National Donut Day is probably one of the more outrageous pseudo-holidays that I’ve heard of yet, though it is sheer genius from a marketing standpoint. At a time when most people are super self-conscious about their body image and getting in shape for the coming bikini summer that is just around the corner, let’s celebrate a nutritionally void pastry!! WHOO HOO!!! And, judging by the response on social media across the board, it has been a smashing success so far.
I have to give everyone full disclosure here…. I am a donut junky. I love them in every shape, size, flavor, and configuration. I love donuts with the glaze, without the glaze, with a hole, filled with all sorts of creams, jellies, jams, etc. Diners Drive-ins and Dives did a special a while back that featured a glazed chocolate covered bacon dipped donut that I swear was calling my name softly through the television. Over the course of my life I’ve probably eaten my fair share of donuts along with at least two other peoples’ to boot. And, sad as it is to admit this, as my metabolism starts to slow down with age, many of those tasty pastries that I thought had been left far in the dust are beginning to catch back up with me and congregate around the mid-section.
My love affair with donuts goes back literally as far as I can remember. My earliest memory is from the age of two or so, and it is a bit foggy on many details. What I do remember is sitting on a bed in a hotel room, and my dad walking in with a warm box of donuts. I’m about ninety nine percent sure that it was a box of assorted Dunkin Donuts, but don’t quote me on that. What I remember most is the sheer joy and excitement over the donuts and over Dad being home finally, and I think it’s those emotional responses as much as the tastiness that has really tied me to donuts ever since.
Growing up, my father was an officer in the Navy and as a result there were many times when he just wasn’t home. When we lived in California I remember whole stretches of months at the time when he was out to sea with the ship. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that this was abnormal or that there were children out there who had both parents at home pretty much all of the time. I just assumed that since I grew up that way, everyone else did too. Looking back at those years now, with the added benefit of perspective and age, I miss the times that we never got to spend together. When I was living through them, though, we simply made the best of what we had, and that meant making every homecoming a special event.
One thing stands out to me more than any other about Dad coming home from long deployments. It didn’t matter where he went, and it didn’t matter how long he’d been gone, whenever he came home he brought donuts with him. When I was four and five years old, I was excited to see Dad come through the door, but I was at least as excited to see the box of donuts in his hands at that moment. Those donuts meant sugar and sweetness and contentment, but more importantly they meant family. Now that I understand a little bit better the weight and responsibilities that come with being an adult and responsible for a family, those little moments mean even more. In those days, I never stopped to consider what Dad had to go through to get those donuts to us. I never asked myself if he’d gotten off the ship exhausted, dirty, and beat from doing jobs most of us can’t even imagine only to climb on his Kawasaki Spectre motorcycle and ride around until he could find an open donut shop. I never stopped to wonder how many hours he spent waiting patiently just so he could see that special smile on our faces when he walked in the door bearing sweet pastries for the family.
Years later, when I was living in Florida and having a terrible experience with some very deep clinical depression issues, Dad dropped everything and drove from VA Beach, VA to Orlando to be there for me. And when I opened the door to the hotel room I was staying in, and saw him standing in the hallway, what do you think he had in his hands? A box of warm Krispy Kreme donuts with chocolate icing.
So while some people might scoff at the idea of a National Donut Day, or even rail against the health implications of celebrating a food item that is admittedly, unabashedly, and even purposefully one of the least healthy things you can possibly start the day with, I am right there with you, Dunkin and Krispy. Because when I see donuts and smell the warm, sugary goodness when you lift the lid on a dozen, my mind goes back to that of a five year old boy—happy and content that his Dad has come home at last.
In loving memory of Joseph P. McAliley Sr. This one’s for you.