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Expressway: The elusive dream of a PB&J sandwich

Cookie Harwood with her son Phil and daughter

Cookie Harwood with her son Phil and daughter Nancy around 1979. The three had an eventful trip to the store for groceries, including peanut butter and jelly. Photo Credit: Barry Harwood

On a hot Friday evening several years ago, I decided to walk up to the A&P on Bayview Avenue in Freeport just to get into some air conditioning.

I could enjoy it for as long as it would take me to spend the few dollars I had in my wallet. I was without a car, and had been shopping with anyone who would give me a ride. The kids didn't even complain when I told them we were going to walk to the store. Nancy, who was 10, and Phil, just 5, were both as eager as I was to get out of the heat, even for a short time.

"Now kids, don't ask me for a bunch of things when we get in the store," I said. "I only have $12 and I have to put a meal or two together."

It was crazy how fast the paychecks went then! Even with my husband working two jobs, budgeting was a necessity.

"OK, Mom," Phil said as we held hands and trudged five blocks to the market. Nancy wasn't as quick to cooperate, and gave a little huff accompanied with a slow, too-hot-to-argue, "Fine," as she followed.

Inside the cool store, we started to feel a little better. The kids seemed to enjoy how empty it was, too.

"We sure are lucky mom, we have all the aisles to ourselves!" Phil said. (Sure, I thought, the rest of the world is on vacation somewhere. Oh well.)

I don't remember exactly what I had in my shopping cart, but by the time we got to the peanut butter and jelly, I knew there was no way I could afford both. Welch's grape jelly and Skippy peanut butter were a fortune all by themselves.

"Mom, we need to get peanut butter and jelly," Phil said. "We need to, Mom. That's not a snack; that's regular food and we neeeed to get it."

"Mom, Phil is right," Nancy said. "It's not like we're asking for potato chips or anything. Can't we just at least get peanut butter and jelly?"

Nancy was holding the jar of jelly in both hands. It was huge. In my head, I started to roughly add the cost of items in my wagon, without the peanut butter and jelly. It would be close.

"C'mon, Mommy, please?" Phil said.

I looked at the chopped meat, and I looked at their faces. As I returned the meat, I grabbed a bag of Wise potato chips and a bottle of Coke on the way to the checkout. What the heck.

At the checkout, I bagged the precious items myself to distribute the weight accordingly. A bag for each of us to carry.

Walking home, there was a little breeze and our spirits were high. Nancy had the bag with the jelly, among other things. As she walked, the jar seemed to be climbing to the top.

"Nancy, watch that," I said. "Don't let the jelly fall out of the . . ."

The words weren't out of my mouth, when, whoops! The over-priced biggest jar of jelly fell to the sidewalk. All three of us seemed to see it happen in slow motion. We all held our breath, hoping the glass jar wouldn't shatter.

"Kids, it didn't break!" I shouted.

"Yay!" Phil shouted.

"Thank goodness!" Nancy said.

Then as we continued to stare in disbelief at our incredibly good fortune, the jelly jar rolled off the curb . . . and into the sewer.

After a moment of stunned silence, I looked at the kids, they looked me, and we all laughed. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were not in our immediate future.

Reader Cookie Harwood lives in Freeport.