From the moment I awake, my ears are searching for the sound of the horn in the distance. I can hear the birds, twittering, pinging, chirping and singing, welcoming the day as always. The consistent crashing of the waves on the beach. No sound from the towering gums in the forest alongside, the day must be still and calm. As I lie in bed wondering if the clock has yet passed 7am, I hear something in the distance, far across the forest and along the beach. At first it is so distant, so far away still, that I wonder if I’m imagining it. I freeze, crane my head to one side, even squinting my eyes in the effort to hear it again. Breathing slowly…waiting…willing that sound to come again. Beep Beep Hooonk. That’s it! No doubting it, the van is coming, filled with all kinds of things from necessities to fancies, for young and old. I leap out of bed and grab the key for the toilets. I figure I have about ten minutes until it will be at ours.
Our caravan is deep within the National Park, hidden from civilisation among kangaroos and kookaburras, forest and ocean. The nearest shop is an hours drive away along a sometimes-graded dirt road…not a drive my parents made unless absolutely necessary. So the arrival of the shop-van was something we anticipated when we had run out of basics like milk or bread, or when we had been away long enough that a newspaper was needed. And of course, alongside the essentials there was the ever-changing array of treats and sweets. Sometimes chocolate milk, other times fresh juice. Always brewed coffee and tea, fresh pastries if we were lucky and they’d not been snapped up by those before us en-route. The driver had a joke or a story for the adults, another for the kids, building our anticipation for the following day before leaving on this one. I loved it. And today, unlike most days, I had been given extra money to spend on whatever I chose.
By the time the horn blares again as they enter our park, I am almost salivating. Today we have been promised donuts. Fresh cinnamon donuts, still warm if we are lucky. As soon as the van turns into our road, I race out, waving my hand and beaming from ear to ear, my face almost bursting. He stops out front, pulls up the flap that covers the rear and peels back the canvas to expose the contents of that day. My eyes dart over the trays, from the bread rolls to the magazines, the packets of biscuits and nuts, the crates of chilled meats and dairy. Hanging from above there were packets of chips and nets filled with fruit. As he pulled out the specials of the day I couldn’t even hear what he was saying, the anticipation was overwhelming. It took a few seconds for me to realise I wasn’t finding any donuts, and at that same moment spot the empty basket right at the front. An empty basket with fallen sugar in the bottom. An empty basket where donuts had once sat. The smile fades from my face as I point at the basket and looked crestfallen to the driver. We had talked about the donuts for days previously. He had guaranteed – promised – that today would be the day. And the basket is empty. Mum sidles up alongside me and grabs for milk, fruit, maybe some yoghurt if there was any strawberry today. She’s oblivious to my disappointment, making small talk, browsing the tray and her searching her purse. When I look up, they are both looking at me. “Aren’t you getting a treat, dear?”, Mum asks, glancing past me back to our caravan, oblivious to my disappointment.
I look up, not too sure how to proceed with this scenario. And as I do, I see a smile crawl over his face and realise he is holding something in a paper bag that he’s grabbed from the front. All over again my face lights up, my eyes pop open and I reach out hopefully. “You didn’t think I’d forgotten your special order, did you?”, he asks as he opens the bag to reveal two perfectly round and sugary-sweet donuts. The smell wafts up to my nose and I’m salivating all over again. The relief, the excitement, the gratitude all rolled into one giant whoop as I handed over my money, blushing as I gush out my thanks. “See you tomorrow, then”, he says as he climbs back into the van and lays on the horn again. Moving on, with that empty donut bowl now moved to the back.
Moving on to the next family, the next park, the next beach. Leaving me floating in a donut-fuelled happiness glow, knowing tomorrow he will come and again and I ask for a full report. And I’ll be able to give one.