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)
9 thoughts on “Holden Caulfield and Me”
oh my, how i hate change. and cling to the comfortable. i got a new vacuum cleaner and i tmade me cry to use it….i tried a new alarm clock one time and had to dig out the old one b/c i couldn't stand it. i feel you on this one, jennifer!
We're almost the same…I have to admit, I rejoiced over my new vacuum! 😉
I have a daughter who thrives on change. She loves new things. My son, on the other hand, is already a creature of habit at 3. I'm with you: no change for me. Matt gets annoyed because no sooner we are two hours into a road trip I begin to miss my house. We love that place too, but the last time we went we left with an empty wallet!
I know exactly how you feel! I feel the same about bang bang shirmp at Bonefish Grill. If they ever take that away I'll just cry and cry and cry…
Well Jennifer, here it comes. when you were born, Mom and I were so happy with our baby girl. We enjoyed every minute. Mom love nursing you and remember (although I'm sure you don't remember) I had to sing you every song I knew and made up a few just to get you to sleep. We wished it could stay like that forever. then when you were around three years old, I would take you to the diner before going to our coin shop and we would talk and talk. Remember (although I'm sure you don't remember) I taught you how to read the menu by sounding out words. I really enjoyed those times and wished they didn't change. And then you were the perfect little studen with your crazy quirks that made me laugh and all the gymnastic meets we went to together…. you the gymnast, me the proud father. Those days I certainly wished never would change. I could go on and on about the things I wish never changed. But lemon pepper shrimp???? If they stopped making pizza with pepperoni I can understand your feeling.. but lemon pepper shrimp??
It's really good shrimp, Dad.
My favorite things at PF chang's are the lettuce wraps and the ginger steamed salmon. I think I am safe on the lettuce wraps. – I know the VP of HR at PF if you want to complain! 😉
I have to read that book again!
And I want to try this Chinese restaurant. I see them popping up everywhere!
I'm with you here. Change while eminent, is difficult. Some of our favorite spots have disappeared along the way. We still talk about the Fra diavolo at our old favorite place and reminisce the times by ourselves and with the kids.
Then again, maybe God is sparing you. I just literally passed the P F Chang's on Scottsdale road about an hour ago and spotted a lady with a sign out front that read, "I ATE AT P F CHANG'S AND ALMOST DIED"!!!
I wonder if she ate the shrimp?
Sorry for your loss, it's the company that made it taste so good anyway…