In My Ohio

On Donut Day and the Process of this Column

Darren C. Demaree
I am recently returned from a stint as a visiting writer at University of Wisconsin-Superior, and through the five classes I visited, the reading I gave and the Q&A that followed, there were only two questions any of the students have. How do you write what you write? Why do you write what you write? They will ask each of those questions a dozen different ways, but they all boil down to the bigger question of process. There are ethos questions, definition questions, style questions, and personal history questions, but even those can be categorized under the how and why of your writing. The faculty will ask different questions as a form of reviving your mind a bit (testing your knowledge of recent and ancient), but they are just as interested in the questions the students have to ask. What’s fun about it is you can learn so much about a student by the way the pose the question. They expose their ego or self-doubt, they look for inspiration or confirmation, and they will accept either.

So, with all of those questions fully addressed towards my poetry life, I felt the need to explore the process of this column. It’s a repeatable process and one I take great joy in participating in every Friday morning. Whether it’s season-oriented, humanist, sports-related, or an attempt at maintaining a clever tone for six hundred words, this is the how and why of my “In My Ohio” weekly flex.

Step One: Donut Day

Every Friday my daughter has preschool and stays for “lunch bunch”, which means I get an extra hour to get work done. It also means that there is enough time to get my son to take a nap while she is at school. Before those attempts are made, my son and I participate in a weekly ritual we call “Donut Friday”.

We drive straight to Krogers from the preschool (today he began to chant for the donut) and we each pick out whatever donuts we want that day. He’s not quite two so inevitably he selects a donut that is the size of his head and covered in chocolate and sprinkles. I select a couple of them, one of them always a jelly-filled, and we check out with a steady hum already working through our blood. He asks for his doughnut in the car, which I understand because I want my doughnut in the car as well, but we maintain our discipline out of fear of retribution from my wife. We hold strong just long enough to get home. He hops up in his booster seat, tosses his selected plate at me, and waits impatiently for me to complete the ritual.

I make sure to push up his sleeves in a move of weak parenting. He is going to have chocolate all over his pajamas by then end of this, but my gesture of control makes me feel better about it. I make some coffee and watch his smiles and clapping turn into a scene from Jurassic Park. He becomes ecstatic in the mess and the sugar. We don’t get donuts on any other day, and this kind of experience is good for him I think. It’s partly a chemical one (the sugar), but it’s also something that just he and I do together. I remember all of the things that were just mine with my father. I join in with one of my donuts, and before I even get a second bite he is done. He only eats a small part of it really, but he eats enough to find the sublime center of his childlike enthusiasm. He plays for about an hour, and then wants his milk and a nap.

Step Two: Writing

Before I ever turn on the computer I make myself a second cup of coffee and grab my second donut. I head to my desk, read some poetry from my pile of books I need to finish, and eventually (normally before the second donut is gone) I have an idea about what I want to write about. Some days (today) I simply write about why and how I am writing. Well done, Darren. This column normally takes me an hour and a half to write, so I put on my writing mix on Spotify and that time always passes quickly. Even if I’m writing about the seriousness of the adoration of strangers, this column is still something enjoyable to write. Besides, between the caffeine and the sugar, I’m as happy as my son was when he first plunges his fingertips through the sprinkles and chocolate. This column is never written with heavy fingertips.

Step Three: Resume Daily Activities

Thomas will sleep until it’s time to get Belle from preschool. Once we get to noon everything appears to function as a normal day would. However, my son and I know different. Today was “Donut Friday” and that makes today special. We’ll go to the library or the park if the whether holds, and the fun continues there. For me and this column, the fun is already done for the week, but I know that next Friday there will be more hilarious antics, more sprinkles, a lot of cleaning up, and one more check on everything I love and want for Ohio.

The process of this essay is a light one. It’s a personal one. A father/son one. It’s Donut Day with a little bit of focus at the end of it. That to me, feels like an experience I can keep sharing with everyone.