Raspberry Jam Sandwiches

I like peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches. Have ever since I was a little kid. At first it was the all-American strawberry fare, but once I tasted raspberry for the first time, I never went back. I would always try (unsuccessfully) to spit out the seeds. The way they crunched in my teeth was annoying. Now, I love the crunch, and the nostalgia that comes with it.

My dad ate the same sandwiches with us when he’d come home, often ruining his appetite for dinner. He would pile so much peanut butter on the bread that it required a spoon to shovel it all on. With a quick glance over his shoulder to see if mom was watching, and a wink for me, he’d tuck in with gusto, relishing the whole mess.

Though his was the crunch peanut butter marked “DAD” and mine was a smaller, creamy peanut butter hidden in the back of the pantry (to avoid getting eaten by others), the sandwiches, a glass of milk, and a smile we shared together.

It’s funny, the memories that stick with you as you grow up, the little habits that lift you out of the moment and carry you back to the sunny days of childhood. You know there were a number of years where I rarely had a peanut butter sandwich at all. Dark days, those, filled with deli cold-cuts, iceberg lettuce, and honey dijon mustard, as adult as they come. The way I ate reflected my attitude in life, a desire to prove myself grown up. Because who eats raspberry jam sandwiches on their lunch break at work?

My dad ate those ‘healthy’ kinds of sandwiches too, but with fewer winks and the approval of my mother. The special moments were marked catching him with his spoon in the peanut butter jar, a kid at heart. I was pushing myself to grow up while he was returning to his youth.

While at college, during my first real brush with the loneliness of adulthood, I stood in the condiments aisle at the grocery store across from campus, looking at the jars of jams and jellies, recalling what I’d left behind since 15. I remembered my favorite brand, and a few shelves up, the more expensive organic kind my father preferred. I bought some bread (he ate wheat, but I grabbed white), a jar of raspberry preserves (my brand), and the peanut butter (creamy, not crunchy). At 19, it was personally imperative that, while I was my father’s son, I would not be my father.

Though the ingredients haven’t changed, my attitude has. I ate a raspberry jam sandwich today, and in thinking of him, knew that one day, my jar will be marked “DAD,” and my son will roll his eyes when I look around for my wife, give him a big wink, and dig in.

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