A Gods of P B & J Story
The aroma of cinnamon and cloves filled the air as the mulled cider warmed on the stove top. (Okay, it was mulled wine. It was the third day in a row with no school because of the snow with the weekend looming.) The fireplace radiated warmth, the crackle and pop from the fire snapping. Three kids sat at the table with mugs of hot chocolate filled with miniature marshmallows, making new ornaments. I stood at the bottom of the ladder pleading with Adam to let me go into the attic for the Christmas decorations. “It’s my house, I should be the one up there. Besides, I’m a very, um, dedicated feminist.” Who was I kidding, I had never been in the attic before. I always made my husband crawl up there. Feminism, schmemenism. It was dusty and dirty and there were spiders and probably mice or rats. Or worse. That’s exactly why God made men. I’m all for women’s rights so long as it includes the right to make men go into the attic.
So why was I practically begging to be in the attic? Adam had sweetly volunteered to help me with my Christmas decorations. I secretly think he believed I would have just left the house undecorated for the holidays and deprived my children of the fun and excitement of Christmas if he didn’t step in. He was thoughtful like that. Adam had patiently helped guide me into the murky waters of single parenthood. As a widowed father of 5-year-old daughter Katie, he’d learned the hard way how to do everything alone. When my husband left me for another woman, making me a suddenly single mother of 7-year-old Hannah and 5-year-old Noah, Adam stepped in as my new best friend and life line. Truthfully, the kids and I were all dreading our first Christmas without their father.
“I’m going to play the sexist card and say that, as a man I’m not going to stand at the bottom of the ladder while you climb around the attic. Now take these boxes.” He started lowering the boxes of decorations one by one until I heard a small gasp. I called up to him, worried that he had found a family of rodents. Or another equally terrifying animal. “What was that? Is there a mouse? Adam?” He peered at me through the attic door. “You have an artificial Christmas tree.” It was both a statement and an accusation. I let out a huge sigh of relief. “Shit you scared me.” I caught myself and looked to the kitchen to see if the kids heard me. My daughter quickly looked down but I saw her body shaking with giggles. Damn, I’d have to have a talk with her later. I hated when I had to apologize for being an adult. These days I so seldom acted like one that when I actually got to the fun parts I usually ended up getting caught by my kids.
Adam poked his head out of the attic door. “Why do you have an artificial tree?” I stared at him and blinked a few times, not certain what answer to give him. The truth was always a good thing. At least that’s what I told my children. But the truth is sometimes complicated. Or in this case lame. “Um, well.” I averted my eyes. I really didn’t want to say this out loud. “Daniel was very lazy. He thought it was too much effort to go buy a real tree every year. Then the hassle of disposing of it.” I made it sound as if it was brain surgery or rocket science. “He thought having an artificial tree would be easier. It’s always right there when you need it.” My voice rose an octave on the last sentence like I was selling him something. I was selling something alright. The same bullshit Daniel sold me all those years. And I bought it for ten years. What a sap I was.
Honestly, I was a stay-at-home mother and I should have insisted on the real tree, something I believed was essential to a complete Christmas. But I never pushed. That was the problem, looking back it was a pattern that I let happen without realizing. When had I become a pushover in my marriage? It’s not like it helped keep him around. Suddenly I felt embarrassed and my cheeks began to burn. Adam didn’t seem to notice. “I think you should get rid of it. We can take it to Goodwill next week on our way to buy a real tree. It’s time for you to start a new tradition.” Once again I thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly for my single-parent friend.