On the northeastern coast – those thickly wooded and rocky coasts that are home to bears and moose and lonely white lighthouses – the water crashes on rough, black rocks with great intensity. It is a coast full of bays and small little towns that are a mix of fisherman and tourists and seagulls. It is the land our ancestors found when their wooden ships at last found the end of the Atlantic.

It is here that I like to come at least once a year, both for the peaceful drive through some of the prettiest views this country has to offer, and for the seafood. The ocean isn’t bad either.

When I was little, it was all about the lobster, and even to this day, that is one of the biggest reasons I leave New York for Maine. In my opinion, there is nothing like that first bite, and often every bite after that, of lobster. The mix of tender sweet meat and salty butter can’t be beat. But after all these years, lobster isn’t always about the taste.

Lobster at eight is about how much butter you can soak up in a single bite. Lobster at eight isn’t about feelings; lobster at eight is about red and which pincers are the biggest. At ten lobster is a cool red – red and salty morsels on the tongue. It’s about saving the bib and the red lobster toothpick that was stuck through the lemon wedge of your mother’s drink to play with. At twelve it’s about being big enough to have two soft-shelled lobsters, being old enough to have passed beyond one. Lobster at fourteen is adventure. Who can find a lobster in the cool pools trapped by the rocks? A prize for the winner, your mother shouts. Lobster at fourteen is exultation around a rocky pool, scratches from the rocky coastline as badges of honor, seaweed as the biggest spectator. Lobster at fifteen is about money. Pop, can I get two? Lobster is red money at fifteen, an expensive delicacy. Lobster at fifteen is glee when Pop says yes. Lobster at seventeen is about sharing it with someone special, sharing the delight. Lobster at seventeen is certainly red, red lobster and red hearts, wanting to be opened up, hopefully by an innocent girl. Lobster at seventeen is love, saving a boiled empty claw and plastic bib for the sweetheart at home. Lobster at eighteen is about independence from controlling shells. Lobster at eighteen is no longer Can I? but I will.

Lobster at twenty takes on new meaning. Lobster at twenty is hard shells, sharp claws, and boiling water. Lobster at twenty is twice the work as lobster at ten, but twice the meat. Lobster at twenty is precious, a once a year treat not to be taken lightly. Lobster at twenty is about getting every bit out of the shell, about sucking the green liver and small legs. At twenty the work goes in to savor the meat, tasty meat that has no shellfish equal.

Years pass and I realize that in a lot of ways, I too am a lobster. I have a shell, hard, red at times, shed every once in a while when I outgrow my old one. The years pass and I am flavored by salt and waves, fight with other lobsters, am stranded on rocky shores. Perhaps, if I am lucky, I am still tender and sweet inside.

That is probably the best thing about lobster. Every year, it changes for me, but it always has a lure. I imagine it is the same kind of lure that led people to these rocky shores so many years ago, the same lure that makes people stare out at the ocean and wonder.

© Seth Crossman