mother-in-law's furniture in my home, her mother's turn of the century china (last century, of course), and a few of my mom's items.

    Their houses were both sold after their death but remnants are here. Along with their recipes, which will be used these Holidays as before.

  3. What a beautiful post,Nancy! I have to admit I have been loving the Fall Season as I always do, but this one I have been kinda blue as my Mother passed away not so long ago-& I remember how terrible it felt last Thanksgiving and Christmas not to have her here. {Holidays approaching, makes me wonder if it will feel any better this season,}-- My two grown children ,& Grandaughter live in North Dakota, where I am from,& I live so far away here,in Reno, Nevada. Finances won't allow for me to travel there this year, & I know that none of them can come visit here,either. Family is important to me, esp to share Traditions with.

    I love where you said"The Best part of this discussion in Keeping Traditions,--is the creation of new ones!"--Wow Nancy, the power of your comments,put me in a more positive mood about this- I will have to make some "New Traditions",starting with this Holiday Season.

    I am so grateful for Victoria magazine, I read in them every night now-{just aquired a few more years of them}- they are such a wonderful thing for me, always so comforting and truly take my mind of anything negative or stressful.--Now I also can come here and read what you have to say,& even *talk* with you, this is fantasic! Love, Valery

  4. Thank you, Nancy, for continuing to charm us through this lovely blog, with the artistry that you brought to Victoria Magazine. I'm sure I am not unique in confiding that I kept many of my issues from when I bought my first copy in 1992 until the magazine took a break. Yes, I nearly have an attic full! I'll never forget the joy I felt when I saw the postman walking down the sidwalk with the clear plastic wrapper covering my latest Victoria.

    Thank you, also, for your homage to traditions and offering an insight into your world. And, what a wonderful group of townspeople to help save your home. I have a soft spot in my heart for historic homes, having lived and raised a family in a 115 year old Victorian for 15 years. I also have many traditions that I hold dear. However, this year, our Thanksgiving will be vastly different from those we've had in the past. My husband and I usually take turns visiting parents on Thanksgiving, alternating years, but this year, we are celebrating with no travel and staying home to cook and enjoy our immediate family. I will be looking to this blog and others for some wonderful ideas to help make our holiday extra special this year.

    Many blessings to you and yours....

    Rebecca Chamberlain
    Director, The Ladies' Historical tea Society

  5. I am a little torn this Thanks Giving season...for the first time in over thirty years I will not be hosting the Holiday in my home. I am relinquishing to one of my older daughters who has a larger home that can accommodate my ever growing family (6 married children, 8 grand daughters, and 3 grand sons, a single daughter, and a 16 year old son), as well as her husband's family. The one saving grace is that my daughters have a love for tradition as much as myself and will carry on. I really have a lot to be thankful for!
    I enjoy "Victoria" magazine very much, but I must say, I love the early magazine!

  6. What lovely and blissful conversations to start us into this holiday season. I truly believe that the group of "lovers" of Nancy's Victoria are full of grace, style, and the attribute "nice matters." I have lovingly taken the time to enjoy several issues in the last week and came across your editorial, "Nice Matters" again. It still rings true and so appropriate for everything we all believe and hopefully practice.

    I am blessed to have two daughters who embrace our traditions and family history as much as I do. So many have mentioned our grandparents how they shaped our lives now. As I look about my home I can see the precious pieces that I inherited from my grandparents and parents. They would probably not all seem important to others, but they bring smiles to my face.

    We have many of the same holiday traditions each of you cherish. Each year our daughters received a special ornament and now my four grandchildren get their own. In the last few years I have given my daughters special family treasures as gifts. Last year I made ten family cookbooks titled "Blessings Around Our Table" for my only sister, her three sons, my daughters and the two older grandchildren (my grandchildren are 23, 20, 6 and 3). How much fun I had putting together holiday recipes from grandparents and other family members. But I added memories, pictures, my parents' love story, "The Other Love Story of 1936," and funny stories. My sister is six years younger. When she called me from Denver with happy tears, she said she learned many family stories she had not heard or forgotten. The books were hits, but I probably had more enjoyment from working on them.

    Another year I made each daughter shadowbox arrangements with pictures of each grandparent as children and a personal item that belonged to the grandparent. This year I am making the two youngest scrapbooks with pictures of their vacation this year. One year they received alphabet scrapbooks with each letter showing someone special in their life or pictures meaningful to only each grandchild.

    Nancy, I especially loved the picture of the silver gravy spoon with its glow from use and age. I have so many wonderful memories from spending weekends at my grandparents. I was given four large silverplated spoons by my mother that had been used by her mother. They both always seemed to use these spoons when they were baking. My mother liked to tell me that they stirred in special love to whatever you baked. I love these silver spoons--they feel different that today's silverware. They have a soft shine, feel more substantial in my hand and I like to think they do in fact stir in love. Last year I gave each daughter one spoon, telling them the story about how they would be the fourth generation to use them to stir up homemade dishes served with extra love. I can still see my grandmother in her big country style kitchen making pumpkin pies and tons of desserts for holidays. My mother and her five sisters would all be in the kitchen cooking and talking. I said she had a big kitchen and there was always room for even the children, especially on the pantry floor.

    Thank you again for bringing all of us together to give us the opportunity to share. May each of you have a blessed holiday season with many new memories.

