Editor’s Note: Margaret is traveling this week, so she picked one of her favorite columns to share with those folks who may have missed it the first time around. This column was initially run in the July 26, 2006 issue of Up & Coming Weekly.
     I flatter myself sometimes to imagine that I am a citizen of the world.
     I do like to travel and do so whenever I can. I enjoy exploring our wonderfully diverse state whose people and places are rich and different. Murphy and Manteo are both in North Carolina but worlds apart in lifestyles, cultures, and economies.
     New York City is among my favorite places, and having a child in college in the city gave me plenty of reasons to visit and enjoy, not to mention ample opportunity to deal with the credit card afterwards. I even fantasize on occasion about living there at some point. I am looking forward to several upcoming weddings of friends and relations in various parts of the country, not only for the happy times they will bring but also for the chance to visit those locales.{mosimage}
     I also have three trips planned to other parts of the world and welcome those new experiences as well.
But, in my heart, I know I am a southern girl through and through. There is a magnolia blossom in a vase in my kitchen as I write this.
     For no rational reason other than perhaps the heat, summer seems more southern to me than any other time of the year.
     Among my earliest memories is one of my grandfather who lived in Kinston. He is sitting in his leather wing chair by a bay window drinking iced coffee. He is wearing a seersucker suit and has loosened his tie. It may not have been that very day, but at some point, he taught me to drink iced coffee with lots of sugar and cream. It was better to me than a soda, probably because he loved it, too, and because we sipped it together. I still love iced coffee in the summertime, but I have cut out the sugar.
     Watermelon.                    
     I eat it for breakfast as often as I can in the summer. It is cool, and as a doctor once told a very pregnant cousin, it helps get rid of all that water and the bad things in one’s body. I happened to meet North Carolina’s reigning Watermelon Queen several weeks ago as she went about her appointed rounds promoting our bountiful harvest of this divinely southern melon.
     Tomato sandwiches.           
     Maybe people in Minnesota and Oregon eat tomato sandwiches, but I think of them as a summer staple here. I grew up eating them on white bread with only mayonnaise and salt and pepper, but I have begun experimenting with healthier breads in recent years. So ingrained are tomato sandwiches among some southerners that we argue over whether they are better with Duke’s or Hellmann’s mayonnaise. The rivalry between Duke and Carolina is rarely more heated.
     When I was a child, mothers sat on back porches and snapped green beans, shucked corn, and shelled peas. I know people still do that, but I find myself scouting farmer’s markets for the already snapped and shelled ones in plastic bags for suppers of summer vegetables. In all candor, these summer meals are usually prepared by a wonderful friend who knows how to cook them just so, and they are delightful.
Another summer treat is the attic fan.
     My Kinston grandparents had one in their house, and my parents added one to both of the houses in which my sister and I grew up. So when I had a house of my own, I wanted one, too. It was no small effort to find an attic fan in the 1980s when air conditioning had long supplanted hot summer air, but find one I did. There is no better sleeping on earth than to the drone of an attic fan with its breeze floating above a summer blanket and night sounds wafting through open windows.
     The joys of a screened porch with a ceiling fan.
     During the hottest days of summer, we air conditioned-spoiled folks rarely sit outside unless we must. But in the cool of the early morning, I like nothing better than to take my coffee and newspapers and magazines onto our screened porch. I read and watch my neighbors as they walk or jog past, as they water their plants, as they get an early start on their day. It is a quiet and treasured beginning for me.
     I do love to travel and my thoughts these days are turning more and more to my upcoming trips. I do love the hustle and bustle and glamour of New York, and part of me is sorry my child has graduated from her city university and moved on with her life, taking my constant excuse to visit New York with her. I have begun to think what I might wear to the wedding in Dallas and the one on a fancy Florida beach.
     In my heart, though, I know where home is and will always be. It is reading and dozing on our screened porch and watching my world pass by on a small southern street with air perfumed by magnolias and gardenias.

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