The source of quirky habits

I was packing my lunch this morning and realized that I was moving out of the turkey phase and back to the peanut butter and jelly phase.  As I set about making my PB&J sandwich, I had the following little daydream:

I am preparing Zachary’s lunch for school.  He is standing beside me, head reaching to my hip, watching me work.  With the knife I spread the peanut butter thickly on one side of the bread.  Then I reach for the spoon, spoon out a glob of grape jelly and use the back of the spoon to spread it on the other side of the bread.

Zach gets a curious look on his face.  "Daddy," he says, "why do you use a knife for the peanut butter and a spoon for the jelly?"

I think about this and realize that from his perspective, this is a fundamental question, harking back to why the universe works the way it does.  The problem is that I don’t have a good answer.  If he had asked why the sky was blue or why the sun appeared redder in the evening, I would have been able to explain it without trouble.  But he asked why I used a knife for the peanut butter and a spoon for the jelly.  Since I was always taught that honesty is the best policy, I decided to go for broke. 

"Well," I say, "I don’t really have a good reason.  Everyone else in the world probably uses a knife for both.  But this is the way your grandpa made my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was growing up, and it’s the way I learned how to do it.  I just feels comfortable this way."

Zach smiles, showing a few missing teeth.  "When I grow up, I’m going to use a knife and spoon just like you, Daddy," he says.

Incidentally, I definitely felt Zach move this morning, sometime around 3:30 AM.  Since the previous time I wasn’t certain, I’ll consider this one the definite one and record it hereafter as the first time I felt him move.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.