Monday, August 8, 2016

Our Birthday Adventure

Saturday night, our family and some close friends had dinner at a restaurant on City Island in the Bronx that is steeped in family history, though I don’t believe my children had ever been there before. Everyone enjoyed their meals, but we weren’t really there for the food. We were there for the history. We were celebrating a new moment in family history—my son’s 35th birthday—while recalling wonderful stories about Audrey’s mother (my children’s grandmother), who had died eight years ago but seemed very much alive on City Island this night.   

The Lobster Box is located near the tip of City Island, an incongruous seaside locale in the middle of New York, jutting out into Long Island Sound. Getting there can be an adventure by car, by train, or by bus. It is not on the beaten track. But the getting there is all part of the restaurant’s history and appeal for our family. My mother-in-law loved the Lobster Box and especially the adventure of getting there. She would come at least once each summer, accompanied by her cousin Lisa, and the cousins kept coming well into their 90s.
City Island isn't on the beaten track.
They were hardy and stubborn women who didn’t let advancing years persuade them to make the trip in an easier, less adventurous way. Neither woman believed in taxis or subways. Taxis were a waste of money, and subways required negotiating steps down and up. They insisted on public transportation that traveled at ground level, which meant buses. And there was no single bus that could take either woman from her home in upper Manhattan or in Riverdale in the Bronx. No, they would have to transfer once or twice to reach City Island. The trip could take almost three hours each way, but that was all part of the plan. They would each start out around noon in order to meet up and arrive at the Lobster Box before three in the afternoon. The timing was very important. The restaurant served from its lunch menu until three, and charged lunch prices for its large servings. After three, the dinner menu prices would take effect. The same seafood dinner could cost almost twice as much, which seemed both outrageous and extravagant to the two women.
Some people drive and park at the Lobster Box;
others are more adventurous.
After they finished their meals, they would walk to the nearby parking area that looked over the Sound and enjoy the view. Then they would start the return trip. It might take three hours again, but they weren’t in any hurry. They had set aside the entire afternoon for dining, visiting, and traveling to the seaside.

As you can imagine, stories of these time-consuming and economizing adventures took on a life of their own and especially amused my children, though I cannot, for the life of me, remember why we had never gone as a family with my mother-in-law to the Lobster Box. I know that Audrey and I went at least once with the two cousins, driving them and arriving at the dinner hour. (We were willing to bear the extravagance.) And I remember going once with my mother-in-law when Audrey and the children were away during a summer weekend. That time, she insisted on treating, and also insisted on our arriving before three. But why had we never taken the children there while my mother-in-law and her cousin were still alive? I wasn’t even sure that my kids remembered the stories about the place until Brett insisted that the Lobster Box was where he wanted to celebrate his birthday this year. Brett has always felt a special closeness to his grandmother, and I’m sure that impacted his choice.
Audrey, Amanda, Brett, and Janiya are all smiles---
and all bibs.
We had a great evening, traveling and eating. Brett and his friend Adam arrived by Uber from Queens. Brett’s friends Helene and Jon came with their children Janiya and baby Peter by car from Queens. We came over the GW Bridge from New Jersey, braving a rainstorm, and met Amanda in upper Manhattan for the ride to the Bronx. We drank, we ate, we told stories about family members there and absent. We shared Adam’s sumptuous and “over-the-top” German chocolate birthday cake. Then we separated and went home. It didn’t take any of us three hours to get home. But, then, we had made the trip to the Lobster Box mostly for the food and the celebration. We all admired my mother-in-law’s adventurousness. We just didn’t have the strength to emulate it.  

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