Some nights there are no memories that come with this tradition; only the complete feeling of safety and serenity that comes with such and underrated treat.
In the deep, blue dark of early morning, my eyes jerk open with a rush of anxiety and a familiar wave of heat emanating from just below my chest, engulfing me where I slept. Taking dramatically deep breaths, I fling off my covers and stare at the ceiling until my heart slows its frenzy.
I glance at my clock, knowing before I look that it will read within moments of 3 o’clock. The Witching Hour.
“Wonderful,” I think with a smile. “Time for my secret ritual. To the potions!”
Carefully, as to not wake my slumbering partner, I curl my knees toward my chest, pivot my torso and plant my feet on the ground next to where the moonlight has created a puddle. I tuck my bed sheets back in place, hoping they will preserve the hot flash I just imprinted into the memory foam until I return, and back out of the room, closing the door silently behind me. I am careful to walk on the softest pads of my feet as I move throughout my home, each step a practiced dance, a spell to keep sleeping children and felines from waking.Seeing by way of moonbeams, I creep into my kitchen, tugging on the refrigerator door so that only the tiniest bit of light splashes onto the floor tiles. From its hiding place at the back of the top shelf, I pull an unlabeled glass jar and tuck it under my arm to warm, my mother’s handwriting peering back at me from the lid, as if conspiratorially.
“Three Berry Jam,” it whispers. “Summer 2017.” My heartbeat perks with excitement.
As smoothly as waving a magic wand, I assemble the rest of my tools for my midnight rite. A plate that belonged to my grandmother supports two slices of artisan bread, and I dip a butter knife into freshly-ground peanut butter, sourced from a farm nearby. I’ve stifled myself from humming aloud, but I do smile broadly as I spread crushed peanuts across one slice, followed by my mother’s homemade berry preserves on the other. Fraught with anticipation, I lick the dull edges of the knife, savoring every drop while I bring the two bread pieces together. I pour whole milk into a glass and set myself a place at the breakfast table, where I can watch the wild nocturnal visitors roam through the moonlight in our backyard.I lift the sandwich, setting my elbows on either side of the plate like a small child at a lunch table, and sink my teeth in, resisting the urge to moan in rapture. The complementary salty-and-sweet of the peanut butter and jam are, at once, both stimulating and soothing – brilliant with flavor and medicinal in their familiarity.
Immediately, I am transported through space and time, to summer picnics at day camps, bag lunch comparisons on field trips, quick oceanside snacks between swims, lunch breaks in the middle of “yard work days.” The memory of my mother thrusting into my hands a folded-over version of this masterpiece, wrapped in a paper towel as I rushed from school to sports practice, feels like a warm hug to my soul.
This communion could last ten minutes or an hour; I can’t be sure, as I savor the memories and their attached sentiments as carefully as I do each bite.
Some nights there are no memories that come with this tradition; only the complete feeling of safety and serenity that comes with such an underrated treat. Ridiculous as it sounds, in all my practicing of disciplined meditation, I can never achieve the mental peace that I can while eating a homemade pb&j in the middle of the night. All my fears and worries fall away, and I am left observing the moment, becoming enmeshed in the quiet around me and focusing intently on the joy moving from my hands across my tongue.
Perhaps this can be classified as “eating my feelings.” That’s fine; they’re delicious.
By the time I have washed down the last crust with milk, I am completely satiated. I sit and breathe deeply, enjoying these last few moments of absolute contentment in the still suspension of nighttime. Then, I clear the evidence of my solo ceremony and quietly begin the journey back to my bed. Once back, enveloped in quilts, I only need to close my eyes for a few breaths before I topple back into the blissful oblivion of slumber.