July 3, 2012

Dear Mama,
I wonder if you remember anything special about cherry Jello.  Probably you remember making it quite often.  After all, it was Brad’s favorite!

The Jell-o Kid!You probably remember making it in a 9X13 Pyrex dish because Brad loved it so much you couldn’t keep up with his appetite.  Never ever would it have been made in parfait glasses like this, although it would definitely have been topped with whipped cream when served.  Brad’s favorite way of eating it!

BUT do you remember an afternoon when the worst thing that could have happened to a mother happened to you?

Lovingly, I’m sure, you had prepared another of those “humongous” pans of cherry Jello.  And you had carefully placed it in the refrigerator to do that gelling thing it was so clever at doing.

I don’t remember where you had gone after that, but little eyes were watching and big ears were listening.  As soon as they had all perceived that you were nowhere near the kitchen, Brad went to work.

Despite the fact that he was just passed three years old, Brad had somehow managed to learn how to reach up far enough to open the refrigerator door.  His eyes spied that pan of Jello, and he didn’t realize that pulling at it wasn’t possible for his little arms and body to manage that big dish of Jello.  And onto the floor it went!

As always, the minute you heard any kind of crashing sound you were right there to see what one of us had done to wreak havoc in your life. And there it was — red Jello all over your recently mopped kitchen floor!

The first thing you did, another habitual behavior of yours, was to scream at the top of your lungs, “Brad, what have you done now?”  I thought it was pretty obvious but managed to keep my mouth shut.  For once anyway.

You grabbed Brad by the arm and yanked him out of your way, reached for the mop, ran a sink of sudsy water, and began mopping.

And mop you did!  You were flinging red Jello everywhere — on the walls, the ceiling, the counters, the appliances — and in those days, most everything in a kitchen was white.  Well, not in our kitchen on that particular day — red and white was the theme of the day.

The Jell-o Kid!I did my best but pretty soon I let out a giggle and that giggle turned into full blown laughter.  At once, you turned and those flashing eyes of yours locked with mine.  I knew it instantly — I was in TROUBLE!  No way out of it once you had zeroed in on the idea of someone causing trouble.

I reached down and grabbed Brad by the hand, and I ran with him as fast as I could to my bedroom, closing the door.  I knew that wasn’t the end of it.

And sure enough, as soon as you’d finished damage control in the kitchen, I could you coming down the hall.  You stopped first in your bedroom, and I thought to myself, “Uh-oh, that means she’s getting Daddy’s belt.”  When you opened the door to my room, the evidence was clear that I had thought correctly.

You immediately yanked me up from the floor and laid into the backs of my legs with that belt.  I could feel the sting and was determined no matter how badly it hurt, I would not cry!  That always made you mad — I didn’t know why that was.  But this particular day I couldn’t think what I’d done that was so wrong.  After all, what I saw before my eyes in the kitchen was a Lucille Ball moment — extremely hilarious.  But the belt kept striking until I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer.

When I started crying, you grabbed Brad by the arm.  He looked so frightened.  I don’t know if you’d ever used the belt on him before or not, but I wasn’t going to let you start.  I reached for him, and you jerked me out of the way.  I screamed at you, “He’s just a little boy.  Don’t hurt him, please!”  Something stopped you; I’ll never know what.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

Before Daddy got home, you put away his belt, made more Jello, and had me tidy up my room.  While I was there, I changed from shorts into long pants so Daddy wouldn’t see the welts on the backs of my legs.  I didn’t want to have to explain and get in trouble again.  My best memory that day was that you didn’t hit Brad with the belt.  You know, I’ve never liked Jello since.

Your daughter who’s trying to understand,