This is a story of how we ate the best donut of our lives.
I'm in North Carolina visiting the Adorables. That's my beautiful grandaughters now age 15 and 10. Readers have followed the adventures of me road tripping every summer with the girls for years. Now I'm in NC with them and we have two weeks to stare at rain and come up with ideas of things to do. But something tiny and amazing seems to always happen. This visit for the first time I brought a member of the Wolf Pack with me. The five year old, Damon. All boy. On full out tilt all the waking hours of his days.
The Adorables spent the first few days getting over the shock of it. Last night they stopped trying to be nice and maintain all their manners. Sure they had rocked him and gave him a bottle and watched him take first steps - but now? He runs, the talks, the asked questions, and he keeps trying to sit next to them because he likes them. They are exhausted.
Keeping the kids or them keeping me I am always surprised at what the magic of being Zaza means. The way that it affects me. As Damon as asked me, "Are we still on our adventure?" Oh, yes I tell him. We are still on our adventure. That's what being a grandparent does. It adds a something extraordinary to the experience. Things I'm certain I tried to do with my children and did in the midst of homework and school rules and report cards. But one of the most amazing things I've learned is the lesson that they have taught me. The magic really does exist in the moment.
Damon and I chased three rainbows on our journey here from Nashville. Each was a celebration and the enthusiasm never waned. We discussed the colors, chased the pot of gold, watched it fade and grow stronger.
Nothing was ordinary. The corn in the fields. The red cars on the road. The clouds in the sky. The flowers on the roadside. The tunnels. Or the traffic jams which were the longest in the world.
A storm hit us so hard after dark that I could barely see how to find the exit off the interstate. I almost felt my way rather than drove to the only hotel available. I had planned just two more exits down to hit a Hampton Inn - interior doorways and all that - but I couldn't see in front of me. It was Days Inn or the car.
Once we made it to get a room - ON THE GROUND FLOOR PLEASE with a dashing five year old and sixteen bags in the storm - Damon declared he just LOVED our new bedroom. The cable didn't work. No matter. Everything was wonderful. There was a hidden fridge (empty) and a microwave. Surely we had hit the jackpot. A free breakfast with the most amazing things like CEREAL and juice. BUT nothing prepared us for what would happen here.
This particular trip is on an extremely tight budget. Not like some where we have seen Rock City so I have to be creative with my magic. But the first day I woke up with them I realized I lay in bed a moment trying to figure out my life when it hit me - Wait! I'm ZAZA. They made me ZAZA fifteen years ago by Ella's baby babble. And God has anointed me with the supernatural powers of all grandparents - to Carpe the Diem and make memories.
"Get up," I announced. "We are going to the bakery!" Don't lecture me about sugar and healthy eating. That's not my job. Not today anyway.
"Thank God," one of them said. As if another day of routine would be the end of civilization.
And new life was breathed into our routine. We decided that the bakery we should try was over in Surf City. The one that cooks your donut to order when you walk in the door. Yes, the hot sign is always on because they don't make it until you arrive. You can get a maple bacon or a death by chocolate or a thousand other original you make it up order.
I turned off the car in front of the store and said, "WAIT!" before we got out. "Do you realize guys that this could be it? This could be the moment we eat the absolute best donuts of our lives? Right here?"
Everyone paused. Could it be true? Could this be the moment in our lives that is just before us and will never return?
I went with the traditional glaze, ordered a cinnamon sugar for the wolf cub and the girls ordered crazy, original orders.
Yes, it was true. They were the best DONUTS OF OUR LIVES!
(I've been a huge fan of Dan-D-Donuts all of my school years in Panama City and it will always have a special place in my heart and part of my 'going home' routine.)
For those of you who know me and Cousin Debbie Register and also our history of getting into trouble together for all of our lives - I have to tell you that we are planning MATCHING TAT'S in April when she arrives on vacation Because we are old enough to be stupid in a whole new way. Most people also know we are as different as the sun and moon so agreeing on a tattoo is another thing. Which I THOUGHT we had done but now she is shifting her perspective on me.
A brief history:
Trouble. Deb and I have gotten into trouble all of our lives. The kind of trouble that cousins who are best friends can get into. That's the stupid kind. Not being bad but just being like Lucy and Ethel although I'd like to think of us more along the romantic Thelma and Louise types - It's def more Lucy and Ethel.
So for years we have decided to mark one thing or the other by getting a tattoo. Let's just do it, She'd say. And I'd say sure, sure. But of course we didn't. Then we put in at some point to get identical tats and since we are so different that didn't happen and then deciding on where to put them was another personal choice all of which has kept us for fifty years from getting inked. But we are old enough now to be full tilt stupid.
