Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Time it Takes to Make Jello

When I was small, my Mom served Jello a LOT. It was Dad's favorite dessert and she must have served it two or three times a week.

There was usually one bowl of red and one bowl of green and it was often my task to actually make it. I can still remember the feel of the metal spoon inside the metal bowls we made it in, as I stirred and stirred and stirred. I was small and it felt like that stirring went on for hours, the steam from the hot water rising with the tart, citrus-y fragrance of the raspberry or the lime flavor and my arm aching from the constant motion.

So weighty was that childhood memory of making Jello that when my sister Lucy sent a whole bag full of the little boxes I quailed, certain I would never be able to find the time to make them all, in spite of how much Dad, who is living with us and missing his familiar old comfort foods, loves it.

This morning I was in a ridiculous rush. Guests arriving, helper out sick, big event coming up on the weekend, me just back from a trip to Delhi - obviously a time to cut corners, do only the essentials and get out the door on time. My unfailing response to such situations is to clean the fridge, wash the windows, get out Q-tips to scour the inner crevices of the blender and - oh, why not - make Jello.

Seriously. I haven't made Jello in forty years, but today I decided to do it. Imagine my surprise. The stirring goes on for precisely TWO MINUTES. And in the chaos of my morning, the clanging of all my inner alarms and the urgencies I invent for myself, what a gift those two minutes were. By the clock, I stood silent and composed, watching my hand move in the same old rhythmic motion I now realized I remembered from my distant past, and feeling peaceful and renewed and suddenly aware that time to an eight year old and time to a woman of 51 are not the same and never will be.

For women like me, the 2 minutes are the gift. For the 8 year old, it's the Jello.

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