Chaos and Safety Nets

By
I haven’t won the Nobel Prize yet, but I can make a time machine. All I need is a knife, two slices of cinnamon-raisin bread, a tub of Jif’s smooth peanut butter, a jar of preserves, and a porcelain plate. Lunch is more than a sandwich – it’s a resonating reminder of my childhood.


I used to beg my mom to buy cinnamon raisin bread from the corner store; my tiny hands gripping the metal bars of the shopping cart, locking my slate-blue puppy eyes on hers. She hesitated because I ate entire loaves in a matter of days – using it in everything from sandwiches and toast to stuffing and bread pudding. I would trace the swirls of spice with my finger, pretending that it was a map – planning out some indefinite future of mine. It was a messy one – sharp turns, a few long, lonely stretches, raisin-shaped obstacles and an undefined destination.


On the first slice, a thin layer of peanut butter is spread; it’s the glue of the sandwich. It’s stable, safe, and subtle, concealed between two thick slices of bread. A dollop of peanut butter is often taken for granted, but a sandwich with too much peanut butter is inedible. The trick is to resist the temptation to keep the peanut butter and the jelly in a perfect equilibrium. The sticky consistency of peanut butter cannot overpower the tangy taste of the jelly. Though the philosophies of my parents are ingrained - my dad’s passion for science, his love of medieval castles, and my mom’s belief in the healing power of dance – their efforts contribute to, but do not determine, the character of their daughter. The peanut butter is the subtle undertone of the sandwich, the essential aftertaste.


The jelly is the spontaneous, risk-taking, adventurous condiment. It determines the taste of the sandwich itself. One has such a plethora of choices from sweet, berry preservatives to tart, citrus marmalades – and playing favorites with one is discouraged. Like peanut butter, it’s also a layer of the sandwich that is concealed between thick slices of bread. It’s lucky if a sticky, splash of flavor seeps out; I have never liked a neat sandwich anyway. Not that I would complain when my mom put together perfectly manicured homemade lunches, but the sandwiches I made and ate myself were always more satisfying – even if they were chaotic. I have always preferred passionate, uncontrollable energy to the regularity and restraint of perfectionism. My quirks – a reverent respect for Vivaldi (and absolute void of musical talent), interest in photography and architecture, an intuition for blizzards and thunderstorms – are sugary gifts of uniqueness that ought to be explored.


This entire sandwich – this body – rests on a porcelain plate. One often forgets entirely about the plate, perhaps because it never seeks to be recognized. Silently, it catches loose crumbs, discarded crusts, and uneaten pieces of the sandwich. Family, friends, teachers, and mentors – the community I have built around me is engineered to weave a safety net for me. I have the luxury of making a mistake – and erasing it too. I can be every aspect of my personality – loud, messy, introverted, organized, curious, quirky, left-brained, and right-brained – and be assured that my community will receive me with open arms.


Sometimes I cut my sandwich diagonally; sometimes I cut it into perfect squares. Some days I don’t cut my sandwich at all. I always eat the crusts.





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