There were many things nibbled on that night, but the piece de resistance, the center of attention, was undoubtedly the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As I opened the jar of peanut butter I thought of Mary.
She was gone now – nobody really knew where the family had disappeared to – one day that Fall a truck pulled up, the furniture was loaded up, and that was the last anyone heard of them. No goodbyes or forwarded mail address note left on the door . . . no marigolds in pots or stray windchimes left behind.
I’d decided, towards the end of the summer, that I’d bring along a packed lunch for her girls as well as for my children for a day down at the tiny ‘beach’ at the foot of the mountain bordered by the glassy lake decorated with its aluminum wire fence. When I’d pulled out the lunches from the cooler, saying that I’d brought enough to share, her face had convulsed in an odd manner. “We don’t need to eat,” she said. And once again the sense of something like a brick hitting the heart gathered around everyone near enough to hear her. “We eat when my husband gets home.”
I didn’t understand then. I don’t understand now. Mary told me she’d married her new husband to have a good father for her girls. But was she acting as a mother who wanted to be a good mother to her girls? Was it about the girls? Was it about having a ‘family’? Or was it something else? What were the parts that composed this picture?
With another dinner knife I now spread the jelly on top of the peanut butter, then layered the other slice of bread on top to make the final sandwich which would be cut into little triangles for my babies before tucking them into bed.
The snow was a solid five feet high, glowing in the moonlight like an alien environment. My own husband was not home. He hadn’t been home for several weeks. I took a bite of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich – the rich harshness of the peanut butter edging off the taste of the soft grape jelly. Walking to the front door, I opened it upon the snow which lay like a barrier, a flat surface unyielding and packed like dense fiberglass. Balancing the sandwich on the nearby window ledge, I reached for the small shovel I’d brought in before the snow began. I lifted it over my head to edge it in at the very top of the wedge of snow, and started to push the edge in, the snow falling into the house by necessity. There was nowhere else for it to go. From the top of the pile down to the bottom would be the way to do this, would be the way of escape for the three hundred foot walk down the front yard to the car, then we’d take it from there, somehow. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, at least. I could still send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That would undoubtedly be the worst of it.
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This is part three. The previous parts are in the previous posts.