Childhood Memories: My Lobster Story

On vacation in Maine this past week I saw lots of lobster restaurants and lobster choices at restaurants. Seeing a lobser always makes me think of lobsters in my childhood and particularly when my mother started cooking lobsters.

When I was growing up, the oldest of 4 children, my siblings and I hardly ever saw a lobster for dinner at our house or anywhere else. We saw a lot of them at the grocery store on Friday night when Mom did the grocery shopping. I grew to be pretty fearless, grabbing the bound lobsters in the tank at the grocery store and waving them around for my friends. I don’t think the guy at the grocery was too excited but he did tell me to always make sure that the lobster claws were bound before I picked it up.

When I was about 10 or 11 years old my mother started buying lobsters and cooking them for dinner on Friday nights in the summer. These lobsters were for Mom and Dad only, we kids were relegated to something like hot dogs or god forbid, clam chowder, for our Friday night supper. Until that time I had never seen my parents have a separate dinner from us kids, except when Dad was commuting to work and only came home on weekends. Then we kids went to bed on a Friday night before the sun had set.

My parents may have had lobster on those nights or when they went out to dinner, but certainly never in front of us. So, when we moved on my 10th birthday so that Dad would be closer to work and then my mother started buying lobsters, I knew something was happening. I wasn’t sure what, but there was something definitely changing in our lives beyond the new food.

The first time my mother threw a lobster into a pot of boiling water, we heard the lobster scream and called her cruel. Mom explained that it was just air excaping from the shell and the lobster didn’t feel anything and, besides, it was now too late to take the lobster out of the pot. She explained that the lobster had no voice with which to scream and it didn’t feel pain. While I wasn’t so sure about that, I didn’t have any way of really knowing how the lobster felt.

The next time Mom had lobsters in a paper bag in the refrigerator, we felt a need to check out the moving bag and see how the lobsters were doing. The 4 of us stood together while I, the oldest, opened and closed the refrigerator door enough times that it caused the bag holding the lobsters to fall out of the refrigerator and onto the linoleum kitchen floor. From there, it was easy to start cheering the lobsters out of the bag and across the kitchen floor to the back door. As we were cheering the bound and therefore claw-crippled lobsters started moving as fast as they could across the kitchen floor, generally aiming for the back door. Of course, they were very slow and sluggish.

As we jumped up and down and encouraged the lobsters to move as quickly as possible, I realized that the lobsters had no way of opening the back door let along making it the 50 miles from our house to the ocean. My sister was pretty sure that they could walk the whole way themselves but it seemed to me that a fish out of water didn’t have much chance of surviving long, particularly on the open road to the coast.

Before the lobsters made it to the back door, Mom arrived in the kitchen. I suspect that the lobsters heaved a sigh of relief but it’s had to say now. She had heard the cheering and came to investigate. She quickly grabbed the lobsters and put them back in the refrigerator. She told us to not open and close the refrigerator door so much, we might break something or the refrigerator to run too hard or the bulb would turn on and off too much. Pretty much we were no longer supposed to go into the refrigerator. She didn’t pay too much attention to us as she prepped the large pot of boiling water for dinner and we explained how we were going to save the lobsters.

My mother loved lobster and continued to cook and eat them as long as she could. My sister, the animal lover, loved them too. I have never been much able to eat a whole lobster although I will occasionally eat lobster meat. It’s not that I hear the lobster scream every time I eat the lobster, it’s just that I never could bring myself to eat one. The hard thing for me to resist was when Dad started buying Coke A Cola just for himself and it was stored in the refrigerator. But that’s a story for another time.

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