A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The PB & J Massacre

         Jennifer Johnston Crow writes a helpful blog called Pivot.   She also writes memoir.   Today is one of three guest posts she is contributing to Wrote By Rote.   Watch for the next installment on  November 24th.  And be sure to visit her blog to say hello.  If you missed her first post be sure to visit Memories of Mighty Mouse.

The PB & J Massacre 

It’s the early ’60s. I’m a kid and mom is conveniently outside pulling weeds or doing some adult garden thing, so I decide to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Apparently I haven’t paid much attention to mom’s sandwich techniques.
I carefully assemble the needed supplies. One knife. Two slices of Roman Meal whole wheat bread from Kroger, but not the end slice, for heaven’s sake. One humongous jar of creamy (not crunchy) peanut butter. One jar of homemade jelly, half-full or half-empty (depending on your perspective). It’s mom’s homemade version.
Mouth watering, I dig into the jelly, slathering the perfect amount onto a slice of bread, making sure to thoroughly coat the whole slice from crust to crust with a smooth, even field of fruity goodness. Had a ruler been handy, I might have measured to make sure the left side was the same thickness as the right.
I grab the knife and like any good kid, lick it clean before sticking it into the deliciousness that is peanut butter. Protein and fat, skillfully blended into the most amazing concoction. Bless the person who first discovered that a legume like a peanut could be squished into a spreadable consistency. Whoever it is should be enshrined somewhere.
I lift my knife. A perfect glob of peanut butter balances precariously along its length as I slowly, carefully navigate the distance between jar and bread. Tongue sticking out in concentration, I use two hands and control my breathing to avoid any sudden stops or starts, eyes glued to the knife’s load.
Many long minutes later, it seems, I reach my bread without dropping a single spot of the tan creaminess on the table. Licking my lips in anticipation, I begin spreading the peanut butter. On top of the jelly.
Yeah. It’s impossible to spread. In fact, it not only won’t spread, it pulls the jelly off in clumps and then tears the soft bread asunder. I stare in horror, disappointment filtering through me. My perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich lies in shreds, nearly inedible. And I have learned one of the most meaningful lessons of childhood, although I won’t realize it for another 40 years or so.
What I learned so long ago is that I can’t hope to change the natural order of things and, if I try, the result is a horrifying mess not unlike the great PB & J massacre. And I learned that, if I don’t meet others where they are and for who they are, it becomes a PB & J massacre in disguise. And, if I consistently expect something from someone when I know –  I truly know — that what I expect is not authentic or natural for them? Right. It’s another PB & J.
Like that very first massacre back in the ’60s, when it happens in other guises all I see is that mangled sandwich lying on the table, and familiar disappointment sits heavily on my soul.
Now, I know that the proper ingredients for making a quality PB & J remain the same — knife, bread,  peanut butter, and jelly (no longer homemade) — but are applied in the correct order: peanut butter first and jelly second.
I know this, and I do it for any peanut butter and jelly sandwich I craft these days. The thing is, I’m still learning how to prevent PB & J massacres in my daily life, because they still happen. Oh, and by the way, I still lick the knife clean of peanut butter  before inserting it in the jelly. Some things never do change.

Jennifer Johnston Crow is a personal coach and a writer/editor with the federal government. She offers insights and commentary for living through her blog (pivot-coaching.com) and through individual and group coaching events. This year Jennifer captured second place in the West Virginia Writers Spring Writing Contest for her memoir, “Fear.” She’s passionate about storytelling, especially when it’s real, honest, and personal. A little humor doesn’t hurt,either!

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Shelly said...

Great analogy. I use separate knives.One for the jelly and one for the peanut butter. So I can lick both.

Hugs and chocolate,

D.G. Hudson said...

Well, you tried your creative thinking. You have to test ideas somewhere. Very nice.

Hubs created a avocado massacre yesterday when he tried to cut the baguette loaf after filling it with the squishy green filling. Well, that's how one learns.

Enjoyed your post.

FrankandMary said...

Sometimes(not when the end result is important to others)I like to exercise some historical amnesia & do it any inspiring way that comes to mind, regardless of what I may have ~learned~previous...every once in a while that brings me to a startling new discovery. ~Mary

Jennifer Crow said...

Thank you, Arlee, for posting my memories! I love that you offer a site for memoir and encourage all of us to put those memories into words we can share with others. It's great to see how our lives resonate with people we don't know ... we are, all of us, more alike than different!

Dee said...

Dear Lee, I'm in the midst of a PB & J massacre with someone I've known many years. The next time we talk I'm going to remember this story and stop myself from expecting what can't be. It's just not in the natural order of things as you've shown so well. Thank you. Peace.

Tyrean Martinson said...

A wonderful analogy! We definitely need to meet people where they are at in their lives. However, I make my pb&j a little differently - I like to put the pb (nowdays - cashew butter instead) on one piece of bread, and jelly on the other slice and carefully put them together - preferably on toasted bread. :-) But we all have our unique ways of having simple foods, right?

CMSmith said...

Thanks, Arlee. A good life lesson from Jennifer—one I continue to struggle to learn.

Arlee Bird said...

Jennifer, thanks for the lovely guest post. I look forward to the next one on November 24th.

Thank you to all who left a comment.