water, country heritage. At least I havernknown such a life.rnI am grateful that I was not raised likernsome hothouse flower, living in air-conditionedrnisolation from the naturalrnworld. I was never belted into a minivanrnand catapulted down a highway at 75rnm.p.h. to be delivered by a stressed-outrnand preoccupied driver to the childcarerncenter so both parents could go to workrnto pay an $l,800-a-month mortgage on arnpoorly constructed development homernwhere today’s family abides for a timernbefore career changes or the divorce.rnAny child who has not run barefootrndown a row of tobacco is disenfranchisedrnby my standards.rnBut in spite of an appreciation for myrnprimitive, rural upbringing and my reverencernfor the tobacco-growing traditions,rnon a November morning in 1990,1 quitrnsmoking. I was home from work, sittingrnaround drinking coffee and lighting uprnone Marlboro Light after another, whenrnI ran out of cigarettes. In an instant, onrnthat morning, I understood how tired Irnhad grown of a habit that was more arnburden than a pleasure. Since my fatherrnhad died of a heart attack in 1987,1 hadrnbeen smoking but constantly worryingrnover what it was doing to my health.rnDaddy had smoked for about 25 years. Irnremember that as a little girl, I wouldrnhug him and that his white shirts had alwaysrnsmelled of Winstons, a soothingrnfragrance to a child who loved her fatherrnand who was growing up in tobaccorncountry. His dying was not necessarilyrnattributable to smoking since he hadrnquit the habit several years before hisrndeath, but his passing away at the age ofrn65 had made my own glassy essence, atrnlast, a reality to me.rnEven as my anxiety had grown overrnthe years, I never thought I would be ablernto overcome the addiction. But somethingrnhappened that morning six yearsrnago. Just about to go out to buy morerncigarettes, out of the blue, I said to myself,rn”You are now a nonsmoker.” I didrnnot say, “It’s been two minutes since yournquit.” I was at that very moment, andrnwith the help of God, a nonsmoker. AlthoughrnI did fall off the wagon at myrnbrother’s oyster scald on that bitterlyrncold New Year’s Eve following my big decisionrnand sank so low at one point duringrnwhat turned out to be a sad and neverendingrnJanuary that I ate a box ofrnKrispy Kreme sugar-glazed doughnutsrnwhile sitting in front of my kerosenernheater, I have remained relatively thinrnand smoke-free to this day.rnBut I am a reformed smoker who doesrnnot rant and rave against tobacco, tobaccorngrowers, or the industry in the mannerrnof today’s politicos. Admittedly, I amrnnot objective concerning this particularrnsubject. After all, I am the granddaughterrnof a man who was said to have raisedrnsome of the prettiest tobacco in St.rnMary’s County, Maryland. The tobacco-rngrowing culture which shaped me is arnpart of my Southern heritage, and I recognizernthat the vestiges of a tobaccobasedrneconomy link Maryland with thernrest of the tidewater South even as carpetbaggersrnfrom Pennsylvania, New Jersey,rnand New York stream over the Mason-rnDixon. As old Maryland disappears,rnwhat is most disturbing is that people,rnincluding the majority of Marylanders,rnare pitifully unschooled in the state’s geographyrnand history. They might notrnknow, for example, that while cotton andrnother crops have been raised here, tobaccornhas always been king in Maryland.rnNevertheless, while I am one nonsmokingrnMarylander with a warm spot in herrnheart for all that tobacco represents, I amrnglad to be free from the cigarette habit.rnAs a nonsmoker, I enjoy many benefits.rnI feel and look better, spend lessrnmoney, and my clothes and hair smellrnsweeter. I’ll never have to go out in thernmiddle of a snowstorm to buy cigarettesrnas I did one winter or experience the disappointmentrnevery smoker feels when herndiscovers there is only one left in thernpack. Smokers, who are resourceful people,rnmust always plan ahead for mornings,rnfor hurricanes, for blizzards. Nornone, the smoker reasons, should have tornget out of bed, especially on a Mondayrnmorning, and have that first cup of coffeernwithout the accompaniment of arncigarette. Unlike the smoker, I don’trnhave to fret about the future as muchrnnow.rnInconsistent with my relatively newfoundrnfreedom from nicotine is a tolerantrnattitude toward the addicted. Oddlyrnenough, I don’t care if I sit in the nonsmokingrnsection of a restaurant. In fact,rnmy favorite cafe, located in Lusby, Maryland,rnto my knowledge, has no policy ofrnsegregating smokers from nonsmokers,rnbut does have the best fatback-seasonedrnstring beans I have ever tasted. Furthermore,rnpeople might consider me strangernbecause I believe that there is nothing asrnrude as a hostess who invites people tornher home and then asks guests to smokernoutside. I can’t imagine a ChristmasrnDay on which nonsmoking kinfolk, cupsrnof Virginia eggnog in their hands, lookrnout frosty windows at some poor soulrnpuffing away and sitting at the picnicrntable in the backyard. What a violationrnof the rules of hospitality.rnWhen I first quit, I was afraid Irnwouldn’t know how to act around thernnicotine addicts in my life. My bestrnfriend in the world is a Kentucky girl andrna smoker. I wondered how she would reactrnto me as one of those holier-thanthournhealth nuts? Fortunately, everythingrnhas worked out for our friendship.rnI have discovered that I am as tolerant orrnas intolerant as I was in the old days whenrnI inhaled. Even before I quit, a veryrnheavy concentration of smoke, such as Irnonce experienced in an Amtrak car filledrnwith chainsmoking Japanese tourists onrntheir way to Philadelphia, would makernme sick. Otherwise, a little smoke herernand there is no problem for me. I canrnstill sit at the kitchen table with a smokingrnfriend talking and drinking coffee forrnhours.rnTruthfully, sometimes fellow nonsmokersrnget on my nerves a little. Theyrnare often overly precise and tend to complainrnof allergic reactions to smoke.rnWhy can’t they just say they don’t likernsmoking rather than coming up with ailments?rnReformed smokers, in particular,rncan be tedious in their enthusiasm.rnThey can detect a puff of smoke from 50rnfeet away and are offended by even thernslightest suggestion of fumes. While Irnbelieve that smokers have a responsibility,rnas we all do, to consider others asrnmuch as possible, some nonsmokers,rntypical of many people these days, want arnperfect world and think that they will livernforever if they just avoid or eliminate allrnperceived threats to their health.rnThe truth is that no matter how judiciouslyrnwe live, we are all going to die.rnIt’s just a matter of when. And some ofrnus can do all the wrong things and stillrnmanage to live a long time. My grandmother,rnMadeleine, who died at the agernof 100 and who was happy and healthyrnalmost to the end, lived with heavyrnsmokers for at least 40 years of her lifernand broke all the nutrition rules (Grannyrnwould fry oyster fritters in lard and thenrnbutter them). Who knows exactly whatrncombination of factors determine howrnlong we will live?rnWhat I do know is that my grandmotherrndid not make staying alive the focusrnof her life; she just lived with purposernand left the rest to God, not to a Presi-rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn