She’s A Head Case

A Gods of P B & J Story

I stood on the top rung of the ladder holding the garden hose in one hand while the other hand pulled gunk out of the gutters. My face contorted in disgust at the mushy mixture of decomposed leaves, pollen and what looked like deceased insects; although, I didn’t try very hard to confirm the last one. My children playing in the yard below me were the only thing keeping me from vocalizing the string of curse words circling in my head.

This was a job my ex-husband had normally taken care of, and one I couldn’t afford to outsource. I had already relied too heavily on my BFF/single dad partner in crime/angel of mercy Adam, (whose daughter Katie was in my Noah’s kindergarten class) to help with these “manly” chores. As a newly dedicated feminist I was determined to do this one on my own. I just had to keep from puking my lunch up and I’d be fine. Or at least I would eventually recover from the emotional trauma of dead bugs under my fingernails. In a day or two. A week tops. SO GROSS!!

“Mommy, can I ride my bike?” Noah had recently gotten a new bike for his birthday and I could barely keep the kid off it. I also considered buying stock in whichever company makes band-aids. I was pretty sure they would make a killing on me by Noah’s eighteenth birthday.

“Sweetie, you have to wait until I’m finished and I can watch you.” I yelled the words over my shoulder since I was somewhat precariously balanced. “Hannah, are you down there?”

“But I don’t need to be watched. I’m a expert.” He yelled back at me and I heard the sound of his feet on the concrete driveway and pictured him running to get his helmet. Hannah hadn’t answered me so I wasn’t certain if she was watching him. “I promise to be careful.”

“Noah Alexander Pierce don’t even think about riding that bicycle!” I turned slightly on the step to get a look at him, forgetting about the water gushing from the hose in my hand. I lost my traction and my feet slipped off the ladder. I let out a shriek as I free fell a few rungs down before grabbing onto the ladder for dear life.

My heart raced and I took in a deep breath. Whew, that was a close one. The gods of peanut butter and jelly must have been looking out for me. I almost . . . unfortunately that thought never got completed because my wet hands couldn’t maintain their grip on the ladder and I fell the rest of the way to the grass below.

I woke up in the ambulance, groggy and confused and strapped to a backboard. I felt wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy. Minus the cool makeup. I still managed to put up a good struggle and the paramedics had to subdue me. “Where are my kids? They’re alone. I need to be home.”

“It’s ok ma’am. (Ma’am?!?!?) Your neighbor has your kids. You took a nasty fall and we need to get you checked out. Just relax.” I fell from a ladder, lost consciousness and I was in an ambulance alone while my children were home with Jessica, probably scared out of their minds. It’s not like I was in a freaking day spa. Relax? Seriously? What kind of pep talk was that?

Five hours, one CT scan, one MRI and 3 X-rays later and the doctors boiled it down to a concussion and a sprained wrist. A $6000.00 concussion and sprained wrist. The nurse brought the discharge papers and trailing behind her was a tall figure, my angel of mercy, Adam. “My babysitter is at your house with the kids. We’ll get you out of here and safe at home.” His voice was soothing and comforting and I was relieved he had come to my rescue – again. Then I realized I was in a flimsy hospital gown that didn’t leave much to the imagination. I pulled the sheet a bit higher across my chest. “Right, I’ll just wait outside while you get changed.” I noticed the red tinge on his cheeks as he ducked out of the room.

Once home I changed into a comfy pair of pajamas and brushed my teeth. Adam got me settled in my bedroom. “The kids are sleeping. Katie is in Hannah’s room. The doctor said I should wake you every hour to check on you. I’ll be on the floor in Noah’s room if you need me.”

“Adam, you shouldn’t sleep on the floor. You should . . .” my voice trailed off since I couldn’t think of exactly where he could sleep. My mind was too fuzzy to come up with an alternative.

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me, just get some rest.” He reached down and his hand brushed my hair. Waves of warmth radiated through my veins. “I’m glad you’re okay Kim. When Jessica called, I was so worried. It’s a good thing you have such a hard head.” I smiled at his attempt at a joke and the actual distressed look on his face. It was kinda nice to know he cared.

“Goodnight Adam. And thank you.” He turned off the light and I drifted off to sleep dreaming about ladders and bicycles and dead bugs and angels dressed like dads.

