Like the Rambling Old Coot of a Grandpa I Never Had: The Magic of Reminisce Magazine

Where else are you supposed to go to hear stories about one-room schoolhouses and exploding corsets when all your grandparents are gone?

Oct 19, 2011 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

I miss my grandparents.

I never met my maternal grandfather. He was a pretty serious alcoholic who died before I was born, under horrible circumstances -- my mom had to identify his body when it was discovered after one of his benders. My maternal grandmother was a great lady, but she too has passed on, albeit more recently. We lived on opposite coasts, and I deeply regret not seeing enough of her before she died. Both my paternal grandparents died from cancer when I was young and I didn't get nearly enough time with them, either.

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Nothing can replace these people, of course, they were family. But I am so totally not kidding when I tell you that reading Reminisce magazine makes me feel, in a some strange way, closer to them -- or to the idea of grandparents in general. I go into this mental state where I feel all warm and fuzzy, like I'm in some kind of a Lifetime movie. (I mean one of the movies they show around the holidays, about love and family and whatnot. Not the kind where Tori Spelling gets stalked.)

If you aren't familiar with Reminisce -- and why would you be? -- it's a low budget kind of deal put out by the same publishers who make Readers Digest and all those themed cooking mags you see at the supermarket checkout. "Gifts in a Jar!", "Heartwarming Soups", "Summer Slowcooker Meals"...you know the ones.

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I first came across the magazine when some friends gave me a big stack of back issues they were getting rid of. They'd inherited the mini-collection from an older pal, and I'm not sure they were too keen on them. Knowing my love of vintage stuff, they figured I'd give them a good home.

I tore through that stack in no time, and it was love at first sight. Reminisce magazine is packed with exactly that -- old folks reminiscing. It seems to be aimed at retired folks and empty nesters; the monthly recipe column is called "Cooking for Two." The content is provided by readers, so people from all walks of life submit their stories about summer jobs selling donuts (it was the '50s and the gal made $20 a week), blowing off steam with the gals at the USO, using smelly salves with funny names during bouts of illness, and oh so much more.

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They reprint old advertisements, photos and slides. There's an "Antiques Roadshow"-type column where readers can get their tchotchkes appraised, which I always marvel at. There's also a feature called "Can You Give Me a Hand?" where readers send in their mailing addresses and ask people to write them with info about things like, "Does anyone have a manual for a Smith Corona DeVille 510 typewriter?" or "See this school photo from 1936? If you're pictured in it, please get in touch." I want to hook these guys up with the Internet so bad, but it's so incredibly sweet!

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There are even games! No old person magazine would be complete without a crossword puzzle and/or wordsearch, and they've got 'em. But they also have a goofy "Hattie's Hatpin" game where each month, you scan the issue to find a little "hatpin" some imaginary broad named Hattie has misplaced. They always make up a new and weirdly complex reason the pin has gone missing, too. I don't know why I find this so hilarious and cute, but I do. If you find the pin and send in your name, you can win one of their book collections, which include "Growing Up: The Magical Memories of Childhood" or "When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts." That last one seems pretty timely right now, come to think of it.

So, yeah...I relax and think about my grandparents while reading magazines primarily meant for old people to bond over. We all have our quirks! The memories and stories in Reminisce cover the '20s through the '60s, but they're starting to flirt with the early '70s -- which kind of scares the hell out of me. I'll be 38 in a couple of weeks, which means in a few short years I'll probably be sending them stories of my own. There was that wicked case of Pac-Man Fever I came down with in 1982. Those were the days, indeed.