I lift the lid off the writhing pot on my stove and inhale deeply. The aroma of Old Bay seasoning and the briny crab reaches my nose, a smell so familiar and so comforting. Their bright red bodies smeared wholly with that special seasoning wipes away the fact that a mere hour earlier the pots contents were in a cooler on the floor, scratching and pinching, and blue. Placing the lid carefully back down, I turn my attention to the sweet corn, its smell dispersing through the kitchen alarming those present it is ready to be eaten, the broth milky and corn silk floating along in a one note soup. I grab the tongs from the drawer nearest to the stove and carefully pluck our summer feast from the water, only burning myself twice.
The dining room table is clothed in newspaper, the outside barbecue grill steadily pumping a stream of hot dogs and hamburgers that line the table, along with their condiments.
The smell of charcoal and charring meat breezes in and out of the atmosphere; the summer's perfume. As the screen door opens and shuts with numerous relatives popping in and out to grab snacks or use the bathroom, flies wander in buzzing aimlessly. A perpetual puddle is left in the trail from the back door to the bathroom, residual pool water than lingers on everything and everyone. As the screen door opens I can hear the whir of the carnival in the distance, the screams of ride patrons, the clinking of the oh-so familiar carnival game music. The sickly smell of fried dough, sugar, earth and sweat is almost detectable from the porch.
I sigh with relief that I am in such a familiar place, in such a familiar time. I sit down with my corn on the cob, crabs, and fresh garden tomatoes. I slather my corn with butter and Old Bay, salt my tomatoes and settle in for home on a plate. As I lift the cob to my face, I start to hear a buzzing. Beeping.
I wake up, my eyes fluttering at the dream that is quickly leaving me. I weep.
I am in Saudi Arabia, just as I have been for the last two years. I am writing to you all, Havre de Gracians, from the bottom of my heart. I wish you all a wildly safe and happy Fourth of July. Have it for yourselves, your families, and for those who are no longer with us. For those of us, who have obligations that have taken us far and wide and our families. For those of us who grew up in a small town dying to leave, and did. For those of us who might have geographically distanced themselves from a small town on the Chesapeake, but who will never lose the Grace in their hearts.
Saudi ArabiaCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun