And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Mother's Curse, Updated

Dockstader family lore has it that when I was a toddler, I insisted on having my grapes peeled. Every last one of them. If a succulent green globe passed my precious little lips with just a shred of skin on it, I would munch on it and hand the soggy portion of skin back to my parents. And my parents indulged me, because they were first-time parents. (And because they loved me, I presume.)

Fast forward to today. I had a craving: I wanted a boba (bubble) tea, and I wanted it bad. About a year and a half ago, I heard about this strange concoction of sweetened tea, milk, and large tapioca pearls and went in search of it in New York's Chinatown. I have to admit I didn't really like my first experience with it.

But then a couple of weeks ago, in a strange confluence of events, I heard a story about the boba tea trend in Northern California on NPR's Morning Edition, heard a bit about it on the food show that followed it, and then drove past the Green Leaf Cafe, which advertised on their sign boba tea, of all things. Who knew one could find such a cutting-edge item in the suburbs of West Mobile? Of course, I had to stop. I ordered a Thai-flavored one, and found I actually liked it a lot (it helps that the chewy tapioca pearls were described during one of the radio stories as having the texture of gummy bears, rather than big globs of snot, which was the characterization given it by a story I read about it prior to my first experience).

So today I wanted another one, and I managed to fit it into my errand-running. I entered the cafe with Katie and Ian -- Katie complaining that she was "sooooo thirsty," her tongue hanging out and a look on her face like she'd just crossed the Sahara. I looked at the menu, and offered her milk. Nope, no dice. Okay, they had "smoothies," a favorite treat. Surprisingly, she ordered coconut, but she'd liked my pina colada shaved ice the other day, so I figured Miss Picky would like it well enough. It was $4 -- a bit pricey, but I was splurging on myself anyway with the boba tea.

So the woman behind the counter gets to work making our drinks. (Side note: How long will I have lived down here before I'm not completely shocked when a person of full Asian descent speaks to me with a perfect Southern drawl?) Katie is all the while expressing her impatience, because she's sooooo thirsty. She's enthralled by the production of the drink, which is actually pretty cool -- the plastic cup is topped off with a "lid" that's a piece of plastic sealed by a fancy little machine, and the plastic features Pokemon and Hello Kitty characters. To get to the drink, you poke the boba tea straw through the plastic.

Then comes the tragedy. Apparently, I have failed to decipher the code used on the menu, and "smoothie" is used in place of "icy slushy drink that also has giant black tapioca pearls in it." Had I known, I wouldn't have ordered it, or I would have asked if the pearls could have been left out of it. I definitely wouldn't have expected Katie to eat them without a huge giant fuss.

So here's where The Mother's Curse comes in. You know, the one mothers utter whenever their children are at their most demanding and frustrating:

"I hope someday you have children JUST LIKE YOU!"

Katie insists that there's no way she can stomach the tapioca pearls, even after I bring up the gummy bear comparison. And I'm not going to waste a $4 drink. So I, loving mother that I am, go to the counter to ask for another cup and a spoon, and I cut into the plastic lid and begin to remove the offending tapioca pearls -- one by one, fishing them out with the spoon and transferring them to the empty cup.

Do you know how many #*$&@*#&! tapioca pearls there are in one of those drinks?

The process takes almost 10 minutes, all during which Katie is complaining that she's going to explode, she's so thirsty. I'm taking so long, she whines. I finally finish and give her back the denuded smoothie. I clean up the drippy mess in front of me. I wrest my tea back from Ian, who's trying to claim it as his own, and persuade him that his juice-filled sippy cup is truly the better option. And I finally get to start drinking/chewing my own tea. It is perfect -- just what I wanted.

Then, from the other side of the table: "I'm not thirsty anymore. You took so long that all my thirstiness just sort of went out of me."

Mom, whatever I did over the past thirty years, I'm so, so sorry. PLEASE lighten up on the curse now. I've learned my lesson. Really. Please?