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They must have had screened porches in Edith Wharton’s day. A quick Google search tells me that screened porches became particularly popular around 1880. And were still popular by the time Edith built The Mount. Yet, a screened porch wasn’t part of her plans. Maybe there were fewer mosquitoes up in the Berkshires in those years.
Down here in the South, screened porches are considered an essential. They helped people survive scorching summers before air conditioning. A friend of mine tells me that as a child in South Carolina, her mother would move their entire lives out to their screened porch in the summer, including her sewing machine, so even in the blistering heat, she could work while her children played card games on the cool flagstone floor.
My mother always dreamed of building a screened porch but it never came to pass. In the 1960’s, my father bought her a eight foot round pop-up aluminum screen house they erected on the lawn. It was a poor, crowded substitute for her dream porch that blew over in every high wind.
My mother was thrilled when we bought our 1930 house with its large, airy screened haven right off the kitchen. Her eyes lit with pleasure the first time we served her dinner out there. These days, we always eat dinner amidst the sound of crickets and waving trees when the weather allows, which it often does in the spring and fall and sometimes in the summer. The porch even makes a wonderful place to write. Its most magical use, however, comes when a night storm moves in. My husband and I cuddle out there in the dark whispering, watching the lightning , listening to the tattoo of rain on the roof, feeling cozy and very lucky.