Crab Feast

The night before my actual birthday, we had a fun family dinner at a local restaurant specializing in Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.  The elemental, primitive experience of steamed crab eating was new to our daughter.  She wasn’t expecting the Formica tables spread with brown paper or the absence of plates and utensils except for a sharp knife and wooden mallet.  My husband was unprepared for the garage-like atmosphere of the place, its worn linoleum floor and cinder-block walls covered with signs advertising bail bonds and auto-body shops.  But I had heard that the focus was on the crabs, not the décor, and I found it rather charming.  It reminded me of the blue collar bar in Princeton that H and I used to frequent when we first met.  D has always been an adventurous eater, and it didn’t take her long to get into the spirit of the meal.  Soon she was delving into the pile of crabs before us on the orange plastic tray, banging cheerfully with her mallet.

Crab picking is slow going, especially for those like us who are out of practice or novices, and it brought home to us how easily consumable the typical meal is.  We are accustomed to food that has been removed from its inconvenient exterior casings and arranged in neat, extra-large portions.  Completely fork-ready, it can be eaten with haste and ease.  No doubt we’d all be healthier if we weren’t such effortless consumers.

A Pre-Birthday Surprise

My husband (H) and daughter (D) recently threw a surprise party for me. I was completely shocked, but in a good way. My birthday, which is best described as a significant one, was still eight days away, and I suspected nothing that evening.

I had never had a surprise party before. I hadn’t had a real birthday party since I was twelve, when I invited ten friends for cake and ice skating. That was somewhat of a letdown, and it made me appreciate my family’s typically low-key marking of birthdays. H’s family, however, takes the opposite approach. They retain a remarkably resilient enthusiasm for celebrating all of life’s events. This includes the birthdays of the middle-aged, which are considered by my side of the family to be, at best, an excuse to go out to eat. While I thought I would be OK with a subdued acknowledgment of this birthday–I had said I didn’t want a party–I was glad to be overruled.

H and D took great pains to organize the event and to keep it a secret. To their credit, they are usually terrible liars. Yet apparently, if justified, they can pull off any number of untruths. They set up a complicated scenario that ended with our wandering, somewhat aimlessly, I thought, into a local music cafe. I heard H say quietly, “Happy Birthday,” but I was still surprised to hear it echoed, loudly, by a fairly large group of my closest friends.

I was still soaking up the surprise when I saw Robin and Linda Williams (and Their Fine Group) on stage setting up their instruments. Their music is an engaging blend of folk, bluegrass and gospel. I had discovered it years ago as a grad student studying for exams. Since then, for nearly every emotion or major life event I experience, there is a corresponding song by Robin and Linda. Their melodies, whether hauntingly sad or exuberantly joyful, are matched by evocative lyrics and accomplished instrumentals on banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin and dobro. Their music is the soundtrack of my life, especially now that H and D love it, too. Each year as we cross the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod, we sing Southern Shores, their song about escaping to the Outer Banks; it works for going north as well as south. The presence of the Williamses (who happen to be kind, friendly, and completely without pretense) and the promise of their music brought tears to my eyes.

Both H and D had prepared sweet and thoughtfully comical tribute speeches. As they spoke, it struck me that I am extremely fortunate to share my life with these two caring and admirable people, these two people who know me so well and yet still love me.

It was uplifting to see my good friends representing the various aspects of my life: neighborhood, church, and my daughter’s school. It brought to mind our small wedding, when H and I were surrounded by dearest friends and family. Our families had never met, and it was sort of magical to see, for example, my Uncle Bill laughing with H’s grandfather. I got the same impression as I watched my friends mixing happily together, some for the first time. Throughout the night, I was conscious of a powerful sense of community, a certainty that the issues that divide us are insignificant in the face of those that unite us. I found myself wishing that my parents could have come up from Atlanta to attend; they would have agreed that sometimes, indeed, celebrating in earnest is essential.

Names Not Chosen

wild trumpet vine 006

Below are some of the names I rejected, understandably, while searching for an appropriate domain name.  These are all real names of wildflowers that grow in Kentucky.  I had to create some special sentences to showcase them.

American Hogpeanut:  Granddaddy has a hankering for those boiled American Hogpeanuts they’re serving at the ballpark.

Bastard Toadflax:  Our new senator has turned out to be the Bastard Toadflax incarnate.

Butter Sneezeweed:  Jack, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times:  I’ll kill you if you get butter sneezeweed on the sofa!

Corn Cockle:  You’d better stop parading around town in those ridiculous high heels, or you’re sure to get a corn cockle.

Corn Salad:  The new austerity measures require us to eat corn salad three times a week.

Devil’s Tomato: The young minister’s wife has a dark past; it’s rumored that she’s a devil’s tomato.

Eastern Gray Beardtongue:  Don’t you dare come near me with that nasty eastern gray beardtongue!

Erect Goldenrod:  Tom’s erect goldenrod is the biggest in Polk County.  (No doubt this site is already claimed)

Hairy Alumroot:  Barney is notorious for chronic misuse of his hairy alumroot.

Hoary Poccoon:  Jimmy, that Delilah is nothing but a hoary poccoon, so don’t bring her round here no more!

Hyssop-leaved Thoroughwort:  The shyster lawyer over in Raywick is one hyssop-leaved thoroughwort, that’s for sure.

Marsh Fleabane:  Ellie’s tree-walking coonhound has come down with the marsh fleabane again; she needs to keep that dog out of the swamp.

Milk Vetch:  The baby has a touch of the milk vetch but Dr. Prosser says she’ll soon be on the mend.

Mountain Spurge:  Granny was spry and sassy until the mountain spurge took her away at 110.

Pickerelweed:  Don’t let the dog eat the pickerelweed under the porch, or he’ll be puking all over the house.

Pigweed: Don’t let the dog eat the pigweed out by the privy, or he’ll be pooping all over the house.

Pussytoes (the several varieties include Field, Single-headed and Plaintainleaf): The choir director stormed out of the Ladies Circle meeting when the new Sunday School teacher called her Prissy Pussytoes.

Showy Goatsbeard:  Our new congressman has turned out to be nothing more than a showy goatsbeard.

Soapwort Gentian:  The boy’s locker room at the high school is the perfect environment for the unchecked growth of soapwort gentian.

Sumpweed:  Don’t let the dog eat the sumpweed in the septic field or he’ll be puking and pooping all over the house.

Toothcup:  Aunt Bessie has run herself ragged looking for her toothcup.

Toothwort:  Uncle Tedd won’t be at the Elks’ Club tonight because he has a terrible case of toothwort.

Turtlehead: Johnny and his buddies skipped school to hitch a ride to the Turtlehead concert in Campbellsville.

A blog about motherhood, marriage and life: the joys and frustrations, beauty and absurdity, blessings and pain. It's about looking back, looking ahead, and walking the dog.