It sounded so simple at first.

The two younger kids and I were starving on our drive home from kindergarten pick-up.

“What should we have for lunch?” I asked. Then I thought of an idea.

“I’m not sure, Mom,” the 6-year-old said cautiously. “Besides, where would we even find any?”

“I have a secret stash,” I confessed. “It’s on the top shelf of the really high cabinet above the sink.”

So, we all agreed, and I smiled with delight as I set out the six slices of bread. I dug deep into the top cabinet and found my secret supply. There it was.


It expired a year ago. Oh well. Can it really be that bad?

I spread a thick coating on three of the bread slices. Then I plopped on big spoonfuls of strawberry preserves.

“So, THIS is what other moms do?” I thought. “THIS is what happens when you can’t think of what to make for lunch! THIS is what you do when you need something quick and don’t want to cook! THIS IS SO EASY!!!”

It was the first time in nearly five years that I had made a PB&J. In fact, it was the first time in either one of the younger kids’ lives.

When our oldest son was diganosed at the age of 3 with a severe peanut allergy, I didn’t take it that seriously at first. Sure, I didn’t give any to him. But I continued to slather peanut butter on toast, pancakes or just eat it by the spoonful. I put it in cookies and pies and sprinkled handfuls of peanuts on salads.

Then I gave my now 8-year-old a plain M&M.

He coughed and sneezed. His face turned blotchy and red. He couldn’t stop rubbing his watery eyes. His stomach was bloated, and he became ill.

That was a wake-up call. And then the allergist informed me that I should have administered the epi-pen that day. It could have been worse. A lot worse.

And she strongly suggested that we remove anything that had even come in contact with a peanut from our house. We couldn’t even take the risk that the residue might come in contact with something he would eat. No granola bars. Nothing made in a plant with peanuts. Not even a plain M&M.

Since our purging years ago, we haven’t eaten peanut butter in our home. Oh, I used to sneak a spoonful when no one was home. But even that lost its appeal sometime before March 2008, according to the peanut butter jar’s expiration date.

But with him gone all day at school, couldn’t we try it? Just this once?

My middle son, who loves his brother almost more than himself, could barely bring himself to take the first bite.

“I can’t say the word,” he said.

What word?

“You know… peanut butter,” he said, shaking his head as he looked down at his plate.

My daughter gobbled up her sandwich with a little more gusto.

“Wipe your hands on a napkin!” I started to say with an increasingly louder tone each time they touched their sandwiches.

And when it came time for the Fritos… “DON’T PUT YOUR HAND IN THE BAG!”

“OK… OK… Just go wash your hands,” I finally said, growing more and more nervous with each bite. The 4 year-old rubbed her hands all the way down the stair railing and touched the wall a few times on her way to the bathroom.

“I’ll have to wash that,” I thought, making a mental note.

I soaked the knives in hot water and washed the plates. Then I wiped down the table.

“I’ll have to wash that washcloth right away, too.” My list was growing.

“Go brush your teeth!” I yelled, now getting anxious. “And don’t TOUCH your brother’s toothbrush.”

Living without a PB&J has become a way of life at our house. But this?

This wasn’t so simple after all.

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