Today, it’s a holiday here in the States and for those of you celebrating, I hope you have a Happy 4th of July! When I saw our official World Watercolor Month prompt of family memories, the first thing that came to my mind was, again, a childhood memory, and this appeared in the form of a Jello mold which often showed up at family gatherings in various glowing colors. I remember that little jingle from the Jello commercials back then and now that’s firmly stuck in my head. In these commercials, people at neighborhood dinners or picnics were told by their hostess, “I didn’t make dessert” to which everyone assumes a melodramatically sad pose that is immediately cured when she continues with “I made some fun!” Then the song begins and nearly everyone who remembers it thinks of the famously ridiculous line “watch it wiggle, see it jiggle…” The thing is, these aren’t the words at all, or, at least, not the ones you hear in any of those old commercials found online. The words are actually “watch it glimmer, see it shimmer” which isn’t as much fun, so perhaps that’s why we all collectively rewrote the lyrics in our heads. Which is rather cool when you think about it.
So many of my family memories are likely filled with such misinformation. They’re not built on pure facts so much as emotions, feelings and fleeting images of those moments. Even when presented with the facts, changing those memories to comply is simply not an option. I prefer to leave them as they are in their perfectly imperfect state. That’s what life is really like, after all, so when I’m searching for truth, I’ll always choose my own memory as, in the end, it’s the truest thing of all. And I’m also equally impressed that Jello could market their way into people’s hearts and make them believe this is an actual dessert. It’s impressive. These molds were served as both a dessert and a salad. The salad version was particularly weird as you could see something jiggling around inside, but it was often impossible to tell what it actually was. As a kid, this was fascinating, but as an adult it was a little disconcerting so I’ve never indulged in these wiggly concoctions again. But they will always hold a special and shimmering place in my heart.
A single piece of food or a wiggly dessert is often enough to set the scene for an entire memory. I can hear my cousins in the background arguing over who gets to light the next little firework as my uncles huddle and argue over some new political conspiracy theory. My mom and aunts have already wandered inside to play a bit of Scrabble as the sun sets, but stays in the sky, granting us a few more hours of daylight. As the sun finally sets, we kids gather about, excited to risk third degree burns for a chance to play with sparklers and write our name in the sky. And as we look around the neighborhood, we can see colorful flickers of light in the sky that seem to be coming from every direction. In that moment, we’re not thinking about being proud to be American so much as feeling proud to be an American family. Sure, our desserts may wiggle when they should shimmer, but they’re always served with a heaping scoop of hope. So, this is what I celebrate on this day each and every year. Impossibly wonderful moments with Jello molds, love and fabulous family memories.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!