Deb decided when she read about the Phoenix bird and all its symbolism that we both really needed a phonenix. I said - fine. Then she started looking at pictures of the Phoenix. Her reactions were classic Deb. Hand to head, frown. Her exuberance replaced by concern.
What's the problem?
This is a very ugly bird. That neck, I mean, It looks like a snake. I don't think I can do this.
That was about three years ago or more and so that has certainly iced the ink move. In the meantime I came up with a tattoo of my own that I wanted - The Celtic knot that symbolizes The Trinity so that I could always remind myself in times of trouble - Look, girl -This is what you believe. Don't forget that. But I never got around to that as well. I do good to have clean underwear so having a tat just hasn't been on my to do list.
ENTER - Deb's vacation and her finding a Phoenix tattoo that is more impressionist and feminine. Okay. So we will just do it.
SIDEBAR- DEB has ABSOLUTELY NO TOLERANCE FOR PAIN. None. Zilch. If she has a fever you would think she just caught swine flu. If she stubs her toe it's a major affair. Mine almost cut off - She doesn't even pay attention as she chases a wasp because she is afraid it will STING HER and she will be rushed to the hospital.
Okay - So apparently getting a Tattoo is not a PAINLESS event. She swears she is going first and won't back out. When I told my sons one said - Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it because Deb won't do it. And the other laughed and laughed at the mere thought. He said if they are going to be matching it will be really small because it will be one dot. That's all they'll get done on Deb before she screams and backs out.
Deb could make some money on this because everyone is betting a) She won't do it. and B) she really won't do it.
All I know to do is report back in April. I pushed her out of tree over a river once when she changed her mind at the top and wanted to go back down. Then in all fairness I jumped in after her. If she backs out of this I don't think the tattoo artist will let me hold her down on the table. But I'm committed now. This story has been fifty years in the making. She turns chicken - I'm getting that Celtic knot.
What's the story in your world?
IN living with Mama - Her living with Me - I have considered a few things we have in common this am:
1. I hate the TV on during the day/Mama loves the TV on first thing
Common Ground: We are both PASSIONATE about the TV
2. Mama likes the whites to be all Martha White Whiter than White/ I like clean underwear.
Common Ground: We both know how to find the Washing Machine
3. Mama wants me to take care of stuff/ I have other stuff to take care of.
Common Ground: It's all stuff.
4. Mama is a pessimist. Period. She considers this solid thinking/Ultimately, when all is said and done - I am an optimist. Mama considers this living with either your head in a) a hole b) the clouds.
Common Ground: Opposite sides but same coin called Life.
5. I have a favorite coffee cup/Mama has put bacon grease in my favorite coffee cup
Common Ground: We can both reach my favorite cup
I was actually going for the hole in the clouds. You know the one with the silver lining. That single shot of sunshine that rays down like it has found Holy Ground. That one tiny scrap that says in the middle of all, in spite of all, it's gonna be alright. Now I gotta find my underwear, run through the living room with my dirty underwear stuffed in my ears so I don't hear fake news, real news, any news that will rock me off my work on my book boat. Of course I may just skip out the back door on the way to that washing machine, find that ray of sunshine and bask in the rock solid reality that it has broken through the storm. And, so have I.
How are things in your world?
A little advice. Don't take your mother to the doctor and then feel guilty about leaving Big Dog and Little Dog so you tell them they can go for a RIDE when the doctors office is the designation. They think they are going to the PARK. They think they are going for a WALK. They do not think you are late for an appointment and need to take six bags, a bottle of water, a blanket, a coat, and get all in the door while leaving them behind, noses pressed out the crack in the windows.
A very special shout out and Thank you to Dr. WayneDay and his crew at Belle Meade Dermatology. They made mom's visit as painless and quick as possible, were downright genuine and put her at ease. I had picked up six magazines to take back to the little room where we expected to wait two hours for a doctor. Someone saw us before we could turn the first page. Bravo guys on being a beautiful exception to the rule. (But you still have a great mag selection. Might just arrive early next time to catch up on some reading.
Any Doc appt can be a little stressful in spite of how great everyone is so I decided getting Mom something cold to drink and a Fat Mo's burger would be just the ticket followed by a drive through our very own Central Park - Warner Parks in West Nash. So Beautiful. Watched the waning light looking out over the steeplechase field as the dogs alternately whined and tried to eat our hamburgers. I shared one with them, cranked the car and hit the trail. Mom pointed out -
It's really pretty and would be prettier if someone would pick up all those dead trees.
Ummm, kinda big place. Like, really big place. Nature doing it's thing and all that.
