Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “dough/d’oh.” Use one, use both, use ’em any way you like. Enjoy!
A visit to my grandmother was always a mixed bag of emotions, but the younger I was the better it was. It takes a little over two hours to drive due south from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Ligonier, Indiana. Today with a concept of time, that doesn’t seem like too much of a trip, but for a little girl it was like a whole day of excitement. Except when my sisters acted like jerks, which they often did. Neither of them cared much for car trips. I loved them, like a Golden Retriever loves car trips. If I would have been allowed to hang my head out of the window, biting the air, I probably would have.
The drive included two-laned, state roads. Dad behind the wheel, mom up front muttering about “driving like a bat out of hell.” Dad would always remark how you could tell that we crossed the state line because Indiana roads were crap, unlike the superior pavements of Michigan. It had something to do with Detroit and cars and that Indiana was weird. I knew that once we hit the crap Indiana roads we’d be in for some fun.
Somewhere along the way, there’s a stretch of road over small, wavy hills. Up down up down. Hit them at the right speed in a 1960s station wagon filled with little girls in the back seat and said little girls would go flying in the air, hit their heads on the roof, thud back down in the seat… repeatedly. Giggling, squealing “wheeee!” and it was the best fun ever. “More!” Dad would oblige. I think he enjoyed it more than we did. Mom would grumble, forbid him from doing it, and get mad when he ignored her. That was her job. She did it well. We called that stretch of road the Wheee Roads.
The other great thing about visiting my grandmother, whom I never called grandmother but Baba instead, because my “stupid” older sister couldn’t speak right (or so the story goes), was because we’d usually only go there for a holiday. Christmas (and so presents and food), Thanksgiving (food), Easter (candy!!! and food). Plus we’d get to stay in the upper room, that smelled funny, but had a huge, scary walk-in closet filled with ancient toys and boxes of things we shouldn’t get into, but did, and got yelled at… repeatedly.
My dad did not like my grandmother, and the feeling was mutual. Both of them would let us know that children should be seen and not heard, and preferably none of the former, either.
Baba lived in town, which was a strange concept for me, because we lived out in the country, where everyone had plots of land measured in acres and there were woods and fields between most houses. Ligonier at that time had about two thousand residents, so it was hardly metropolitan, but it might as well have been. Still, it was manageable for little legs. Baba’s house had the Elkhart River in the back, and we were warned… repeatedly, not to go near it or else we’d die in various ways. One being monsters. It worked, mostly. Not entirely. For the most part the playing and adventuring was left to her two-storied house, where, in the summer, the walls buzzed with internal bees (I’ve always thought it only remained standing due to the structural integrity of honeycomb), or Baba’s yard, and every so often an adventure up the street to the main drag, Cavin Street.
If seeing houses relatively close together was novel, having stores within walking distance was amazing and exciting and just a bit dangerous. Perfect! I’m not sure why we’d be visiting Baba in the summer (no major food holiday), but I have plenty of memories of that.
I’m sure this was done in the annoying way children do, repeating, pestering, whining, and not giving up (although I have no recall of that), I would beg and plead to be allowed to go to the doughnut store. There would be the pushback that I was too young to go alone, no one else wanted to go, NO!, why did I want to go anyway since I just ate… any number of good, adult, fun thwarting rejoinders. About half the time they relented. Someone would give up, or someone thought doughnuts sounded good, or someone thought it was time for me to been unseen and unheard. I had to promise not to get lost, not to lose the money, not to eat all the doughnuts, and don’t pick up dead bats.
I wasn’t allowed to cross a street because I’d die. This worked out for the doughnut shop. That was three blocks up and one over, all on the same side of the street. I was probably in junior high before I was allowed to go the the five and dime, which involved crossing two streets, including the superhighway that was Cavin Street. I mean, there was even a light there, Cavin Street was serious stuff.
