Crabs at a Family Reunion
December 13, 2016
Filed under Lifestyle
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Every year for one day of the summer, my family buys cases of soda and beer to pack in our cooler with bags of ice. Then we make the hour-long trip to my grandmother’s house. When we arrive, we make the trek to the beach and set our cooler down. Multiple trips are made up and down the hill as we bring out food and paper towels–and tarps if it’s going to rain. The most important food item is set right next to the picnic bench: two bushels of crabs, freshly steamed and smothered with layers and layers of Old Bay. Mild conversations arise as we wait for everyone to arrive, burgers and hot dogs slowly cooking over a charcoal-filled grill.
Everybody sits on rotten wood benches and bludgeons his or her shell with wedding gift mallets on brown paper. Soft meat is picked from ungiving shells and eaten with delicate fingers. Empty carcasses slowly pile up in the center of the table until everyone has to push shells and worries away to make room for more. My uncle complains about picky customers that won’t accept food because the sides are touching and coworkers that never shut up. My aunt complains of rowdy schoolchildren that never settle. Everyone complains about taxes and bills. Current stresses and problems are softened over dishes of butter as the cuts in our nail-beds sting and our sodas and bottles get coated with Old Bay. Crumbled paper towels litter the table.
When the crabs are done, the mess is thrown into garbage bags and we grab paper plates. Comedic anecdotes are piled on with our filling plates of chips. The story of of how my aunt drove herself to the hospital while she was in labor. The story of my uncles’ receding hairlines and their warnings that my brother and my cousin were ‘next’. The stories of the past and the present. By the time everyone is on a second burger, only small talk and gentle waves can be heard over our full stomachs.
When everyone is done, my uncles and cousins grab the inflatable raft and place a cooler in it. My brother and I carefully maneuver down steep rocks that keep the beach from eroding to join them. We stay in the water for hours in the warm summer waves as our hair becomes crisp with salt and our skin gets cold and wrinkled.
We only leave when the sun begins to set. We dry ourselves before we start lugging coolers and food back up the hill, only stopping to grab a few more chips. We say goodbyes to our dear ones and gravel crunches beneath our tires while we keep an eye out for accidental deer.