I book my mother a ticket to visit the adult me for the first time. I came to Boston for college seven years ago, but in her eyes, I am still a child, and she is the adult.
She asks what we’ll do. I say I like eating banh mi at the playground around the corner. Hiking in the hills a few miles away. I can do that anywhere, she says before hanging up. She combs tourist websites in Chinese and reports back: I want to eat lobster.
Lobster’s overpriced, I say.
It’s overpriced for a reason, she says.
When my mother comes to Boston, we will eat lobster. Twice in one day.
I never eat lobster, so I defer to Yelp for a restaurant. There’s a spot across town. More than 900 reviews.
The place is bustling with tourists babbling in various languages, different shades of burnt. All of them are eating lobster rolls. They’re small, yet cost $20 each. My mom walks out the door. We roam up and down the street. She finally decides on a fish market that also sells lobster rolls. Still small, but $15.99. She can’t bear spending $32, even though I am paying. So we split one. The place is about the size of a kitchen, displays of seafood on ice taking up all the space.
We find a bench on the narrow sidewalk, waving away cigarette smoke as we unroll the aluminum foil. She takes a few bites and shoves the rest into my hands. “You have the appetite of a growing boy,” she says, even though I haven’t grown in years. “I’ve had enough.”
I don’t believe her, but 25 years of experience tells me I’m not going to win this fight.
On our way home, we stop at the cheap grocery store. The fish and meat guy picks up a snapping lobster from the tank, $7.99 a pound on special.
My kitchen doesn’t define Boston the way lobster does, but for me, it is the one must-see stop on her visit. It is as much hers as it is mine; she has taught me all I know about cooking.
I show her how to twist the knob on the gas stove, just enough to spark a blue flame. I pull open the drawers to find her the scissors. I give her the sharper cleaver of the two. I recite directions from a cartoon I found online: snip the bands off the claws, boil for eight minutes, and take it out when the tail curls.
She uses the knife I tell her to. She asks me to repeat the directions. I don’t need a recipe for the other dishes. I throw Chinese eggplant in a pan and add a dash of vinegar. The balsamic prevents the eggplant from browning — a trick I learned from her, from watching her hands in the kitchen. Not once does she question or correct me. The silence is dizzying. In the pot, the claws stop moving. My mother doesn’t eat butter, so I use salt. I place soy sauce on the table.
The sticky juice of the lobster insides runs off our fingers, their empty carcasses in front of us. This is tastier than the mayo-drenched lobster roll. The table is full with pork chops and green beans and eggplant. These leftovers will outlast her visit.
On her last day in Boston, I cannot take her to the airport. I am heading to work. As I roll my bike out the door, she says, “It looks like you can take care of yourself.”
If this is growing up, I don’t want to. I don’t want her to leave.
My left leg swings over my bike, the wheels wobbling under me. The wind rushes past my face, too fast. I look back. Her smile shrinks in the distance, and in her eyes, I am speeding, smaller, gone.Victor Yang is a writer and educator in Boston. Send comments to email@example.com. To submit your story for consideration for Connections, e-mail your 650-word essay on a relationship to firstname.lastname@example.org. We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.