This is a story I wrote several years ago–2011 to be precise.

While other families undoubtedly have healthier traditions than my family, few are as delicious as eating donuts. Twice a year, when Grandma and Grandpa come to visit, we go with Grandpa to get donuts.

On a cool Monday morning in the middle of March, Grandpa, Joseph, and I stepped outside the house. The air was already coming alive with the chirp of songbirds, but it was still dark. We climbed in Grandpa’s long camper-top truck and Grandpa started the engine.

Fox News immediately came blaring over the speakers, reporting the latest on the nuclear reactors in Japan which had been making headlines for the past three days. I tried to tune out my ears to the useless rumors, but all three of us ended up listening intently to the radio all the way to the donut store.

The world around us on the way seemed altogether different: lights which normally went red, green, yellow instead flashed orange light on the pavement. Traffic was minimal, and we arrived at Shipley’s Do-nuts very quickly.

Bright lights, white walls, and the subtle smell of donuts provided quite a contrast with the dark exterior. We walked in the door around 6:15—early, for me—but many donut eaters must have arrived earlier since most of the shelves were empty.

“Just a minute,” the cheerful cashier said with a noticeable Asian accent. While we waited, Grandpa, Joseph, and I conferred about our options. Then the donut cashier came and asked us what we wanted to get.

“I’d like… eight Bavarian creams,” Grandpa said. The cashier, walking into the back, packed up eight creams for us. The rest was equally straightforward: 2 lemon-filled, 6 glazed, 2 chocolate iced, 4 sprinkles, and 2 bags of donut holes (for my youngest sister: another tradition). The server generously gave us 30 instead of 24 do-nut holes, and we left the store very pleased with the purchase.

As we drove back to our house, a doctor was on the radio explaining the use of iodine pills in preventing radiation sickness. This had something to do with thyroid cancer, which I didn’t completely understand. But I couldn’t help wondering if the chipper Asian lady who served us do-nuts that morning was Japanese, and if so, if she had any family in Japan. And if so, if she was still uncertain whether her family was safe.

We got home and ate the donuts. They were warm, sticky, sweet, and light—everything a donut should be. We finished the extra donut holes that afternoon after Grandma and Grandpa left, and so the tradition was over for a season.

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