  7. Just a comment to Jean Blackford...will you adopt me? I just love that you provided your girls with the spoons that stir in love, Jean. What a precious heritage you've given! I'm proud to be a part of this group and overjoyed that our beloved "fearless leader" Nancy, is at the helm. Speaking of silver, I use my mother's Chantilly by Gorham for everyday dining, and every time I hear them the chime as they ring against a tea cup, I think of her and bless her for investing in my future enjoyment!
    Love, Karen Marline

  8. Well, God bless the people of Ames for fighting to keep the 'powers that be' from taking away those precious pieces of history... at least thus far. I loved seeing the Walton quilt in the last post and seeing your silver spoons in this one. I also loved hearing how your son's artwork still hangs in your Ames home, along with your m-i-l's art treasures. Those are such wonderful pieces of "sameness" that I am sure it is a comfort to you, your husband, and your son.

    What is really special, though, is how your thoughts spark in us such wonderful conversation about our treasures and traditions. What a joy to read about Mimi's connection to her past through her dishes and pottery, and her intent to give a piece of her history to the new owners of the homeplace. And Brenda shared a profound thought, "these are our children's good old days." I have never thought about it like that, and that makes me want to make our times together all the more special. Which ties in perfectly to Valery's reminder about your encouragement that while keeping the old, we should also create new traditions... which Rebecca is doing this year, as she celebrates at home with her immediate family. And, Debbie is also embarking on a new tradition this year by not hosting all the family in her home, but traveling to her daughter's home. It's so great that she has handed down those wonderful traditions to them, so that they will also do that for the next generation.

    I so enjoyed Jean's comments about us... the kindred spirits who still love our Victorias and appreciate you, Nancy, for all the beauty you brought and bring into our lives, both through the magazine and now in this blog. And I love that Jean made treasures for her family in the form of cookbooks with family recipes, but more importantly family stories. What fantastic creativity! And Karen Marline, I love that you use that Chantilly for everyday ...I haven't been able to do that yet with my Towle Chippendale. One of these days I might, but for now it comes out on Easter, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other special occasions... and it still has that new looking shine.

    Nancy, I was 22 years old when I received my first Victoria (the second issue... I still grieve that I didn't get that first issue) through the mail. While those around me were into sweatshirts with cutout necks and arms (a la Flashdance) and pink, blue or purple punk hairdos, my soul longed for real beauty. Victoria brought me what I was longing for and even more, it brought me what I didn't even realize I was longing for. And now we have you here to do that for us again. The conversation you foster among us is wonderful... just being among those who really understand. It's like coming home.

    Bless you all,

  9. Christi, what a nice inclusive post! I love it. But I must encourage you to use that silver...nothing keeps it shining like regular, loving use. I'll go look that pattern up. It reminds me of my junior high Home Ec classes; our teacher took the time to explain to us how to "match" china, silver, and crystal patterns for a beautiful table. I don't suppose they do that much anymore!

    Love, Karen Marline

  10. Hi,

    It's great to see such lovely comments here. It warms the heart to know similar people are out there who feel the same way as I do. Victoria has meant so much to me over the years I only wish I had come in from the very beginning. I missed a whole 5 years worth of issues. I do bless the day I found the April 1992 issue. A while later I got the March 1992 issue and I have been reading ever since. This blog has helped us reconnect with those initial feelings of beauty and wonder that we felt with discovering the magazine all those years ago. I guess being over the other side of the world here in Sydney it's nice to connect with other like minded individuals. Keep loving and sharing the beauty Victoria started long ago.

    Take Care, Babe, xxxxx ooooo

  11. I must comment on Karen Marline's "don't suppose they do that anymore remark." True, most do not. But I had lunch today with my group of non-profit organization friends and one woman shared with us her efforts to introduce teenage girls to a more gracious way of life through an organization that takes them to five-start hotels, museums, formal dinners and dances. Yes, it is faith-affiliated, but it still seems inclusive. Since a similar non-profit program offered by another non-profit has not survived, I think this might be the only local group that connects today's girls to yesterday's graciousness. It gave me hope!

  12. I must share this follow-up to Mimi. I had the great good fortune to be present at a training session for city teens presented by an etiquette and deportment expert (no surprise, she was Southern!) at a very beautiful old mansion in NYC. I stumbled into it, but the next thing I knew, I was sitting at table with an enormous group of demure young ladies, all of whom had been in this special "at risk" group for a few months. They were being taught the nicities of behavior in every arena, along with skills of business, wardrobe work, speech, and posture. Why? Because the shepherding group (non-profit) believed that these girls deserved a chance to move "up" from their poverty roots and if they didn't have this training, they wouldn't know what fork to lift, how to behave and comport themselves in nice society. And I saw it working! They were taught what was and was not proper table manners, conversation, how to pass food, how to ask a question, how to include others in a conversation, how to excuse oneself, how to place a napkin on one's lap (yes, there IS a proper way), how to handle flatware, how polite!

    I was awed by the teachers, but mostly by the children themselves, who took it all VERY seriously. They were groomed to an eyetooth, every one, and didn't fidget, yawn, hollar, etc. as many in that age group, whatever their background, would have done. They realized this was a wonderful opportunity and took it to the highest degree. To hear these girls saying "Please pass the butter" or "Aren't we having nice weather today?" in their "indoor voices" was charming. Here's a link to the venue:

    I wish I could remember the name of the organization that supported these young ladies as they made their way into a new world.I feel great things are in store for them!
    Karen Marline

  13. Karen Marline, I do not know why anyone would want to join your Yahoo group. You monitor the posts and as soon as something is posted that you do not like, you bar the person from the group. I cannot imagine that anyone would want to be so closely scrutinized.