As a child growing up in a house full of readers, books were top dog, the newspaper did most of the talking at the breakfast table and magazines were for longer reads – The New Yorker and The New Republic holding up their respective ends of the political spectrum without dissent. Lifestyle magazines never really made the cut, only magnifying their allure.
I remember getting my hands on a September issue of Vogue and sitting on the beach with it in late August, its sandy pages oily and dogeared with gorgeous, brightly colored dresses
I dreamed of floating through the streets of San Francisco wearing on a Sunday drive.
The discovery of food on the page was revolutionary, and by the time I hit The New York Times Magazine many years later – with its Fourth of July picnic spreads, clambakes on the beach and blueberry muffins cooling on the windowsill –– I was a goner. There was an air of anticipation and celebration of summer that wasn’t as palpable in California with its mellow seasonal transitions. Summer on the East Coast was stunning and poetic, luring me cross country to New York so I could live it in person for eight seasons. The real thing was certainly less romantic, but I was just as immersed in its rituals, fleeing the city on weekends for open-air feasts and celebration, seeking a glimpse of those moments so seamlessly represented on the lifestyle page.
This year, as we’re faced with dog days that will have little reprieve, I could use a little of that sunscreen-scented inspiration so beautifully served up in the pages of summers past. With pools and theme parks closed, concerts, festivals and camp(!) cancelled, I’m grateful that the feeling evoked by those images is seared in my soul. Whatever sweaty, cramped, cabin-fever days lie ahead, I’ll take the mantle of my family’s distraction, leveraging the memories of better days through the power of suggestion – starting with the muffins on the sill.
Shelley Tatum Kieran is Partner at MOCA+. She can also be found @thehandfeeds.