I woke up with a jolt, feeling a large presence next to me. Slowly turning my head, I saw the chiseled features of my very own angel of mercy, softened by the early morning sun peeking through the window. Holy peanut butter and jelly. I sat straight up, instantly regretting the rapid movement. What was I doing in bed with Adam? And why was my head throbbing so much? It started to come back. A ladder. An ambulance. A concussion. But why was Adam in my bed? Or actually, on my bed.

Next to me, Adam stirred and his eyes slowly opened. “Morning. Kim. Oh no. Kim.” He rolled off the bed, easily since he had only been lying on top of the comforter, and stood over me, face flushed and absentmindedly running his fingers through his tousled hair. “Kim, I’m so sorry. I came to check on you and I must have fallen asleep. Sleeping on the floor all night wasn’t very comfortable, well I thought I would just rest a bit on the bed before I went back to Noah’s room. I didn’t intend to fall asleep. I’m so sorry. Nothing happened I promise. I would never take advantage of you in this situation.” He was rambling which I might normally find adorable but with my throbbing head I just wanted him to stop so I lifted my hand in the universal STOP sign.

My voice came out very quietly. “It’s okay. Really. Just, could you get me some aspirin?” He nodded and rushed to the bathroom and I heard him rustling through the cabinets. I didn’t even care about the messy room or what he might find in the cabinets (except maybe the flavored condoms that Heather gave me as a joke when my divorce was finalized). I let out a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the gods of peanut butter and jelly. I was alive and for the first time in over a year I hadn’t slept alone.

The Birthday Party

A Gods of P B & J Story

I stepped back and admired my handiwork, feeling very pleased with myself for my newly acquired domestic skills. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Van Gogh worthy, but cake icing wasn’t a science. You could read “Happy Birthday Noah”. Sort of. If you squinted. And knew what you were looking for. Dammit, I knew I should have bought a cake at the store. This is exactly what happens when single mothers try to overcompensate for deadbeat dads who leave their families to chase their dreams to the other side of the country. Needless to say, my life was complicated.

To further complicate things, my BFF/single dad partner in crime/angel of mercy Adam had kissed me on our last kid/adult playtime outing and I had no idea how to process that. Neither of us had spoken about it. I almost thought I had imagined it. But no – I remembered the feeling of the rock-hard pecs under my fingertips, the soft, supple lips and the playful wink just before he trotted off to finish our game of hide-and-go-seek. Nope. Not a dream.

I had desperately wanted to talk to someone, ANYONE, about it. But any of my friends would only have wanted juicy details and turned it into some sordid little event when clearly it was something far more substantial. Right? Oh, I really needed the girls from Sex and the City for a little one-on-one sit down right now. Wait, they wouldn’t do. I needed the girls from . . . where were my representatives from the single moms of America? Why do all the television shows portray single life as a big party? How am I supposed to get advice?

On cue, Adam walked into the kitchen. “How’s the cake? The kids are having a great time but I think they need their sugar fix.” He chuckled as he got closer to the counter. I tried to hip check him but he was too fast. “Does that say “Happy Birthday Noon?” I scoffed at him, taking a knife to the icing. “Of course not. It says Noah. Clearly. Can’t you read?”

My friend Heather came to my rescue. “Adam, can you take these out to the kids?” It was a fresh tray of chips and dip. She could see the relief in my eyes although she didn’t know exactly why. As soon as he was out of the room she was by my side. “Okay, spill. What’s going on with you and Mr. Hottie?”

I looked at her and rolled my eyes, quickly averting them to play with the icing on the cake. “Seriously Heather, Mr. Hottie. You have a nickname?”

“Well, we used to call him Mr. X. But since you’ve become his best friend we decided to go easy on you.” She smiled as she exited the kitchen carrying a pitcher of Kool-Aid. Did they seriously have a nickname for Adam? And did they think he was a hottie? I mean, he was, but was I BFFs with Mr. Hottie? Oh, this was so out of my comfort range.

I went out to assess the kidling situation and saw chaos in my living room. It looked like a grammar school convention had erupted. Adam was in the middle, smiling and playing with all the kids like he was one of them and I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of him. My ex would never act like this around the kids. I loved that Adam could relate to them on their level. Leaning against the door frame I watched him, and thought to myself, “Kim, you’re in serious trouble.” What have the gods of P B & J gotten me into now?


