Jelly Doughnut

I didn’t go to church last weekend, but I think I took Communion. It happened in a motel lobby on a Monday morning with my hair still slightly wet and stringy from the shower and not even a stranger in sight to partake with me. Nevertheless, in spite of it being the wrong place and the wrong time, in spite of looking less presentable than I would usually enter McDonalds, I felt invited.

My 86-year old mother, my husband and I went to Indiana to my aunt’s 90th birthday celebration. We had a great weekend, seeing lots of relatives we hadn’t seen for a long time, enjoying the rural scenery that has the most emotional connection for us. We were getting ready to return to Michigan. I overslept and so I was left to eat the complimentary breakfast alone . . . really alone since the crowd of noisy adolescents inhabiting the motel over the weekend had already departed. I ate a piece of toast, drank some juice, made some hot chocolate . . . and then I noticed it. A doughnut with lots of icing and just a dab of red jelly oozing from one side.

When I was little my Dad, who died about 10 years ago, would occasionally bring home jelly doughnuts. I looked at that doughnut and remembered. I remembered the Sap’s Bakery box, the look on my Dad’s face as he anticipated my pleasure, our conversation at the breakfast table as we agreed how good they tasted. I remembered how it felt to be with someone who cared more about me than anyone or anything on earth. Someone who would, if he had only one Sap’s jelly doughnut, give it to me, no doubt whatsoever. Someone who enjoyed my savoring the doughnut more than he enjoyed his own. There aren’t very many people who love you that completely and unconditionally, so I remember. On this particular trip I was busy taking care of my Mom and, when his Parkinson’s medicine was off, my husband. Neither of them is very high maintenance, and they both do as much or more for me as I do for them. Still, I think the feeling of being a child with someone bigger and stronger who was looking out for my needs and desires was there also.

I don’t eat doughnuts much anymore. I’m too fat and they aren’t healthy. The last time I tried a jelly doughnut the filling was thick with cornstarch and didn’t taste good at all. I threw it away. As I looked at the one jelly doughnut in the motel pastry case all this advice was filling my head. “Don’t eat that.” “You’ve had enough.” “Too many calories.” “It won’t taste good anyway.” But like I said, I felt invited. So I reached out and took the doughnut.

I took a bite. The icing was thick and creamy. The pastry was soft and yeasty. The jelly was just the right combination of tart and sweet and it oozed down my chin just the way it was supposed to. All of a sudden I knew what it must have been like for the disciples when they suddenly recognized Jesus as he called them to “Come and have breakfast” on the beach after his death. Sometime after that, maybe they started thinking about whether the communion bread and wine turned into real body and blood. Sometime after that, maybe they wondered whether that really had been Jesus in the flesh sitting there with them. I like to think that it was more than enough of a miracle that they had shared a meal with someone who loved them completely and unconditionally. They had shared a meal with someone whose love gave them the kind of support and grace to love others who needed them.

Jane Cronkite lives in Holland, Michigan where she teaches music and beginning piano to children ages 3 through 8.