I don't really have a lot of family-oriented traditions. I mean, I barely see those blood relatives as it is, and even growing up, everyone was so far apart. We really only make a big effort to gather for weddings and funerals, and the only tradition we have there per say is drink like the booze is free.
Still, every summer, at least for a day or two, the majority of the clan will gather on our island hideaway and participate in the ritual sacrifice of dozens of lobsters. This barbaric tradition dates back eons, as early photographic evidence suggests.
This tradition carries on. The eve that the most people can gather, we order about a million of these succulent searoaches, get these enormous pots on the gas broiler, and pace around, machete in hand, waiting for the last flail and scream to stop from the pot and the tell-tale orangey rouge to be peering out of the watery depths.
There is something just so marvelously simple and decadent about this feast.
This year, I was late to the planning party, and there wasn't a single green veg on the table: just lobster, boiled shrimp, butter and corn on the cob. While I can't say my stomach felt light and comfortable after that, I remind myself that it is once a year and snatch the last tail off the table. No matter how many times I had gorged on lobster upon arriving in the state, it always seems much sweeter here.
Oh, and the leftovers! Picking is a bitch job, but we put all the leftovers and the bodies in a garbage bag, shove it in the fridge and spend the next day with tiny picks, picking the meat out of each leg and knuckle that we couldn't be bothered with when we had the fast and easy tails and claws to work on. Just reward: lobster omelets and lobster rolls the next day, and what ever after that is left over gets doused in butter and cream and leftover breakfast bacon and boiled potatoes, onions and stripped-off corn to make a hasty and slightly unseasonable chowder.
While we didn't get terribly hot weather (and in Northern Maine, hot is actually kind of nice with so many places to cool yourself) it wasn't so bad that sleeping outside wasn't an ordeal. The camp has gone through a lot of changes over the years (electricity! running water! private bedrooms!) and it's much more comfortable now, but I still would rather be outside next to the water at night. A world of sounds- the loons calling across the lake in their mournful tone, owls, an occasional chilling mystery wail.
I'm also still in the habit of taking a bar of soap down to the lake and doing my bathing there. We have hot, running water 40 feet away, but there is something about the pleasures of going for a refreshing dunk before nightfall. It's also a good way to get rid of those dreaded lobster-scented hands.
I have abandoned the outhouse permanently and I'm happy to use the flush toilets as much as possible. I'm a Luddite, but I do enjoy some comforts here and there.
Every year, I spend a lot of time staring out over the water at the big granite slabs on the horizon.
Despite the noise and inevitable drama that comes with not-oft gathering families (or any family, really), there's still a real sense of peace here. People gather here because of the peace and quiet, and it ends up becoming anything but. I find it stressful to try to get to know and get on with these near-strangers all over again. We have our moments. Thankfully, we brought kayaks, and a short paddle off the island and you are once again in a zen-like trance. The smooth, clear lake, the wind in the trees, the mountains and the loons.
Its amazing to think that in a few months' time, you will be able to walk across the lake.
I think I will remain a summer visitor, even if it means having to deal with a crowd.