A Gods of P B & J Story

Hiding behind a bush, I felt my knee joints stiffen in the crisp late March air. I had somehow gotten roped into an early (annoyingly early) Saturday morning game of hide-and-seek with my children, Noah and Hannah, and my bestie Adam and his daughter Katie. Adam and I had forged a platonic bond since my ex-husband practically disappeared from our lives and Adam stepped in to guide me through the early stages of single parenthood, being a widow himself. The five of us spent a lot of free time together. Which I didn’t generally consider a bad thing. Adam was quite unaware of his attractiveness. All the moms in Noah and Katie’s kindergarten class admired his broad shoulders, his muscular build, his Romanesque features, his perpetually tousled, slightly longish brown hair, his chocolate colored eyes framed by thick, dark lashes. These were things I, of course, had never fallen victim to, being besties and all. I mean – awkward, right?

A cascade of water droplets from an overhanging tree branch rained down on my purple and grey beanie and broke me from my thoughts. “Gotcha mommy. This was so easy. You’re it!” Noah danced around while his animated voice rang out, calling everyone else from their hiding spots. I stood slowly, stretching my groaning muscles. Apparently, every single part of my body was in open rebellion because my first morning cup of coffee was still sitting on the kitchen counter, likely cold and the cream congealed. I silently mourned the loss of caffeine. The gods of peanut butter and jelly were clearly not smiling on me today.

We all gathered around the large oak tree in the middle of the park – base camp. Noah continued his dance, pleased with himself for getting the jump on me. I let him have his victory, telling him what a good hunter he would make. “You know kid, you could be an FBI agent. Track down the bad guys, find their hiding places. You’re a natural.” I playfully ruffled his hair and he beamed a bright smile at me. “Okay, I’m it. Everyone find a place to hide. And this is the last round. Then we go for breakfast.” Cheers erupted from the girls, who were already bored after the first round.

I closed my eyes, leaned into the tree and began to count. “One, two three.” I could hear footsteps scurrying away from me. There was no use in trying to figure out where the sounds led. Without my morning dose of caffeine, my mind was in a fog so concentration was pointless. “Four, five.” I let out a deep sigh and rested my forehead against the tree, wishing I was back in my warm bed, snuggled under the comforter. I loved my kids with all my heart but this single parenting gig was taking its toll. Doing it all, all the time, alone – that wasn’t in my life plan. “Six, seven.” Adam had been kind enough to watch my kids a couple of nights to give me some ‘me time’. Still, it wasn’t so much about having time to myself as having only myself to lean on. Well, except for my bestie. But I couldn’t impose on him forever.

“Eight, nine.” I jumped when I felt strong hands grasp my sides. I turned and, in one smooth movement I found myself encircled in Adam’s arms. “Shhh.” He put his finger to my lips and grinned then bent his head down and softly kissed me. My immediate reaction was to freeze. No wait, wrong game, this was hide-and-seek. Wait, this wasn’t a game. Was he serious? His lips felt warm and soft against mine, pressing gently with no sense of urgency. He was serious. I relaxed into it and my lips parted slightly, allowing the kiss to deepen. I let out a soft moan and felt a crimson blush creep over my face, which thankfully he couldn’t see since he was kissing me. I’m not certain how, but my hands ended up resting against his chest and for just a moment everything in the universe felt right. For just a moment.

“Mommy, you gotta count all the way to ten.” Noah’s voice called out from his hiding spot. Adam and I tried to fight the laughter. He kissed me again. “I’ll go hide. Come find me.” He winked and trotted away. I closed my eyes, silently thanking and cursing the gods of peanut butter and jelly. I wasn’t sure what kind of trouble they had just gotten me into but I was certain I was in for a wild ride.

Adventures in Plumbing

A Gods of P B & J Story

“Mommy, there’s water in the toilet.” Noah came running from the bathroom, crashing into my legs as I rounded the corner from the kitchen. “Of course there’s water, silly goat. There’s supposed to be water in the toilet.” I ruffled the short blonde hair on his head playfully.

“No, I mean LOTS of water. It’s going over the sides.”

No. No, no. This could not be happening. Not again. I ran full speed to the bathroom to see the toilet overflowing, water puddling on the tile floor and creeping perilously towards the doorway where the new wood floor started.

Think Kim, think. Trying not to panic I strained to think of what to do first. Normally I would yell for my husband. Except he had moved across the country with his colleague-slash-girlfriend, leaving me alone with our 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. Bastard. Okay Kim, focus. I bent down and gripped the shut-off valve. It was stuck so I grabbed a towel and put all my force into it, falling forward on my knees and soaking my last pair of clean jeans in the process. At least it moved and, thankfully, the water stopped spilling over the edge of the bowl.

