It's Not Just a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

It's been a struggle.

For nearly five years, the kids and I have been homeless. This isn't to be confused with houseless. We've had roofs over our heads during that time. First, a year in a spare bedroom at my sister's. Then, a leased home in a classy neighborhood. Until, that is, our landlord fell into foreclosure and we were forced out.

Which is how we landed in our last neighborhood, compliments of the then finance' who bought a house in a nice neighborhood of gigantic brick homes. And, a neighborhood of gigantic problems. We Three Smiths lived there long after we called off the engagement and went our separate ways. He wanted to wait until the market turned around to sell. I felt obliged to stay there, making the mortgage payments, and, to be honest, we had nowhere else to go.

Until one day when a teen down the street ogled my teenage daughter's butt. She, being no shrinking violet, promptly told him to go to hell. That's when the trouble began. His threats were more than this mom could handle. He threatened to wait until I wasn't home and break into the house and rape her.

I promptly informed the ex that we were moving. It didn't make a damn to me whether or not he sold the house before that happened. And, sell it he did. With two weeks notice, we were once again forced out and living on the charity of family as we sought to finally buy our own home.

It has been a long struggle.

We moved into spare rooms at my mom's. It was nice to munch on her biscuits and hang out and laugh about family stories. Still, it wasn't home. And, living there meant that I made a five to six hour commute daily to get the kids to school and myself to work and back. Baseball season with the extra games and practices almost did this supermom in. My life was a chronic state of exhaustion.

Everything, and I mean everything, the past year or so has been a struggle.

We found our dream home and watched it slip right through our fingers just 24 hours before we were set to close. At the last minute, the mortgage company refused to approve the contractor that would make the required repairs on the home. We watched helplessly as our dreams and thousands of dollars went down the drain.

For nearly a year, we looked for another home. A few we lost by just a few thousand dollars on the bidding table. Others, we were just hours late in submitting a bid and someone else snatched it up first.

But, today, I write you from our beautiful new home. Which, brings me to why I am writing. I sit here surrounded by boxes, loads of questions of what to put where, no blinds on the windows, a garage packed full of so much stuff you can't imagine and I'm happier than I've been in as long as I can remember. My house may be in chaos but my soul is at peace.

On the day that I graduated college, I put the song St. Elmo's Fire on repeat in my car. Through the years, this one song has always given me the proverbial kick in the pants to pull myself up when met with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Last night, I went to gather one of the last loads of our belongings at my mom's. I put the song on to soothe my tired and weary spirit.

This morning, I awoke to find a plain brown box on my front porch. But, as things are in life, sometimes the most amazing things in life come disguised in the trappings of ordinary.

In the movie, St. Elmo's Fire, there's a scene where Mare Winningham finally gets her own home. She tells her friend that the night before she had awoken and made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was the best one of her life. Why?

Well, until you feel the deep, sharp pain of not having a place to call home, it's almost impossible for you to understand that how exquisite the ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be.

Over the past several weeks, as I've been delving into boxes, sometimes finding surprise reminders of my life before my Divorcetant Debut, I've played that scene numerous times in my head. Each time, I've marveled at how I never understood the intensity of that very brief moment in the film before, I too, felt the promise and peace of owning my own home.

This morning, I opened that ordinary box to find an ordinary jar of peanut butter and jelly. The housewarming gift was from a friend who I've had an anything but ordinary friendship with over the past 20 years. Although we seldom see each other, this friend (like a cherished handful of others I have) still knows me pretty much as well as I know myself. Sometimes, even better than I know myself.

Taped to the side was a simple inscription. No note. No name. It didn't need them. I knew who it was from the moment that I saw it. Tears filled my eyes when I read the tag attached:

"Yea. Ya wanna know what's great? Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich... and ya know, it was my kitchen, it was my refrigerator, it was my apartment... and it was the BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I've had in my entire life."

And, that folks, hands down is one of the best gifts I've ever received in my entire life.

Tonight, I'll be having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. You wanna know what's great? I'll make it my kitchen, in my house and it will be the best peanut butter and jelly that I've had in my entire life.

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