It’s funny how a seemingly insignificant event can trigger memories that just won’t leave, memories that come back to visit over the course of weeks, perhaps months, with no particular reason why. For me, it all started with lemon pepper shrimp.
We first visited P.F. Chang’s when a cousin sent my mom coupons in the mail. One visit, and we were in love. Over the course of our marriage, Matt and I counted this restaurant as one of our favorites, and since it is located in front of the mall and movie theater, half of our dinner and a movie choice was always easy to make.
But while it was our favorite, we didn’t frequent the restaurant regularly. For a long stretch, date nights were rare, going out to eat an occasional treat, so when we did walk past the giant horse statues and pull open the large doors of P.F.Chang’s, I knew before we sat down what I would order for my meal: Lemon Pepper Shrimp
Who knew when I would get to come back, so why would I risk ordering a dish that I didn’t love, a dish that might sour my experience? I rarely deviated from my plan. In the spirit of compromise, I would agree to another dish if Matt and I wanted to share an entree, but nothing ever tasted as good as that shrimp.
And then we visited a few weeks ago. The hostess placed a menu in front of me with which I was not familiar. The layout was different. The prices were higher. And the shrimp was missing. I thought, perhaps, I overlooked my dish in the midst of new menu items and different fonts, but after inquiring, my fear was confirmed–no lemon pepper shrimp. In fact, all of the lemon dishes had been removed.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I sighed and hung my head low as I held onto that menu, searching for another dish that I’d even want to try. And a sadness crept into my belly.
I thought about that first dinner with a table full of food, sharing with my parents and sister, tasting a bite of Matt’s food, and the smiles and laughter on all of our faces. I thought about the celebratory meal Matt and I shared in our power suits, enjoying an early dinner on our way back from successful Air Force interviews. And I thought about our meal at the corner table with a new baby boy asleep in his car seat. I looked over the menu, the new look, and I thought to myself this isn’t the same place as it was then.
And then I thought of Holden Caulfield and the book I’ve read at least three or four times. Over the years, I’ve found so many truths from that depressed, rebellious boy in The Catcher in the Rye:
The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. (Salinger, 121)
I understand him. I understand the comfort he found from that museum. And I understand that perhaps I disliked the Laser Show this year, not so much because they took out Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” but because it was different. After 25 years of nothing major being different except for me, the show had changed.
And after ten years of enjoying lemon pepper shrimp, I had to find a new favorite. But I really don’t want to. Perhaps I don’t like change–sure, I’ve moved across the country for a drastic career change and had my share of adventure–but there’s comfort in having those places in which to return that will always look the same, smell the same, taste the same. There’s comfort in knowing that I won’t be disappointed.
Maybe that’s why a different menu brought to mind so many memories. Maybe that’s why a different menu brought a tinge of sadness. I don’t want to be disappointed. I want comfort. (And, truthfully, I just really wanted that shrimp)