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CELIA RIVENBARK: Queenlier than thou

Before the call came, I was just another frazzled middle-aged mom whose immediate goals included (1) buying a pair of jeans that wouldn't make me look like I was pregnant in my butt and (2) figuring out how to disguise yet another one of those anorexic roast chickens from the grocery store as a home-cooked meal. Oh and trying to figure out who decided it would be a fabulous cosmic joke to give me jaw-line acne at my age.

In other words, garden-variety dilemmas faced by millions of women just like me every day.

But one phone call changed everything because I have been asked to be - you're not going to believe this - the North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival Queen.

When he called, I had one question for Bill, the chipper festival organizer.

"Are you high?"

"What? No!"

"I don't have to wear a bathing suit, do I?"

"Oh, God no!" he said.

"Well you don't have to sound so danged happy about it."

Bill chuckled. "You can wear one if you want to but it will be in November so you might get chilly on the float."

"Right. That's the only reason I'm going to pass on that one," I said, sarcasm as thick as Karo syrup, which is, incidentally, the secret to perfect pecan pie, a mix of light and dark, that is. I am SO right for this job, y'all.

A few days later, the chairman of the festival called to follow up.

"We're thrilled that you've agreed to be our Queen," said Suzanne before ticking off a list of queenly responsibilities that included a crowning ceremony (I can't keep the tiara; I asked already), a ribbon-cutting for a homes tour and, my favorite, checking out the entries in the pecan cook-off.

I loved Suzanne for saying "pee-can" and not the haughtier-than-thou "pe-cahn" which, along with the vile "anyways," is further evidence that Yankees are ruining our language.

Suzanne said I'd be surrounded by eight junior-high school girls in hoop skirts as my "court" of pecan belles. Since they should do my bidding, I'm going to see if they'll detail my Taurus while I'm in town.

I plan to research queenly behavior because I could practically hear Bill wince over the phone when I mentioned that I wanted North Carolina to "kick some Georgia butt" in the pecan harvest. Hey, I've done my homework. I won't be some lightweight queen (especially after a few dozen pecan tassies). Sure, we've produced 5 million pounds a year, but I think we can do better.

In fact, I'm issuing a royal decree. Unlike Kate Middleton, bless her heart, I'm really going to be royalty.

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