I sighed a quick breath of relief before I realized the lake on the floor was millimeters from the wood floor. Reaching into the cabinet, I grabbed a stack of freshly washed towels and threw them at the advancing pool. Once I had used my supply of towels the bulk of the water was gone, leaving only a slick sheen glossing the tiles. Careful not to slip, I went to inspect the toilet. I was tempted to stop and call Adam.

Adam had been a godsend. His daughter Katie was in Noah’s kindergarten class and he was a widower. Having been unexpectedly thrust into single parenthood, Adam had stepped in and helped me navigate the rough waters early on. Several times I had thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly for sending him my way. But it was time for me to stand on my own two feet so I fought the urge and peered into the swirling waters of the clogged toilet.

Luckily Noah hadn’t gone Number 2 so I could stomach what I saw. Which was water and toilet paper. A lot of toilet paper. An awful lot of toilet paper. Again. I looked down at the empty roll on the holder. Taking a deep breath, I counted to ten before I screamed his name. “Noah!” There was no response. “NOAH ALEXANDER PIERCE, you better get your butt in here now!”

His innocent angelic face peeked around the corner and he held up one hand as if to signal STOP. “Mommy, I can esplain.” I bit my lip to keep from laughing because he was kind of adorable but he had nearly destroyed my floors and my toilet so he wasn’t getting a pass. “Go get the plunger from my bathroom.”

“Um, about that mom.” Was he serious with this? Adorable would only take him so far. “Noah what did you do?”

He defiantly put his hands on his hips, a habit he had recently picked up from his older sister Hannah. “We were playing Avengers and I was Thor and I needed a hammer and my stupid cheap toy hammer that Kyle sent at Christmas broke so I took the plunger and then it broke when Ben turned into the Hulk and tore it apart.” I tried to keep up with his run-on sentence and didn’t know where to start – calling his father by his first name (Kyle), insulting his father’s choice of toys (which I secretly kind of enjoyed), taking the plunger without permission or ruining it without telling me.

Of course, this left me in quite a pickle. I had no plunger, but I had already consumed a glass – okay, maybe two glasses (a tad bit oversized) of wine that evening so I clearly couldn’t drive to the store to buy a new plunger. I was going to have to call someone. Shit. The gods of peanut butter and jelly hated me.

I picked up my cell phone and scrolled to his name. Adam. My finger hovered on the call button. I really didn’t have much of a choice. I counted the rings. One. Two. Maybe he wouldn’t answer. Three. Four. I could call Kelly’s husband. Five. I let out a breath of relief. “Hey Kim, what’s up.” Shit.

“Adam. Hi. I wasn’t sure you’d answer. I’m not bothering you am I? Are you busy?” As usual my mouth just kept making words. “I’m not busy. Is everything okay?” I could hear the warmth in his deep voice and a blush crept over my face. This wasn’t good. What had started as an innocent friendship with Adam showing me the ropes of single parenthood had evolved into spending more and more time together. I couldn’t deny his good looks, impeccable manners, respect for women, the way he smelled like he had just stepped out of the shower no matter what time of day it was, even when he was sweaty he smelled like soapy sweat. Stop Kim, focus.

“Um, well, the thing is, uh, Noah sort of stopped up the toilet and I went for the plunger only to discover that he also ruined that playing Avengers so I have a toilet full of water and toilet paper and God knows what else.” I was grateful he couldn’t see the crimson color that was covering my face and chest. “Um sorry, too much information.”

I heard a low chuckle. “It’s okay. I was going to order pizza for Katie and me. How about I bring a plunger. I’ll fix the toilet and you can call in a pizza delivery order. I like sausage with extra cheese.”

I was glad he couldn’t see my goofy teenager grin through the phone line. “Sounds good. And Adam . . . thanks.” I looked up and thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly for coming through once again.

