When I first thought about moving away from the Bay Area, I fantasized about food. What were the local delicacies? What were the favorites on Yelp? Where could I get an egg white omelette and diet soda at 6:55 a.m.? It was a way for me to feel connected to the area while waiting anxiously for the seismic shift ahead.
While I explore food by looking online at pictures and menus, I don’t actually taste them. Like a porn addict who never cheats on his spouse, I look, but I don’t touch. To celebrate one month in Virginia, however, I decided to treat my son to a sunrise breakfast at Duck Donuts, a local donut shop known for customization. The made-to-order donuts slip out of the fryer and are lacquered in any combination of icing, sprinkles and drizzles.
The line formed as soon as the shop opened as people placed complicated orders for boxes to take to work. The ordering process isn’t streamlined, but it gave Jack ample time to contemplate the options. He stared. For a kid who struggles with focus, I thought I was being helpful in calling out possible combinations I myself would have liked to try: Pumpkin icing, marshmallow drizzle and crushed graham crackers seemed fitting of the season. He shot me down. Again and again as I offered classic combinations, he dismissed my conservative suggestions.
Finally, “Mom, I want lemon icing, oreo crumbs and fudge.” I questioned him, “I am not sure you’re going to like that. Lemon and chocolate? Are you sure?”
We ordered then watched his special treat from dough to drizzle. Jack devoured it with glee. “This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my life. You’re the best Mom in the world.” I loved the praise, but I wasn’t convinced he wasn’t just swept up in the moment. Much like his Mom, Jack is prone to exaggeration.
As I watched him, though, I realized how much fear dictated my own choices and how kids can more easily take risks. Jack was driven by exploration, ‘What would lemon and oreos taste like?’ We tend to grow out of that. He know how rare a donut on a Wednesday might be and we make safe bets: vanilla icing or a dusting of powdered sugar..
Watching him, I saw once again how courage is a muscle. You flex it, it grows. You keep it bound, it atrophies and pretty soon you’re watching Wheel of Fortune every night eating Hostess.
Maybe I didn’t have to leave my hometown, all my family, friends and favorite hiking trails. Maybe I could have stayed and eaten more donuts. My tendency to live exaggeratedly got me to move across the country to remind myself I could take risks, live spontaneously, flex my courage muscle. You might not have to do that. You might choose to order a crazy donut concoction instead to remind yourself how brave we can all be.