Early in the pandemic, my kids and I went for a Wednesday morning drive to pick up some donuts. This activity, itself, was nothing new: we had stopped for donuts plenty of times before. But in the context of the pandemic, it felt entirely different.
Pre-pandemic, we sprinkled our days with outings to the library, trips to the store, or play dates with friends. At first, there was novelty in having it all stripped away: we made race tracks for toy cars out of cardboard boxes, watched the Monterey Bay Aquarium penguin cam, and blew bubbles outside, living in the “make the most of this time” zeitgeist of March and April.
But as the novelty wore off and the reality set in that we’d be living the #saferathome life for a while, I grew restless. I was desperate to get out of the house, to go SOMEWHERE, even just for a drive, and maybe swing by a drive-thru for coffee or a little treat. So, we headed for the Dunkin’ in the next town over, 16 minutes away—not terribly long in the car, but enough round-trip time for me to have some time to listen to a podcast, think, and have a little break.
“Donut Wednesday,” I thought. And just like that, a tradition was made. We went back the following Wednesday, and the one after that. And though some Wednesdays look different than others, we always have donuts. We’ve picked them up as a mid-morning snack, and as a sunrise breakfast. We’ve eaten them on their own and paired them with scrambled eggs and sausage. We’ve even taken a break from the drive and tried making them ourselves (though we definitely have a lot of practicing to do!).
It could seem like getting donuts every single week would take some of the specialness out of it. But for us, the contrary is true: over time, this simple ritual has gotten even more special. What was once a break from our routine has become a treasured part of our routine, an important touchpoint in our week.
On the surface, Donut Wednesday is nothing more than an excuse for a sweet treat, a way to fill time, and a little space for me to think or listen to podcasts (many of the Verily Table podcasts have been curated during that drive).
Designating a day for a special treat isn’t all that unique, either. One of my friends has done “Donut Friday” with her kids for the past six years, and a woman I follow on Instagram does “Croissant Wednesday” with her little girl (they live in Paris).
But over time, I have learned to see Donut Wednesday as so much more than a quick outing. For one thing, it has helped me dwell more fully in the present. Rather than wishing away time until the next big special thing—and not even knowing when we’ll be able to do the old special things again—Donut Wednesday gives me something to look forward to every single week. It has also helped us punctuate our days, adding much-needed structure in a year when the days have blurred together.
Even my two-year-old son knows what Wednesday holds. “Tomorrow is Wednesday,” I’ll say as I give him his goodnight kiss on a Tuesday night. “Donuts!” he’ll exclaim, his blue eyes lighting up with excitement.
But more importantly, this one small tradition says something about the culture of our family and the spirit of the home my husband and I are trying to create.
Donut Wednesday says, “This is a home where we celebrate everyday life, even on ordinary Wednesdays.”
A friend of mine recently shares that she doesn’t particularly care for the “enjoy every moment” sentiment, and I have to say, I agree: some moments are simply not enjoyable in the slightest, and expecting ourselves to enjoy them all can be downright disheartening. But, as my friend also pointed out, there are little everyday things we can find joy in. The way I see it, it’s not really important that we enjoy every single moment of every single day, but rather, that we recognize that every day has joy in it, even if just a glimmer. And bringing small, simple traditions into our routines is one way to infuse life with extra touches of joy.
Donut Wednesday also speaks to the fact that we want to be intentional about making good memories with our kids. I can only hope that, someday, when our kids are older, they’ll look back and say, “Remember Donut Wednesdays? Those were so much fun!”
This little tradition also helps us slow down—I can’t help but think of Wednesday mornings as a “midweek weekend.” And though some days, I’ll eat before the kids are up, and they’ll eat breakfast with each other, I make it a point to sit down with them on Wednesday, like we’re having our own little breakfast party.
Often, when I think of traditions, I think of things like making a gingerbread house at Christmas, or staying up until midnight to greet the new year. But traditions don’t have to be tied to holidays, birthdays, or other events or seasons. Even parts of our weekly routine can become traditions that hold a dear spot in our heart.
If it weren’t for the pandemic, I don’t think Donut Wednesday would have started. And someday, when I think back on this time—the loneliness, the uncertainty, the fear, the loss—our tradition will be a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is joy to be found. Sometimes, we just have to work a little harder to find it.