Nativities and Pancakes

A Gods of P B & J Story

It was 6 o’clock on Christmas Eve and I was sitting in the church pew with my children, Hannah and Noah on either side of me. Next to Noah sat his kindergarten classmate Katie’s father Adam, my savior. Oh shit, I shouldn’t use that name to describe him in church. I looked at the crucifix high above the altar and mouthed the words “I’m so sorry, Jesus.” Adam chose that moment to look over at me and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He whispered over Noah’s head, “Who are you talking to?” Damn. I wasn’t good at making things up, especially with Adam. He was particularly hard to lie to. Not that I lied to him often. Only when it kept me from embarrassment. Like now. I quickly pushed my hands together in the international symbol of prayer. Adam knowingly nodded. He then looked to the back of the church where his daughter Katie was gathered with the other children participating in the Nativity. She was dressed like an angel. Literally.

I’m not certain how I got talked into going to the children’s mass at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church on Christmas Eve. Adam had taken me under his wing after my husband moved across the country with his new girlfriend and left me to raise our two children alone. As a widower with a five-year-old daughter, he had more experience than I did doing the single parent thing. I hadn’t given a thought about how we would approach the Christmas holidays when Adam volunteered to climb into my attic and pull down all the boxes of decorations. He even took us to the tree lot to buy a real tree when he learned, to his shock and dismay, that we had an artificial tree. Having him and Katie around had made decorating the house a little easier and a lot less emotional. So, when he called and asked if we would be going to the Christmas Nativity at the church I of course said the first thing that came to mind, which happened to be the furthest thing from what I actually wanted to do. “Of course, we’re going, the kids are so excited, can’t stop talking about it. We wouldn’t miss it.” Really, I wanted to put on pajamas, lay in bed and watch Christmas movies on Lifetime while the kids played video games. Yet, here we were, all dressed up in church on Christmas Eve. Talk about alternate universes.

“Mommy, why are your knees jumping?” Noah’s whisper came out a little loudly and Adam tried to stifle his laugh as I pushed down on my knees and took in a deep breath. The truth was I hadn’t been in a Catholic Church since Noah was baptized. I didn’t have a problem with religion, I was a spiritual person and I believed in the power of prayer, especially in certain situations when certain men and my pride were involved at the same time. It was more a matter of the business of religion. When all was said and done, I liked it to be just me and God in the conversation, no need for an intermediary thank you very much. Nonetheless, the nuns at the Sacred Heart Academy had managed to instill a respectful attitude toward the Church that had lasted my entire life.

As the strains of the pipe organ began I felt the rush of air as everyone around me stood and my instincts kicked right in, quickly pulling myself upright with one hand on each of my children, tugging them upward. I could almost hear Sister Agnes in my ear telling me to pull my shoulders back and stand straight. As the processional passed on the way towards the altar I smelled the aromatic scent of the incense, heard the familiar clang of the chains of the thurible as the priest marched forward. Suddenly my heart began to race. Familiar words echoed in my head. “It has been six years since my last confession.” “In the name of the father, and of the son . . .” “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts.” “Hail Mary, full of Grace.” A cacophony of words struck from out of the blue and threatened to overwhelm my thoughts. Was this my penance? Worse, was this my purgatory? My knees threatened to buckle and I grasped the pew in front of me until my knuckles were white. Adam noticed and put his warm hand over mine. Looking into his chocolate brown eyes I noticed the crinkles around his eyes when he smiled. I smiled back and my heartrate slowed.

I managed to get through the mass by rote. Who knew religion had muscle memory? With a little prodding, Hannah and Noah were getting the hang of the ups and downs, literally, of a Catholic mass. At one point Hannah leaned into my ear and said “I think all this sitting and standing and kneeling is ridiculous.” And although she was only seven, I swear she sounded just like my seventeen-year-old self. When the time came for the Nativity, Adam put Noah on his lap for a better look and we all clapped when we saw Katie looking sweetly angelic. I saw a few tears slip down Adam’s cheek and I reached up to wipe them away but he was too quick and beat me to it.

Finally, the hour was over. Ever respectful, we stood as the recessional hymn played and the aromatic incense flooded the room once again. We walked to the back of the church where Katie was waiting for us. She ran to Adam, “Daddy, did you see me?”

“I did see you Katie-Q, you were the most beautiful angel I’ve ever seen.” He pulled her up into his arms and swung her around. While Adam exchanged greetings with several families, I stood with my kids somewhat awkwardly since we didn’t belong to the church and didn’t know many people there. Adam suddenly turned with a red face. “Kim, I’m so sorry. You don’t know anyone here do you? I shouldn’t have left you alone.”

“Bad manners Daddy.” Katie chided her father with her fingers shaking at him.

