Milkshakes & Memories

On the 2nd of June, I drove up to Secaucus, New Jersey, parked in the hot parking lot, and headed on over to the train station. I felt rather proud of my confidence as I purchased my round trip ticket to Penn Station, stood with the rest of the people waiting for the train, and boarded. When my purse got stuck in the closing door, I began to question my confidence and wondered, for the merest second, if the day was going to go downhill. Seemed silly to think so, especially with the day’s plan.

Despite the fact it was stinking hot out, the day did not go downhill. It went gloriously up in a trio of hours spent with cousins—female cousins who have been like sisters to me, and cousin to a cousin whom I hadn’t seen in forty-five years, an in-law-ish cousin (well, married to the brother of the cousin to the cousin…are you following that yet?), and one cousin’s granddaughter and another’s stepdaughter, at a wonderful brunch at a popular little restaurant in Manhattan called The Black Tap. The Black Tap is apparently famous for its milkshakes. Huge confections of ice cream, candy, brownies, cookies, sugary sweet cereal—whatever they can cram on top of the shake to make it unique, a kind of double-decker dessert. I’d like to say delicious, too, but I didn’t actually have one, as I opted for a plain ol’ chocolate shake. I guess I’m the non-adventurous type when it comes to my ice cream. Everyone who got one of the gigantic, coma-inducing shakes exclaimed over them. My chocolate shake was scrumptious enough on its own, even without all the added baked goods and candy.

The food was delicious as well, although no one finished their meals. You see, we had to get the shakes first, because this place is so well known and the shakes in such high demand, if we didn’t order (and receive) them before our meals, we might never have had the chance to get one (or something like that—it sort of made sense when we were told of the gastronomic pecking order). At any rate, it wasn’t the food or the shakes that made the day so special. It was the company.

Some of the female cousins and both my sisters-in-law were, lamentably, absent. But those of us who managed to get together had a lot of catching up to do. The noise in the restaurant sometimes made it difficult to hear, but expressions of amusement, happiness, astonishment, the occasional tear, made every conversational nuance easy to read. It was like lip-reading from the heart.

The conclusion of brunch came all too soon and we headed outside to go our separate ways. Even so, we spent another fifteen minutes airing our laundry in front of the crowd continuing to queue up to get into The Black Tap. Adding all our ages together, we go back to the Revolutionary War and beyond, which gives us a few bragging rights on this earth.

One cuz summed it all up as she and her cousins and granddaughter started their march down the block. “Cousins,” she cried out, with something suspiciously like a fist-pump, “are the best!”

Fenwick, Food and Family

Sunset on Fenwick Island, DE
Sunset at Fenwick Island the evening before I arrived–my brother Ron took this splendid photo

Stepping out onto the screened porch very early this morning, I gasped as my lungs sucked in the cloying atmosphere. Nevertheless, I closed the door to the air-conditioned house behind me and continued toward a chair. The moist carpet stuck to my bare feet when I crossed it and the freshly-applied lotion on my hands transformed to the tackiness of barely dried glue in the humid, sea air. I was a little surprised by the latter and kept pressing my fingers together and pulling them apart to make sure the sensation wasn’t a product of imagination.


View Outside the Beach house

For a full half hour, I sat listening to the gulls cackle like gentle lunatics while they swept across the sky above the rooftops in search of breakfast. A constant, soft breeze blew through the screens and into my hair in a way that made the heat seem non-existent, compelling me to linger. I watched white egrets take flight over the steel-gray water and the shifting sunlight turn shadowed marsh grass to gold. A fisherman’s small motor boat left a trail of white froth through the ripples in the water, but I heard no noise of his motor. Even traffic on the main road did nothing to disturb the peace, a kind of underscore to the hush, the muted sound resembling a distant river’s flow.

This was my morning as the sun rose over Fenwick Island in Delaware.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Fenwick Island Lighthouse which is only open from 9-noon, so if you want to see it, get up early (hint-hint)

I had already packed in preparation of returning home after a visit with both my brothers and sisters-in-law. In fact, we were all going home this day and the knowledge of that was bittersweet. The visit had been a short one, but family is family and when you’re together it often seems as if no time has passed since last you were in each other’s company. That means no barriers, no little courtesies, but an immediate dive right into the dynamics of the relationships that have always existed, representing at this time twenty-four boisterous, chest-beating, loving, tender, comical, occasionally frustrating but ever joyful hours. Oh, and there was a bit of sleep in there, too.

And food. We mustn’t forget that part of the gathering. Our half-baked plan of dinner out turned out to be an amazing experience. After discovering no place in the entirety of Fenwick Island existed at dinner time that was not packed to the gills, we ventured down the highway to Ocean City, Maryland, to a place that graciously accepted reservations. When we pulled up, the building resembled perhaps a family-style bar. The parking lot held some empty spaces. I thought: I’m starving, they probably serve passable dinners of some sort, and it’s already 8:00 p.m. I think we all had that idea.

Boy, were we wrong.Shark on the Harbor info from menu

The Shark on the Harbor’s menu changes daily, we were told. They print it up each day because their food is procured fresh from local suppliers. The farms from which they get their vegetables and fruit, their fish, their beef and pork, are named in the menu. That’s only the start. They had three chefs on duty and every dish is prepared with an eclectic mix of ingredients and sauces that, in a sane world, one might never think would go well together. But once you enter Shark on the Harbor, you are not in a sane world—you’ve moved beyond the world to epicurean heaven.

Vegan Entree.Shark on the Harbor
Vegan Entrée – Portobello mushrooms, summer squash, arugula, tomatoes, butternut squash puree and blueberry sauce – superb!

We lingered over our meals and our equally delicious desserts with each one of us having a completely different item and all of them fabulous. Glutted and happy we made our way back to the house afterward and to our beds, forgetting in our sweet food-torpor that tomorrow we would rise and go home. But every day you wake is one to be grateful for, every day spent with family is a blessing (sometimes in disguise, but not this time), and a good meal with people you love is without equal.