Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy National Jelly Bean Day, Among Other Celebrations

fabric facsimile of 1950s jellybean dress
"Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen." --Willa Cather

Today, April 22, is National Earth Day which, along with its original intent in the environmental movement, is special over this way because hubby and I met on the very first Earth Day 1970, (ahem...) 45 years ago. April 22 is also National Girl Scout Leaders Day and National Administrative Professionals Day (source: National Day Calendar). Somewhere along the way I also saw where the month of April is not only National Poetry Month but "Distracted Driving Awareness Month."

But what I'm celebrating today is National Jelly Bean Day. (Check out the link for ideas on how to celebrate!)

Yes, Jelly Bean Day, April 22. Jelly beans can be celebrated anytime, of course, since it's like they bring their own party to town when you eat them, but it is nice they have their own day. For me however they carry special significance--and not just because they are a favorite candy. That fact was proved this past Easter season when I gave into the impulse to eat more than I should. Thankfully the stash is finally gone.

No, it's because I am transported back to the five-year-old-me whenever I eat them--and all because of a dress.

I can still visualize it. The top was a pale pink trimmed in black piping, pretty basic and plain. But it was the skirt that was special. Oh, the splash and array of those colorful jelly beans floating and skimming and swirling on the black background. Mom said it was all she could do to get me out of that dress as a kindergartner. She said she washed it out in the evenings so it would be ready for me to wear the next day...and the next...and the next. I wish the school picture that year captured the whole child and not just the typical portrait setting. For there it is, in this picture, sans the skirt. But the memory is forever in my head. Isn't it interesting the things we remember?

And speaking of interesting, in reading up on jelly beans I discovered that the confectionary actually came into play during the time setting of my WIP--the Civil War era. According to Jelly Belly's Origin of the Jelly Bean: "The exact origins of the jelly bean are lost in time, and only a part of its history is known. Most experts believe the soft center is a descendant of a mid-Eastern confection known as Turkish Delight that dates back to pre-Biblical times. The shell coating is an offspring of a process called panning, first invented in 17th century France to make Jordan Almonds for the Royal Court...Somehow the two processes made their way to America. The earliest known appearance of a jelly bean is a 1861 advertisement for William Schrafft of Boston that promoted the sending of jelly beans to soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War."

Ah, will I use that tidbit of history in my story? Who knows--it hasn't made its way in yet. But it does pique my interest and I wonder... Is it a tempting idea because it could be integral to the story or because in my childhood I had a jelly-bean dress? Is it part of discovering my story, or because nostalgia drives the idea and I want to make it work?

Was Willa Cather right in saying most of a writer's basic material is acquired before the age of fifteen? Hmmm, something to think about.

Have you found any surprising tidbits lately that you are considering adding to your story? Are there any leftovers from your childhood that have find their way your pages? (Hopefully they don't include any stale jellybeans!) What is your favorite flavor of jellybean?


  1. I do have a leftover from my childhood that made its way into a book: When I was ten, I wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew, and in my favorite fantasy, I was Imogene, the leader of an exciting and successful detective ring. Well, my book that's being published in June maybe set in Victorian London, but the sleuth is ten-year-old Imogene. :-)

  2. Elizabeth, what fun to know this about you. And btw I've preordered your book. Can't wait to read it :-)

  3. It would be cool if you could figure out some way to work the jellybeans into your ms. I tend to slip the names of friends and pets into my books.

    When I first saw your picture, I thought I had one of myself with a remarkably similar hair style, but as it turns out, I didn't have the thick bangs at that time of my life. Like you, I was, though, enamored with a dress my mother had made for me. It was gold with rows of ric-rac and other trims. Oh, how I loved that dress.

  4. Cathy, the description of your favorite dress sounds neat, too. Wouldn't we make quite the pair with the same hair style and our kindergarten dresses? Imagine!

  5. I would have envied your curls! My hair was straight as a stick, as they say. I did have a favorite dress. My neighbor's granddaughter came to visit from the state of Washington. Kathy had a turquoise dress with an all-over black pattern. I loved it, and my mom did, too. In fact, she made me one just like it. I never saw Kathy again, but I wore that dress until it was too small for me. (And I loved jelly beans - still do!)

  6. Peggy, the vision of your dress sounds lovely--no wonder you loved it. And it's good you had a talented mother who could recreate it :-) As for my curls? I think my mother and a set of some kind of curlers get the credit. My hair was decidedly NOT naturally curly!! Thanks for sharing. I think we should come up with some kind of photo book on favorite dresses of little girls in the 1950s. What do you think?

  7. I love that picture of you in kindergarden!!

  8. Thanks, supermom. It sure was a long time ago!