When I was a kid, I remember going to visit my maternal grandmother with my mom and brother. We would spend the day shopping at Ann & Hope at the Liberty Tree mall and then cap off the day in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. Coffee for them, a snack for me and my brother. But there was also a donut. A chocolate cruller. My mom and grandmother would share it, sipping coffee, nibbling the glazed goody, and laughing together. Even from the back seat their smiles and joy radiated. I saw them, even through their differences, share and commune regularly. As someone who doesn’t care for donuts, it was never the confection that I wanted, but to be a part of their ritual.
When my grandmother passed away in 2000, my mom and I started sharing chocolate crullers. I was just starting to drive and my lessons were often bringing her to Dunk’s for an iced coffee after a long day. The crullers were not always available or sought after. When we did share one, breaking it in half in a parking lot, I knew I was sharing in the love and joy of those moments I remembered from my childhood.
As a culture, many of us believe that food is love, thus it makes sense that food would connect us with the love of our ancestors. It is what we shared, it is how they cared for us, it is what reminds us of them.
Last week I celebrated a personal achievement and decided to treat myself to coffee and a bagel before work. Signs from my grandmother had been popping up over the previous few days and I knew she was around. Before I could recite my usual order at the drive-thru, I blurted out ‘chocolate cruller, please‘. I picked up my order at the window and headed to work. Alone in the office before the building opened, I took the cruller out and broke it in half. Thinking of her I could only imagine what she would think of me now. It may seem presumptuous to say she would be proud of me, but I know that to be true. She is proud of me. Tough as nails but always a cheerleader, I know she still walks with me. I ate my half of the donut thinking of her and what has become a tradition and ritual of love and connection.
We tend to think that connecting with our ancestors has to be any one certain thing. It doesn’t. It is what resonates with us. It is what connects us. It is what opens our hearts and fills them with love. It can even be a trip to the drive-thru.
My grandmother was with me when I wrote this blog. I know that because when I used the term ‘tough as nails‘ to describe her, my first thought was ‘hard as nails‘. I paused; no, that’s not the saying. Why was ‘hard’ the adjective that I thought of? And why am I now crying??? Yeah, Hard as Nails was the line of nail polish she used. Her nails were always painted and she consistently had a few colors in rotation neatly next to her living room chair. I think she wants you to know she was tough but she always looked good.
This blog is not an endorsement of Dunkin’ or Inspire Brands, Inc.
2 thoughts on “This Donut is My Ancestor Work”
thank you for sharing this. it made me think about my grandmother, to whom i had no connection at all. when i heard of her passing, i felt the slightest pang of sadness for my dad and that was it. i’m unsure if i must reconciliate with her to dip into my ancestral line or if i may ‘skip’ her. i never had a loving grandmother. i only had one shitty one. of course i just answered my own question by remembering your last article about ancestral work or rather work around for those we don’t feel a connection too. sounds like the KISS principle should be applied. maybe speaking the words above out loud is the first step of reconciliation with her. i guess it won’t hurt to put out one more plate and cup come Samhain.
thank you Kristen, for causing the shift. cause now that the tears are falling i know i’m on the righ path with this.
so much love and gratifude for your presence. please never stop doing what you’re doing.
Karin, thank you so much for sharing your process with ancestor work. I have often thought about grandparents I never met or great-grandparents who might have a lesson to share but if can feel intimidating to try to connect with someone you never knew in this life. I think it is always best to do what feels right even if on paper it might not be ideal. Our practices and rituals shift over time and there is nothing wrong with trying new things or letting go of past practices. For me, just taking the time to think about these things is deeply emotional and shift inducing. Maybe this year there is an additional cup and next year there is a different amount of cups; that’s okay. I know this can be a painful process but I hope you are finding peace and healing along the journey. Big hugs, Kristen