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
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!