Shoreline & Seafood

Eight hours was a long drive, but just doable enough to get through with some sanity intact. That’s one perk of living in northern New Jersey—New England is only a day’s drive away. It was the summer of 2017, and my mom and I were headed out on a road trip to Maine. A big part of our expedition was an impending “mother-daughter lobster crawl.” My mom, of course, was ecstatic over our little escapade. Had I been younger, I probably would have turned her down. In fact, as an angsty teenager, I once declined her proposition to spend a week in Paris, choosing instead to spend my last summer in high school hanging out with my friends. Ouch.

But Maine called to me. I had never been to the Pine Tree State, replete with craggy shoreline, knowing it only as Stephen King’s stomping ground (I brought my classic Pet Sematary shirt just for the occasion of driving by his house). The cottages in Kennebunkport, where we were staying, drew me further in. The photos I saw online were the epitome of picturesque. And of course there was to be lobster, a delicacy I seldom had the opportunity to enjoy.

The long haul up the Atlantic coast went by smoothly as we cruised in my mom’s favored two-seater. I’ll admit, my teenage self would have given her major points for switching between indie rock and 80s hits stations, with some episodes of my favorite sci-fi podcast served up in between as an excellent palate cleanser. It was well past dusk when we turned into a white gravel driveway that crunched under the tires—we had arrived. Even in the dim light, the cul-de-sac looked like a nest of fairy houses tucked away on the cove. I was absolutely in love. The place we were to stay in was named, fittingly enough, Sleepy Hollow Cottage.

The long weekend at the cove was filled with new experiences. The first piece of sage advice my mother doled out was about local cuisine. While I was just as happy to sink my teeth into a juicy, steamed lobster as-is, I soon learned of a special New England treat.

“Lobster with a little bit of mayo on a bun,” she explained to me after ordering two lobster rolls. I had always thought of lobster as a haute cuisine front runner—or at least had gleaned it from movies—but it didn’t seem like that could be further from the truth as I peeled my hands off the sticky wooden table at the mom-and-pop seafood shack. One bite into that lobster roll, however, was enough to get me hooked. It was then that we decided to keep a running score of the best lobster rolls we got our hands on. Our mother-daughter lobster crawl had begun. Never before had I consumed so much lobster in such a single week, and the memory sits precious with me.

But this getaway was much more than a culinary adventure. It was about spending time with my mom, and on this trip she continued to encourage me and coax the best out of me, something I have realized I routinely take for granted. Ever the patron of the arts, she was elated to buy me my first student-grade watercolor set at a local shop in Portland near the Art Institute. Back at the cottage, as we munched each morning on the boxed breakfast of pastries left on the front porch, she simply leaned back in an Adirondack chair and enjoyed the scenery as I painted the flowers, smiling at me every so often.

One morning after breakfast, I ambled over to the dock of the cozy cove to check out the free kayak rentals. When the morning tide came in, I made it my mission to take one for a spin.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” I asked my mom. I felt a little bad leaving her out. Her ankle has never been the same since an accident involving icy stairs. She peered down at me from her seat on the dock and shook her head. “You go ahead, I’m more than happy watching you. I just love seeing you have fun.”

As I paddled my way out, I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder to see her growing smaller in the distance. Now a speck on the horizon, I could still feel her watchful presence. I realized it was a touching metaphor. No matter what path I choose and however far away I’ll be, my mom will always be there, giving her support. She’s been there for me throughout my entire life, selfless as ever, even when it means staying landlocked while I embark on new voyages.

I headed into Maine expecting lobster and the smell of the sea, but returned with a newly understood respect for all my mother has done. I can’t wait until our next trip together, and am looking forward to all I’ll discover along the way.

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