Am I denying my farm-bred, childbearing hipped heritage? Do I fly in the face of the values of my rural sisters? My great great grandmother hung on for dear life in the back of a wagon racing in the Louisiana Purchase as a little girl. Does she turn her face from me in shame in the after world?
Is my disdain for gelatinous sugary confections shivering luminescent in the refrigerator blasphemous, like white shoes after Labor Day?
I cannot abide by jell-o salad. Pudding and Cool Whip concoctions makes me shudder. The feather in the cap of a good midwestern woman - the ambrosia salad with pistachio pudding and fruit cocktail, the apple, celery and cucumber hovering in lime jello, the chocolate goop with the graham cracker crust - I simply cannot incorporate them into my repertoire. I must rely on my cousins with their Tupperware, Crockpots and casserole cozies to gleefully carry on the tradition. They alone will garner the oohs and aahs as the unveil their imaginative concoctions, fresh from Woman's Day, to place next to my untouched roasted vegetable cous cous (what is that - rice?), which pales in comparison to those vivid unnatural hues and those towering architectural dishes which defy gravity.
My grandma Maggie understood why I didn't like jell-o. She stuck out too. She loved sparkly things and owned nothing but open toed shoes that weren't sensible, a pair to go with each of the outfits in her three stuffed closets. She was a green-eyed goddess who grew up on a farm, hating the isolation, hating the animals, just wanting to get out, live in the city, wear store bought dresses. She approved of the men's tuxedo shoes with my vintage June Cleaver dresses. She understood when I chose the black and white prom dress instead of the sky blue taffeta 'that brought out my eyes'. She smiled knowingly when I announced I was a vegetarian, and deftly augmented her Thanksgiving casseroles just for me.
And she accepted that I didn't like jell-o
, and that I'd never even attempt to do justice to her chocolate goop, because I was different
, just like she once was. And it's okay... Acceptance and fierce independence
is a midwestern value, believe it or not. You can see it, even in those trembling towers of the jell-o frontier.