Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding My Childhood Under A Jello Mold

Growing up in Northwestern Alabama became a challenge right about the time I hit puberty.  Gone was the enchantment of playing in the woods and planting flowers with my Mom; 
I was ready to move on, and never look back.  
All grown up, I wanted to dump that frivolous kid stuff and go search for
the Real Meaning of Life.

Or something like that.

A Buttercup Meadow near my house that reminds me of my childhood.
But for the last three weeks, pushed by a brief created by
Lilla Rogers in her Assignment Bootcamp,
I have been gently delving in memories of my childhood; 
peeling back the layers of life to get back to that sweet time
when nothing was more important than what was happening at that moment.

Just that.

Drinking it in, smelling it, tasting it, lying on the ground and rolling in it.

I have to explain 
that growing flowers and vegetables was one of the premier pastimes of my young life.
My Mom and Dad were gifted gardeners who understood in their bones and souls 
the miracle of planting tiny seeds and nurturing them to verdant
stalks that bore strenuously and gave no hint of their small, dry beginnings. 

On Spring and Summer evenings after supper, we would remove
to the yard, where soaking hoses had been laid in the flower beds.
With the smell of grass around us in the radiant evening, my Mom and Dad
taught me to lift the tiny, fragile new plants from their watery bed
and tease their roots apart.  With a poke of the finger, a welcoming cave
would be made and the newly separated and tender plant would be pushed into it,
surrounded by a muddy water bath that would nourish it to its full potential.
I loved those times.

Besides that memory, one of the most powerful recollections
 wrapping around my childhood life like a fish net are the Sundays and Holidays
spent at my paternal Grandma's house.  I say Grandma's, because
I'm a girl, she was a girl, so Grandpa didn't count as far as the house went.

Every year on the day after Christmas, we gathered at my Grandma's house 
for my Grandpa's Birthday and a huge potluck dinner.
The pride and joy of two of my aunts were their amazing Jello molds. 
I was scared to death of those things.

Can you imagine facing this when your head is only just above the level of the table?  And you have no clue what that stuff is that is trapped inside that jiggly green gelatin?  My mother, to her eternal credit, never made me take a bite "just for manner's sake" out of any of those nuclear bombs.  I love her all the more for that.

So, when Lilla Rogers gave us her mini brief on March 3 and the subject was Jello Molds, I was swept back to that time in space...

My first thought was those heart throbbing moments of sneaking past those
congealed salads and wondering - with the clarity of distance -
if there really were bugs and spiders trapped in that jello?


Then I started drawing.  From the first bug-themed jello molded salads of my nightmares came a natural progression...I'm wondering if any artist does this differently?  
What flowed out of my pen were traceries of molds, egg beaters, whisks, and of course,
gelatine molds.  Remembering the copper molds on my Mom's kitchen walls,
I smiled and dug deeper.  The molds quite naturally were
joined by botanicals.  To my great surprise, the simple bluebells of my childhood meadow
wanderings became front and center.

The molds became more ancient, more Old World and I was off down the river again.
Once you jump in, you just have to go with the flow, you know?

When the time came to post my final submission, I was still dancing in flower meadows, smelling my childhood, and unwilling to stop.
But a deadline is a deadline, and this is the real left-brain-sided world,
so I hugged my rosy cheeked child-self and posted my final:

And now I'm going back to dance some more, plant some flowers in memory
of my Mom and Dad, and just maybe...maybe make a congealed salad.  Maybe. 

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