“Well, I guess we’ll have to make it up to them. How about a pancake dinner at our house?” Adam looked at Hannah, Noah and me for approval. You didn’t have to ask twice. Hannah and Noah loved pancakes and I loved not cooking. It was a win/win. Once again I thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly for giving me such a great friend.

How Adam Saved Christmas

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.

The Gods of P B & J

A Gods of P B & J Story

“I volunteer.”  My voice echoed in my head as I realized the gravity of what I had just done. I had willfully submitted to being the parent chaperone on the field trip to the zoo with my son’s kindergarten class. What was I thinking? Only six weeks earlier my husband of ten years had walked out on our marriage and left me with two children to raise while he pursued a job promotion on the other side of the country. He made it clear I wasn’t welcome to follow when he introduced me to his girlfriend, a colleague who had secured said promotion for him. They had apparently been planning their new life for months, on his frequent business trips away.

Somehow in the aftershock of the implosion of my marriage, the hazy days of soothing my 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter’s broken hearts (not to mention my own) and the stress of becoming a suddenly single mother with no job who desperately needed to dust off her resumé and find a job, I had put my prefrontal cortex on auto pilot, thus the reason I volunteered for a job I really didn’t want to do. And wasn’t certain I was up for.

“Oh, Kim. That’s, um, that’s great. Thanks.” I could tell by her halted speech the room mother, Allison, was surprised I had spoken. Well, that made two of us. As I looked around the room it was quickly apparent it was more than two of us who were surprised. I took in the shocked faces staring at me and I only hoped the parents in the room trusted me with their little treasures. And I hoped I was up to the task. I took in a deep breath to steady my suddenly jumpy nerves. I fought the urge to put my head in my hands and scream or to throw up, both of which were distinctly possible. Instead I sat upright in my chair, looked straight forward and willed myself to stay silent for the rest of the meeting. At this rate, I could end up as president of the PTA, another job for which I was woefully unprepared.

As the meeting ended I thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly that I made it through without another peep. I reached for my purse and as I pulled the strap towards my shoulder I felt it untangle under my fingers as it overturned, spilling the contents on the floor below. I let out a low curse under my breath. Seriously? Could this get any worse? Apparently, it could. “Here, let me help you.” The resident hot single dad, widowed a year earlier, knelt with me to help gather my belongings. He held up a white wrapped package labeled Tampax. I blushed a deep scarlet which he soon matched. “Oh. Um, sorry.” Adam quickly pushed the wrapped tampon into my hand, avoiding eye contact. He had the good sense to only pretend to help as I finished picking up the rest of my things, shoving them haphazardly into my open purse, then quickly standing. I stuck out my hand and grabbed his tightly in mine, shaking it vigorously up and down like I was meeting him for the first time.  “Thank you.” I felt like such an idiot. Was it possible to feel so lost even being a seemingly competent adult? I turned and left before I could embarrass myself further.

A week later I dutifully appeared at the school with Noah excitedly dragging me through the parking lot. “C’mon mom, I don’t wanna be late.” I smiled at his blonde head. He’d had trouble getting to sleep the night before. He loved the monkey exhibit at the zoo and, coupled with the attention of his mother as chaperone, he was in high spirits over this field trip. I paused before stepping inside his classroom, sucking in a deep breath – possibly the last peaceful moment I would have ever again, ever. EVER. No, I wasn’t being overly dramatic at all. I could already taste the chardonnay I would pour myself after tucking the kids into bed later in the evening.

Plastering a smile on my face I decided I couldn’t postpone it any longer. I opened the door and stepped through, immediately adjusting my noise tolerance level. I scanned the eager faces of the little monsters darlings I was entrusted with watching over today. I briefly contemplated running, but my husband leaving had taken enough of a toll, so I took the high road (there was really never a doubt) and stood firmly in place. I heard the door open behind me and turned. I smiled and felt a familiar blush creep up my neck even though I hadn’t said or done anything. “Adam. Hi. What are you doing here?” I tried to act calm and adult-like but my voice came out in a croak and I stood awkwardly with my hands crossed in front of me like a teen-aged girl facing her crush. “Hi Kim. You looked a little shell-shocked at the meeting last week. I know what it’s like to do this parenting thing alone. I thought you could use a friend. So, I volunteered to help today too.” He smiled softly, a knowing smile that made me feel suddenly like everything was going to be okay. I let out a soft breath and smiled back. Then I thanked the gods of peanut butter and jelly for my new friend.