My mother was a Jell-o maker. All mothers were back then. My mother had a collection of copper Jell-o molds; rings of assorted sizes, rounds, square pans, a Christmas tree, a bunny. She wore an apron that she’d hold out and wrap around me like angel’s wings. We’re going to make Jell-o, she’d say, her voice deep and tremulous, like Jell-o was the most profound thing a woman could make and she was showing the secret to me. Then she’d hug me to her waist. Her apron always carried the smell of orange Jell-o powder and pineapple, but if I buried my face deep into its folds, I could find the scent of little marshmallows caught up in the threads, which is why I thought that angels must taste like marshmallows and it made me afraid to eat Jell-o if it had those little marshmallows suspended inside. I figured God could be angry that my mother captured pieces of angels to float into her copper mold and I wanted nothing to do with the wrath I was sure would come.
I was right about the wrath. My mother died one day — suddenly, the surprise of it crumpling her face first and then her body as she fell to the floor, the wings of her apron wrapping around her like a shroud. My Aunt said she’d gone to live with God and the angels. I figured it was to keep her from making any more Jell-o bunnies.
I still don’t eat Jell-o.