|Meal time at grandma's orphanage in Covina, Calif.|
That was cool.
I don’t remember spending any Thanksgivings with my grandmother as a child. Likely because she lived in Los Angeles most of the years my parents were raising my sister and me near Santa Cruz, but also I’m not sure that holiday was very important to her. She didn’t like to bake or cook at all, and never seemed comfortable at social gatherings, especially those with family.
My last year of college, I drove up from campus to stay with her in Santa Cruz (where she had moved to when I was a teenager) during my holiday break, so we were both invited to the donut shop that Thanksgiving.
|Grandma with my cat the year we ate at the donut shop.|
She didn’t cook anything to bring; most of what she made in the kitchen was canned soup, toast and tea. But she did buy a pumpkin pie at Trader Joe’s, put on hose and her best hat, and seemed very happy to introduce me to her family at the donut shop. I think she was quite proud that I was finally completing a university degree as my mother had, especially since for years it seemed I would never move on from community college.
She never married or even had long-term romantic relationship, but she did have a daughter whom she raised as a single working mother in the 1940s and 50s. As adults they always had a tense relationship, but my grandmother deeply loved her only child, and was quietly devastated when she was killed in a car crash at the age of 41.
Which is why I think she sought out places like the donut shop, where you could sit and soak in other humans as much, or as little, as you wanted. And then leave whenever you wanted.
At the orphanage in Southern California where she was raised, the dozens of children ate all their meals together in a large dining room. I imagine for my grandmother, eating and drinking in a communal setting like the donut shop must have felt like home, giving her the kind of intimacy she was most comfortable with.
Learning my grandmother had such a support system that day made me so relieved. And to wish that we can all find a donut shop of our own.