I'm just saying.
Big Dog and Little Dog got a chance to pull me through the cold across a field.
Back in the car I put in one of Mom's mixed cd's and drove on. Titan and Duncan stuck white noses out windows, sniffed the air. We spotted three deer. And mom said -
Look, it's just a baby.
Creedence Clearwater sang - I see a Bad Moon Arising.
I just love this song.
I turned up the volume. The sky grew darker. Drove left/right/round in circles like we were lost, like we would never find our way out, like lost was the only way we knew.
Then we emerged from the woods, cleared the trees, the lights of Nashville glittering.
Look, at the lights. And, there's a church steeple. We made it. We're not lost.
I turned due West and let the music take us all the way home.
My mother has moved in with me. It seems like only yesterday that we were just like this, her in the drivers seat, her being the one to keep me steady on my feet, her keeping me balanced so that I didn't go careening off into the dark night, bad decisions, high fevers, or swampy creeks.
Now I'm the one that is trying to keep things balanced. Keeping them from tipping over. We are having such a great time. Really, we are. You laugh? You doubt it? I can see why. There are days that I stomp through the house exhasperated by her every sigh or comment. Days where I turn fourteen and want to go to room and slam the door. But my door doesn't slam because its just one more thing I have to fix in this house so there's no point. Instead, we find something we can agree on to watch or we tell old stories and laugh. Thank God she has a sense of humor. Most days I have mine. She follows me around the house with lipstick trying to get me to just "put a little color on" and reminds me to use lotion on my face. A lot. Like every time she looks at my face. She is also the Queen of the List. There is always a list of things we need. As soon as I leave for the store a new list has begun. Daily trips to the store are a bizarre part of my family history. It's as if we can only buy one thing a day. Or three. But never all of the things. When I was in high school and was sent to the store that was fine because Cousin Deb was with me and we always took the really, really long way which means we did everything we wanted to between the house and the store. Now the store is a chore. Particularly when someone is following your around the house with a plastic bag that has the name of a particular brand of three ply double roll extra size super soft paper with no truck tracks in the middle of it so that you can "READ every word so you get it exactly right." This is why I studied literature. I just know it. It's come to this.
But I get it. The little things matter when they seem to be the only things you might possibly have control over. The pressures of giving up your home after fifty years, making a move to the mountains after being a flatlander all your life (her words) and giving up so many shades of independence are challenging in every way. Trying to still find things when many are still in storage, reaching for the light in the middle of the night and realizing it's in the wrong place. That everything is in the wrong place. Mourning an old house like a family member. Because it was such a part of the family for so many years. The shelter for every tropical storm and hurricane. That little brick house held every family member far and wide while the storms raged outside. It was our lifeboat and our arc. Through the literal Florida storms and from life's storms. When grandparents grew sick and elderly and moved in with us. When there were car wrecks and bad news. The death of pets. Of bad grades. Broken hearts. Celebrations. Birthdays. It was all right there and my mother was the captain of that ship. Period. My Daddy was in the Army and away much of the time until he retired. Then he came home and took his place without ever removing her from hers.
Now so many things fall to me. Just cause this is the way that life shook out. It has a way of doing that. Taking a road we didn't expect but then that is life. And as family we make the best of it. As a writer I empathize with my mother making a change so significant we don't discuss it too much. The decision to let go of the car keys - one of the hardest of a lifetime. My mother's parents never owned a car, never drove. If I felt the day I had my own set of keys and eventually my own set of wheels represented freedom - for her that had to be a kind of rising up and driving out that came from a much deeper place. It represented more than sixteen year old I gotta be me. It represented a rise out of poverty, a way to have a job and keep a job, a success that meant she could buy a little house, build a family, have a little girl that would ride shotgun some day.
And, I did. Those were glorious times. My mother finally bought the car of her dreams. A big Oldsmobile convertible. White with red leather interior. A dream machine. She drove with confidence behind the wheel wearing scarves over her hair and streaming behind her, cat eye sunglasses. She was amazing, looked like a movie star. Riding in that front seat beside her, the sun shinning down, the radio playing, I knew that Mom was in control, that we were traveling down that road, and that all was well with our world.
Now, a blink of an eye later, I'm behind the wheel. She's riding shotgun. And I can only pray that I will exude just a little of that air of confidence she possessed. The kind where she can truly I believe that it's okay. In spite of her home being shifted beneath her feet, her keys having slipped away. That in spite of it all - all is well with the world. That the road before us is a long one. To trust me enough that I do know the way. That life is still a great adventure. We just have to take it one day, one moment at a time.
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