Back in Philadelphia, we had an unhealthy relationship with a man named Rameshwar. My son and I would enter with the most innocent intentions, only to have Rameshwar feed our need on the down-low, free of charge. He was a pusher and we were weak. It has taken us a few months, but finally, we found our Midwestern supplier. A few weeks ago, The Midget and I discovered a little hide-a-way that we have shared with no one – especially the Turk. He wouldn’t approve. I know it’s wrong – no mother should ever share a secret like this with her offspring but I am weak and doesn’t everyone like to have a sidekick as they travel through addiction? On Sunday mornings we drop the Turk off at the gym, claiming a trip to the library or grocery story, when in actuality we are sneaking away to our hideyhole. While the Turk pumps iron and sweats off any egregious trans-fats, the three-foot- version of myself and I stuff ourselves with gloriously fried and appropriately iced and sprinkled bits of heaven at Daylight Doughnuts. As I wipe a stray purple sprinkle from his lip, I swear him to secrecy with the threat of a life-long doughnut lock-out if he tells his father , and because he is both intelligent and very much like his mother, he emphatically agrees. His tiny young mind can fathom nothing worse than a life without doughnuts – and honestly, who can blame him? Today however, our ruse was nearly revealed and for a few harrowing moments, I feared that they would soon be digging our bloated bodies from the doughnut-store rubble as the local news team shot a close-up on one really mad-off Turk.
Since we’re on spring break, I felt it was fitting that we slide in an extra visit to our little corner of heaven. We told the Turk we were off to library story-time. The Turk would rather have a kidney ripped out by a junior member of the Russian mafia organ trafficking team than set foot in Miss Kathy’s Story-time, so we were safe. We’d safely polished off a cherry-cake and a vanilla with sprinkles and were about to unleash our sugar-highs on Miss Kathy when an ear-piercing siren perforated the unseasonably warm air. A tornado was coming to carry off our cake-filled bodies and the first thought that entered my mind was “Had I known it was my last, I totally would have had the fritter!”
This wasn’t my first tornado rodeo. Back in ’84 I’d ridden one out in the High School basement during intermission of my friend’s dance recital. Having spent my entire pre-collegiate education in a tornado zone, I’d been through hundreds of tornado drills –35 kids crouched on our knees on the floor of the boys’ bathroom, arms over our heads, all in skin-tight Granimals, the smell of cherry urinal cakes and farts permeating the air as we prepared for doom. Throughout my childhood, the minute the Watch Signals went out across the radio or television, my Grandma would hobble out to her drab green ’74 Chevy and gun it down to our farm. After the dust cleared from her high-speed race up our driveway, she would douse us all in Holy Water she kept stored in our fridge and make us sit around the kitchen table and say the Rosary until the tornado passed. But the 20 years since leaving the tornado zone have made me jumpy and age has mottled my tornado survival skills: now instead of Jesus and Grandma on my side, I had a doughnut stuffed Midget and not much more.
I was about to shove the Midget under our Hyundai for safety when it occurred to me that we seemed to be the only individuals in panic mode. Cars were still passing and no one had fled screaming from Daylight Doughnuts with arms flailing and glaze streaming from their waving fingertips. A friendly geriatric pulled in next to us and through her tri-focals, identified me as a foreigner by the terror on my face. “They’re just testin’ them hon. First Wednesday of every month,” she muttered as she shuffled inside- no doubt in pursuit of a prune –filled Danish. Just testing them? I was seconds away from a massive coronary for a test? And how was the average new citizen to this fair city to know that the town fathers would deem 10:13 am on the first Wednesday of every month the most logical time to test tornado sirens? Shouldn’t there be some kind of clause for days when weather conditions looked favorable for tornadoes? How about a brochure from the Welcome Wagon lady giving us newbies a heads up on these things? The adrenaline surge alone burned up the calories from my cherry cake doughnut so I thought about following my new geriatric friend back inside to replace our lost sustenance but the Midget shocked me back to reality - “Drive fast Mom, we gotta get the hell outta here before they go off again!”
I’m not ashamed to admit this is not the first time I’ve panicked at the sound of a tornado siren. A few nights ago I ran the entire family to the basement after hearing a siren that didn’t match the schedule I’d noted on the refrigerator. Thankfully, today was only a false alarm today because the Midget and I have not even made our way through one quarter of the tasty treats in that display case. There is a lot of doughnut love left to be had and we are more than happy to oblige. I read somewhere recently that doughnuts are the new cupcake - the trendy new baked good about to take foodies and hipsters by storm. For connoisseurs like the Midget and I, this is old news. My heart has been with the almighty holed wonder since long before Fred the Baker first uttered the phrase, “Time to make the doughnuts.” And much to his father’s chagrin, the Midget’s veins also course with sprinkles and jelly-filleds dance through his dreams each night. We won’t be swayed by the trendy, we just want our doughnuts – hot, fresh doughnuts and we will gladly brave a tornado to get them.