Going to Menemsha, on Martha’s Vineyard, as a child, was a special occasion. It’s located in the area we called, “Up Island,” which means it’s in the hilly region and rather far away. By “far away,” I mean it took half an hour to drive there. Yeah, the Vineyard is not a big island.
Anyway, Menemsha is a very picturesque place; many photographers and artists go there to capture images of its beauty. Tourists love Menemsha, but us summer-ginks didn’t much bother with it, unless we had a reason to go there. Still, we always managed to go there at least a couple times a summer. When we did, I always asked my dad to tell me about the lobster traps.
On the docks were always piles and stacks of lobster traps. Most of the traps were made of simple wood slats bottom and rope mesh. Some had rocks or bricks in the. Dad explained how the fisherman put some bait in the trap, lowered it to the bottom and left it for a day or so. Along would come the lobster; my dad always did a great job of illustrating its movements with his hands and fingers. The lobster would climb up the mesh, drop inside, go up the second mesh into the other half of the trap to get the bait. This is how they caught lobster. If the fishermen were lucky, a second lobster would climb into the trap. It would become stuck in the first half of the trap.
I always loved listening to my father tell the story.
A couple years ago, my mom got a lobster trap. My oldest brother made it for her. She set it in the front yard of her little place on the island. It looked so nice in amongst her flowers. Time takes a toll on all of us, especially those of advanced years. There finally came the time when my mom decided she could no longer make the journey each summer and fall to and from the island.
She sold her place.
Before leaving the cottage, she allowed all of us to pick out things we liked, and, if she didn’t want them, to have them. One item we selected was the lobster trap. It wasn’t just that it was neat looking or that it reminded me of that story of my dad’s. No, it had a deeper importance to me.
My brother has cancer.
Right now, it’s not a problem; the physicians say he has a good number of years before him. Yet, like my mom, he is getting older; the time of sunset is a lot closer than it used to be. I really wanted that trap; its meaning and importance to me arcs across the years and generations of our family. My wife and I turned it into a coffee table that it now sits in our living room.
Someday I hope to give it to my daughter, when she has a place of her own. When I do, I plan to tell her all the stories connected with that lobster trap. I’m hoping it’ll help her to connect with the generations of our family, and to value it as a family memento.
Who knows, maybe one day I can tell her children how a lobster trap works; I think I can remember the details, and I’ve been practicing my “lobster finger movements.”
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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