Had I known what a pith helmet was, I probably would have wanted to wear one for my trek to the bustling metropolitan jungle. The first two or so blocks up 3rd Street were on cracked and uneven old sidewalk, which matched the cracked and rundown houses. I would be trying (and no doubt failing) to pay attention, lest I DIE from tripping over cracks and heaves in the sidewalk, because as everyone knew (and would tell me… repeatedly) I was a klutz. There could be a chance someone else would be walking on the sidewalk, and since I wasn’t brought up in a barn, I was to be polite. “Hello!” but for god’s sake don’t talk to them.
The final block before turning right along Cavin! Street had a better, wider sidewalk, that butted right up against some large brick building. For some reason there would sometimes be a dead bat next to the building. The first time I saw one, I had no idea what it was. I gingerly picked it up and put it in my pocket. I bought a doughnut and came back home to find out about the creature. True to form, my dad laughed and explained, my mom freaked out and yelled, and Baba yelled to get the filthy thing out of the house. I was going to die of rabies.
I wonder why there were so many dead bats there, then again, I’m not sure of what a normal amount of dead bats is, so maybe it was just right, nothing to see here, move along.
Once I turned the corner, I could start smelling doughnuts. I was always afraid I’d miss the storefront somehow. I never did. “Hello!” and keep walking.
Money was foreign to me. I have no idea how much the doughnuts were, how much I wheedled out of an adult.
Truth be told, the doughnut store was a full bakery. They sold bread and rolls and lots of other things. I think I was sent up one day before Thanksgiving to buy some rolls. Doesn’t matter, it was the doughnut store. And as far as anyone in my family cared, it was only one kind of doughnut, a cream center doughnut. These were regular, Royal icing type glazed doughnuts, with the hole not entirely punched out, a divet in the center. Nestled in that divet was the best cream something-or-other frosting filling. I still don’t know what it was. A stiff vanilla buttercream might be it. Whatever it was, it was so worth the risk of being mowed down in traffic or getting rabies. I’ve never had another doughnut that matched the wonders of this confection.
The nice, semi-scary (to me) adults always seemed to know who I was. Such was small town Indiana. “Oh, so you’re visiting Mildred?!” I’d nod, figuring out Mildred was Baba, and to be polite because I wasn’t raised in a barn. (Living in a barn would have had its advantages… grrrr.) I wasn’t a misanthrope then, and it didn’t take much for me to start chattering. But, I couldn’t linger. I had a mission, and if I dawdled the adults would have figured out I tripped and fell and died, or worse, gotten lost, crossed a street and died, or worst of all, eaten all of the doughnuts. Someone would have to come looking for me, which would have been worse than death (although eating all of the doughnuts might have been worth it).
The retraced trip back to Baba’s was slower, without the anticipation of the trip out. If there was a dead bat, I’d make sure to look at it again, from a safe distance so the rabies didn’t get me.
Our family moved from Grand Rapids to Holland, and then to Virginia and then Missouri. Once we left Michigan, I don’t recall any more trips to Baba’s. She would visit us. I did go back to Ligonier when I was going to Purdue. The doughnuts featured highly in those visits. The last time I had one of those cream centered bits of heaven was after Baba died, and I was living in Ohio, and had decided to drive around and revisit my roots. It would have been around 2010. Ligonier had changed a lot, for the worse in my opinion, but to their credit, instead of small town death the population has doubled. The doughnut store was still there. This rarely happens when an adult revisits their youth, but that damned doughnut was every bit as marvelous as I remembered. I bought every one of them in the shop.
The doughnut store was actually Creps’ Quality Bakery. Apparently there were two factions of doughnut officiandos: the cream-centers or nut-tops. I hear they also had terrific bear claws. I had no idea. It was the cream-center doughnut store.
Earl Creps bought the Coulter Bakery in 1925, at 317 S. Cavin Street. He renamed it to the Quality Bakery. It stayed in that location, run by three generations of Creps until 2011, when Jim Creps retired and closed the doors. Part of the reason was to spend time with his family, but the slow economy also was a factor. The bakery was sold to a new owner, but the Facebook page stops at 2015, so I’m not sure what the story is there.
And now I’m craving doughnuts.