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Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Getting lazy, so another re-run, this from January 2013 

The following is my son Matt’s favorite story about his grandmother, coincidentally my mother.  It may sound callous or cruel to some so I must provide some background.

My mother grew up at a time when getting sick often meant you might die.  The caution “Put on a coat, you’ll catch your death” was not just an expression.  Mom lost her mom to disease before she was eight years old.  She lost a baby sister when she was four.  Her father died before she was ten.  Mom was raised by her step-mom who was a wonderful grandma to me, but apparently seemed more like Cinderella’s guardian to my mother. 

My mom had many friends while growing up who did not make it to adulthood.  People from her generation knew children who died from a sniffle, they knew men who killed themselves when they lost everything in the stock market crash, they knew many, many young men who left home for war and never returned.  Simply put, mom was no stranger to death and was more numbed to its pain than those of future generations. 

My mother lived on the Maryland eastern shore, on a creek which led to the Chesapeake Bay.  I wish I could have claimed this as the home where I grew up, but my folks did not move to this idyllic house on the water until after I graduated from college.

In the summer when we visited, my kids loved to catch Maryland blue claw crabs off the dock. Mom would throw them in a pot and steam them for dinner.  If this seems cruel to you, (live crabs frantically clacking in a steaming pot for ten seconds before they die is not pretty) keep in mind crabs do not die of old age.  If we do not catch, steam and eat them, a fish will find them while they are shedding their shell and methodically bite off their legs before slowly eating them alive.


When my children grew up they still visited “Gammie’s” every summer for an annual “Crab Feast.”  They went with their friends, crabbed from the dock and Gammie would steam the crabs and serve up a feast along with corn-on-the cob.

One year, several of Matt’s friends were not aware of the size restrictions on keeping and eating blue claw crabs.  They brought up a bushel of crabs for Gammie to steam and as mom was grabbing the crabs with a long-handled crab tong and throwing them in the pot, she realized one was under the size limit.

“Oh my, this crab is too small.”

“Really, we didn’t know, should we throw it back Mrs. Hagy?”

“He really is under sized…” Then as mom flung the tiny crab into the steaming pot she declared,

“Oh well, babies die every day!”

Matt still laughs today at the thought of this sweet little old lady and her flippant remark.

When I am gone I hope my children have a fonder memory of me than this casual comment that they will always remember from Gammie.

And yet: 

The vision of an 88 year old, 102 pound gray-haired lady callously flinging an undersized crab into a steaming pot and saying “Oh well, babies die every day!” somehow was endearing. 
I think it represents the hard life of her generation, her toughness and in a strange way the strength of her religious convictions.  People die, babies die, life goes on and is everlasting. 

“World without end…ah…,”


  1. I'm glad you posted this again. It sooo reminded me of olden days. I had a friend who went to organised 'crab parties, I didn't know what it meant until much later in life. I think I missed a lot being a townie.

  2. I agree it's endearing and shows a complete acceptance of the ways of life. I wonder if the blue claws are the same as our blue swimmer crabs which are delicious if I remember right, it's been over 25 years since I had any.

  3. I can see where your son would think it's funny. My kids laugh about some of the crazy stuff my mom says.

  4. That generation lost its delicacy regarding death..of humans AND animals....if it's edible throw it in the pot.

  5. I was just talking about this sort of thing with my Mom this morning. Saying basically that HER mom, born in 1924, was the last generation that had it rough, generally. I can disappear into movies and music and never come back out, but they couldn't do that.

    We complain, but most of us are living pretty comfortably. Most of us.

    People have changed.

  6. I would have loved your grammie. They were tough old birds back then. I had one of those too.

    Have a fabulous day, Joe. ☺

  7. I think it's kind of funny, and the little crab probably tasted just as good as the big ones.

  8. I think it is actually a healthier way to look at life. I've had a lot of tragedy in my life, but I am finally starting to learn, that holding on to emotional sentimentality is what does me in. It's much better for me, to say something like your Mom.

    Cute story.

  9. Great story. My wife once visited her folks and her sister who lived a few blocks apart near the Florida gulf coast. Her dad had a creek next to his house and would catch blue crabs off the dock. One day my wife "fished" with him, then put a pail of blue crabs in the basket on her sister's bike and rode home to her sister's house. Sis steamed the crabs and made guacamole with avocadoes picked from the trees in her yard. But my wife always remembers those crabs squeaking in the steaming pot. She said they tasted great though.

  10. She was marvelous, i wish i'd known her.

  11. I think that's hilarious, and I would re-tell it, too, if it had happened with my grandma.

  12. 2. Tempere a corpo cⲟm graça e arruaceiro ɑ agrado.

  13. Yes Joe this definitely shows her generation, a hard life lived but a good life for those who remained, she sounds like a wonderful woman.

  14. I get it. We name our chickens because they are more like pets. When I was growing up, mama would pick one up from the yard, ring its neck and cook it for Sunday dinner. It was a different time.

  15. Sometimes I miss the good old days, and sometimes I'm pretty glad I'm living in the good new days and didn't lose a kid or die in childbirth... Great story!