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My Birthday Wish Fulfilled

The crabs were fat, plentiful and willing to be caught

Vincent Ransom and Dennis Doyle hauled in a fat bushel of ­jimmies for Doyle’s birthday feast.

I had violated my sacred rule never to promise blue crabs before they were caught. To further increase the danger of a dinner failure when an ever-growing number of people was expecting to be fed, I had not run a trotline in more than a year. Now, at well past dawn, we were only laying out the baited line at the mouth of a neighborhood creek.
    Friends from New Jersey were staying with us, and, while I had been intending to celebrate my 75th birthday with them as quietly and inconspicuously as possible, other influences were at work. I foolishly had not factored in my children, some of their friends and, not the least, my long-neglected and forgotten Facebook account, which had automatically spewed a birthday announcement far and wide.
    My wife had asked the night before, as Vincent Ransom from New Jersey and I were baiting my 600-foot line with chicken necks and sipping adult beverages, “what happens if you don’t catch enough crabs?”
    I answered that pizza would just have to do. She gave me the old arched eyebrow and stalked off. I was beginning to get a little tense and could only hope that my premature promise of enough jimmies for dinner would not jinx the crabbing.
    Adding to my growing terror, I had no actual idea where in local waters the crabs were. Luckily my charter captain friend Frank Tuma had given me a good idea of a nearby site to lay our line.
    The results of our first run of the baited line dispelled a great deal of my trepidation. With Vince manning a trotline net for his first time ever, we managed an even dozen fat jimmies that didn’t even need to be measured. After that, crabs kept flying out of his net and into our basket.
    Within an hour and a half, we were over the three-quarter bushel mark and lauding each other for our skill and luck. Of course at that same point the tidal current died, as did the crab movement. It took more than two hours to finish, but we were back at the ramp by noon with a bulging bushel of the blue beauties.
    Back at the house, Vince and I accepted our spouses’ surprised congratulations, settled our gear and cleaned up. I took a birthday nap, leaving the interim preparations in the hands of my sainted wife, Deb, and Tarin, the other half of the couple from New Jersey.
    Eventually, growing crowd noise and a constantly ringing phone woke me from my decadent mid-day slumber, and I was forced to rejoin the world below who were slowly accumulating to remind me how ancient I had become.
    My youngest son, Robert, who had flown up from his place in Florida, had taken on the task of assembling the propane tank and gas burner, tongs, cardboard platters and adding in just the right mixture of beer, vinegar and water to the crab cooker to steam the tasty devils just the right amount. Just as the feast was almost ready, our middle boy, Harrison, and his partner, Jerica, arrived from Baltimore, having finally extricated themselves from the weekend traffic.
    The pile of hot, fat crabs, heavily dosed with that familiar, steaming spice mixture, was soon heaped on the newspaper-covered dining room table, a sight as beautiful and fragrant as anything ever beheld.
    Somehow we all got seated, a platter of steamed corn and salad miraculously appeared, cold beverages distributed, a bottle of birthday champagne popped and the meal commenced. As I glanced around the room at what had transpired in my home, I wished that living on Chesapeake Bay would forever be just like this for all my family and friends.