During those gatherings, I learned my family's stories. I heard about the time Uncle Scott had a burn on him bottom, couldn't wear diapers, and his older brothers charged the neighborhood kids $.05 to come in and look at his naked, burned butt. (And, of course, I learned the story of the burn itself. Your instincts are correct if you guessed that his older siblings had something to do with it.) And then there was the time two of my mom's brothers burned down a garage. And the marijuana plot in the backyard. (I could go on and on, but my mom might never forgive me!) These loud, raucous gatherings are some of the best memories of my childhood and so, of course, I'd like to pass the tradition onto my children.
My parents taught me how to pick crabs when I was tiny. My mother grew up in a household of 9 where it was every man for himself when the food hit the dinner table. Consequently, the rule in our family has always been that once you're old enough, you pick your own crabs and you peel your own shrimp and crawfish. Or you starve.
Last weekend, we got a bushel of live crabs from a friend's connection in Pungo and invited some friends over for a crab and shrimp boil. The kids ran around like wild animals and stayed up way too late. The adults drank wine and beer and ate way too much food. We gorged ourselves on spicy boiled crabs, shrimp and potatoes and crusty French bread. By the end of the evening, my nose was slightly runny from the spices,* my fingers were a little pruned and chewed up from prying sharp crab parts apart, my hands smelled of seafood and newspapers, and my tummy was pleasantly full.
*No Old Bay seasoning will ever enter my house. We use a combination of Zatarain's crab boil and my own special spice combination. Lots of red pepper is involved.
My family may be far away, but I thought of those wonderful family gatherings often throughout the night. T and I shared our family stories with friends. It wasn't the same as my childhood memories, but it was fun. There's nothing better than good food and good conversation. Hopefully, my children will learn who they are and where they came from in the same way I did, even if we have to create our own extended quasi-family.
One thing if for sure though. Hollis and Holden better learn to pick crabs quickly if they want to keep eating them.