When I was twelve I had a deep desire to bear a child. The jealousy I felt when my mother’s pregnant friends dropped by was overwhelming. She served pignoli cookies, which were the most expensive ones in the shop. She brewed black coffee. She allowed them to smoke. And there I was, lurking in the hallway, smelling their white soap, breathing in their cigarettes, focused on their bellies, not believing how big they’d become. Their laziness both fascinated and infuriated me.
For some reason I mentioned this feeling to my father. He nervously told me to try out for the school tennis club; an odd piece of advice, but it served me right for bringing him too far into my dark world. Tennis, seriously? So I did nothing but continue to fester in my own resentment. And this terrible feeling lasting almost two years. What an ordeal.
My sickening obsession did fade, but only to be replaced by another urge. Now, as urgently, I needed to handle and cook fish. Coming from an Italian family, this was acceptable. My parents took me to both of the nearby fish shops and let me buy whatever I wanted. They were just so happy to see me smile. I soon realized my favorite thing was to cook a whole fish. I needed to know the bones were still in place. My mother showed me how to season it with lemon, dried oregano, and oil. I was in heaven.
Twenty-one years have passed since I grilled my first fish. I now own Claudia’s, a seafood restaurant in Glen Cove, Long Island, working my way up from fry girl, to chef, to completely taking over (and renaming it). I never had kids. I guess I never truly wanted them. Those years of jealousy are far behind me. There have been some rough times at my lovely fish shack, but I’ve kept the quality high and I’m proud of my work. Life is good. Fish are better. Follow your dream.