Thursday, August 15, 2002

The beauty of shrimp

After arriving at my cousin's house from the two days in which I drove over 23 hours, I was beat. I was barely coherent Thursday night upon my arrival, and spent most of Friday just freaked out, trying to unpack. My youngest sister, Abigail, all of 9 years old, came over with my teen-age cousin Michele that afternoon to help me unpack a bit. Abigail spent the afternoon coloring and keeping an eye on the telephone and the cats while Michele and I ran things from the truck up a flight of stairs into the house.

My cousin Audrey's house. It's amazing to me that she and her husband Jamie, both of them 3 years younger than me, own this house. It's a split-level two-car garage affair in Acworth, one of the most distant of Atlanta suburbs. It's situated in Cobb county off of I-75 and highway 92, where the roads are sprinkled with subdivision after subdivision, one not unlike the other as they've all come to being in the past decade. The house is beautiful and just right for their small family. They've given over the room that was their office to me, no questions asked. It's my cousins who keep me from being obnoxious. Sure, I've got a grad degree, I worked for Harvard, and I'm a writer. So what? My cousins younger than me have houses, spouses, and children. I can't even begin to understand how they've managed to do all that before the age of 25.

I paid Michele back for carrying heavy boxes in the heat with a candy bar and the loan of my entire run of Batgirl. Michele is a cousin by marriage, 17, and a classic Witch-Baby.

Saturday I spent the day with my Uncle Doug, Aunt Laura, and their children in Marietta. Well, their children, Audrey's little boy, my cousins from the Gordon side, my sister, a cousin's boyfriend's child who she was watching, a couple of kids from the neighborhood, Laura's grandmother, and some people who stopped in to say hi.

Then my Grandfather arrived with my other sister, Sara, and about 50 pounds of shrimp that he boasted had been in the river the night before. He opened the cooler and while he and my uncle Doug got to cooking, I, my cousin Connie, and several of the toddlers sat around just looking at all the shrimp on ice. They were beautiful, huge with their heads still on, and whiskers off their faces a deep dark purple. Their bodies were gray but threw off flecks of sliver, green, and lavender in the light. Their tails were dark gray but tipped in the palest green, a fading and shading of col9ors so beautiful I kept looking at them, showing them to other people. Shrimp are beautiful.

We sat down with all those shrimp boiled in seasoning with Vidalia onions and nothing else but salad, crackers, and gallons of sweet tea. Abigail sat next to me and peeled her own shrimp for the first time, and Sara sat across from us, eating shrimp the way only a teenager can. We fed a good two dozen people, at least, and my grandfather and uncle sat out at the table last, talking with a neighbor about history and food and fishing. There was ice cream at some point in little cones. As it got dark, I went out on the lawn with my aunts and cousins and we all laid on the grass and watched Sara light sparklers, ten at a time, for the toddlers, who were amazed. The smoke chased away most of the bugs, but they eventually drove us back in.

My parents arrived in from Nashville that night, and then we all sat around drinking fuzzy navels and people hugging me and patting me on the back and I was stupid exhausted still. It was a good night. One of the teen age girl cousins, Karina, got to cutting hair on the back porch, and all the girls got trims while the adults sat around drinking and talking. I was overwhelmed and just kept from letting everyone know how close I was to crying. I wasn't sad at all, but just really tired and happy and overwhelmed by how nice it all was. How beautiful the shrimp were. How nice it was to back home, in Georgia, forever, at last.

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