I know what you’re thinking. I’m a horrible daughter and I should be trying to get her to smile and feel appreciated. But don’t worry, they were definitely tears of joy. On Mother’s Day, I gave her a simple card telling her how much I appreciated her, even if I don’t always show it. It was enough to coax tears from her eyes, so I knew it was a good card. Unfortunately, I scratched something out– something about the surprise I had waiting for her a couple of weeks later. She caught the scribble, so I had to tell her there was more to the gift than just the card. But I wanted to surprise her. So I didn’t tell her what it was. I didn’t tell my sister either, knowing she would blab and ruin it. Only my dad knew.
Now, my mom and sister are alike in that they hate surprises. Fear of the unknown makes them anxious, and I wasn’t budging on my secret gift. All I told them was that it was in downtown Cleveland and they should get a bit dressed up. My mom and I went shopping, and she pulled the old, “If I knew what we were doing, I could better prepare,” card. I didn’t fall for it. And I still didn’t fall for it when my sister tried the same approach. So they decided to turn to the internet, thinking there was some special event happening downtown. Aside from the new casino and the rib fest, they couldn’t find anything. All sorts of guesses were thrown out– an evening on the Nautica Queen or the Goodtime III (both dinner cruises out on Lake Erie), a wine tasting that I’m too young for, not to mention my 15-year old sister, even a wedding… That threw me off. But I said not a word and told them to be ready by 5 p.m. on May 26th so that we could make our 5:45 reservations.
From Mother’s Day till the 26th, I heard guess after guess, often repeats, and various questions to try to get me to trip up. “When is the reservation?” “5:45.” “Will we be eating at all?” “Yes, we will.” “And where are we going again?” “Nope, not gonna work!” “Dang it…” It was a pretty fun game. And I lasted all the way to the last minute.
The Saturday finally arrived, and I was all abuzz with excitement. I’d kept the secret, and now I was hoping for the awestruck reaction I had imagined when I had set everything up. We were ready and out the door by 5, and I attempted to get everyone else pumped up too. They weren’t having any of it, still dreading whatever strange fate awaited them at the end of the drive.
Now let me tell you a bit about my mom and sister: They’re food junkies. It isn’t uncommon for Food Network to be steaming up our television screen, and we have recipes galore in our kitchen. My mom wants to make better dinners for the family. My sister wants to go to culinary school to become a gourmet chef. They can tell you about almost any common ingredient in a dish, and some not-so-common ones. They’re interested in trying all sorts of gourmet fare and unique cuisine. And they’re huge fans of the Iron Chef America series. Keep that in mind.
We finally make it downtown and walk over to East 4th Street, a hub of culinary and cultural activity in Cleveland, Ohio. The first thing my mom spots is Lola Bistro, the restaurant of Cleveland’s very own Iron Chef Michael Simon. And wouldn’t you know, that’s where I had made our reservations. Cue the waterworks. “We’re going to Lola. Oh my gosh. We’re going to Lola.” All through the amazing meal, “We’re sitting in the middle of Lola. We’re in Lola. We’re eating at Lola.” She was still teary-eyed as she worked her way through her pork belly appetizer, her grilled walleye entrée, and her Mandarin Bavarian Chocolate Cake dessert. And afterwards walking around taking in the sights while making our way back to the car. And the silly goose told me she’d repay me somehow, it was too expensive, she didn’t deserve anything that wonderful.
She does, though. The woman gave birth to me, worked her tail off to keep a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on the table, and made many sacrifices to give me a better life, and I appreciate it more than I can ever show her. So one gourmet meal is nowhere near enough to repay that. But I hope it’s a good start.