It’s one of those early childhood memories, as ephemeral as a sweet dream you want to remember, but changes shape, loses form like low clouds on a summer day.
I couldn’t have been older than 5.
I remember trudging ankle deep in sun-dappled, brackish water. I was holding a dip net, trailing my mother. I remember the sensation of a string, baited with a chicken neck, suddenly going taut.
As fragile as the memory is, I remember clearly the precise moment I landed my first blue crab. I remember a smile and some gentle instructions.
It was then I discovered the singular satisfaction of catching supper. What I was too young to understand then was how our cultures are shaped by the ways we negotiate and harness our surroundings, and what our food tells us about ourselves.
Later, back home in Houston, my mother boiled our catch and drenched it in a garlic and butter sauce. It was a delicacy.
Unlike my father, who was an avid saltwater fisherman raised in Corpus Christi, my mother wasn’t born to the coastal life. She grew up in Austin. But she took to the Texas Gulf Coast and never missed a chance for weekends on the beach.
She was too impatient to fish, but found joy in crabbing and a pursuit to call her own.
I didn’t share that joy with her for long. As soon as I was old enough — and tall enough — I’d leave my mother to her crabbing and join my father fishing in the surf, where it seemed all the glory was.
But I think of her when I see people crabbing — the sun, a smile and a memory that almost got away.