Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life is Like a Box of Donuts

When I travel, I people watch. In fact, it is my favorite travel pastime.

Sometimes I am disheartened by what I see. Most often I’m intrigued. Then sometimes, something different catches my eye, tips my world on its axis, and unties my perfectly packaged life scenarios.
Like when this happened at Regan International Airport.

I had just completed a palpitating rush through security and a frantic search for a half way healthy takeaway lunch. Panicked I ran to my gate, desperately hoping I hadn’t given up my chance to get home for a solution to my hypoglycemic state. I arrived just in time to watch a Delta Red Coat change my status to delayed. I gulped in a long breath of stale airport air and let the relief wash in.
This extra 40 minutes was a gift. I said a silent, grateful prayer. Then I found a table in a sea of travel weary warriors and peeled back the foil on my spinach chicken wrap. I took a long, cold draw of water and leaned back in my chair to watch.

I instantly noticed a woman and a young boy and I found myself pondering their relationship. She was short and slight with deep brown eyes and dark, olive skin. He was tall with pale skin and spiky platinum blonde hair. His brilliant quiff shot at least 2 inches above his scalp. Even from a distance, I could tell his eyes were a golden green.

I landed on these two, like a bird on a wire and perched forward in my hard plastic seat. Were they related? No way! Then I noticed they shared long thin noses that ended in the same abrupt point and high cheek bones that flanked almost hollow faces. And, I saw the crooked left smile that dawned from both sets of lips when they noticed the Dunkin Donut sign.

My detective work abruptly ended when I heard the excited boy.

“Mom, can we please get some?”
If there were any hesitation on her part, I did not see it. At his request, they moved quickly to the long line and chatted and pointed and finally disappeared. I went back to eating my sandwich, distracted by the parade of people who were now streaming out of Gate 27.

I noticed the pair again when “Spike” grabbed the newly vacant table just steps away from mine. Mom followed with 2 pints of milk, a few napkins and a box of donuts.

I thought I knew what would happen next, a perfectly predictable scenario. She would open the box and say something like, “Choose one. We’re saving the rest to share with Dad or Grandma or Aunt Beth.” He would whine and say something like “Only one? It is soooooo hard to chooooose.”

“No, she would counter. Choose one or don’t take any.”
My sandwich started to taste like cardboard as I predicted the plot.

But, oh, how wrong I was.
As she set the box on the table, he waited patiently. She opened his milk, unfolded his napkin and laid it on the table. He waited again as mom went through the exact same steps for herself. By now, even my mouth was watering. Finally, she opened the box. Without a word, each of them reached inside.

I caught my breath. “Oh, I thought to my spent and jaded self, I didn’t see that coming. They must have purchased a box of glazed.”
Somewhat disappointed, I resigned myself to take note of her
skillful parenting.

“Less fighting and whining when there is only one flavor.”
But, my axis was starting to tilt. Mom was taking an enormous bite of an airy traditional chocolate glazed and “Spike” had his long tongue extended waiting for a drop of blueberry icing to land squarely on its tip. When it did, he savored it, let out an excited moan and promptly took a large bite. They looked at each other with crooked left smiles.

“It’s gooooood!” he said, his mouth so full he blew cakey crumbs on her tiny face. She shook her head up and down in agreement. “Mine is good too.” Then almost in perfect sync, they both put their donuts, missing one bite each, back into the box. Each took a sip of the milk, eyed the rest of the contents and reached back inside. The world tilted again when both mom and son pulled out entirely different donuts. Another bite, another comment about taste or texture, another sip of milk, only to retire the newest flavor for a sweetness even newer.

Out came a glossy pink donut with white sprinkles and a sugary puff of a donut pregnant with raspberry jelly. One bite, one pleased glance, another trip back to the box. Next came a bumpy apple fritter, and fluffy Bavarian cream dripping with milk chocolate. One bite, a fist bump, another reach. Next came a sticky cinnamon twist and long fat maple bar. “Spike” dug his finger into the frosting and plopped a syrupy dollop on her nose. They both laughed. Mom licked the frosting off with her own long tongue. Then they each took a bite and dropped their donuts into the still full box.
A few more bites and they were done. Without words, they both glanced at the box one more time. She raised her eyebrow as if to say, “Do you want anymore?” He shook his head no, rubbed his tummy and closed the box. On their way to the gate, he dropped it in the trash.

Wasteful? Yes.

Gluttonous? Perhaps.... just a little.

However, these are not the life values that come to mind when I remember that day. Instead, I can’t help but think about the beautiful lessons this mother is teaching her child.
Instead of: “There is only a small portion for you. You can have only one."
He is learning the world is accessible.

Instead of: “You are stuck with your choices. Choose wisely.”
He is learning his choices abound and though he might not always make the perfect choice. There is always another chance. There is always another donut.

Instead of: Discipline created by scarcity, he is learning discipline in the midst of abundance.

Instead of: “I feel joy because it’s mine”. He discovered the elevated joy that comes from sharing.

When I think of “Spike” and his wise mom. One of my favorite quotes comes to mind. Please forgive me, this slight revision.

“Life is like a box of donuts... Full of pleasure and possibility, with more than enough to go around!"