What Mothers Remember

Her mother died late in the summer before her second-grade year. The cancer had spread quickly; four months was about all she had to say goodbye.

Goodbye to her small daughter and devastated husband.

And in that time of finishing photo albums and tying up loose ends as only a mom can, she forgot to remind her husband of the little things that matter to a girl.

The right hair bow to accent her ponytail. The same charm bracelet that the other girls were wearing.

Donuts on her birthday.

To the casual observer, one who doesn’t spend a lot of time at an elementary school, it may appear to be just a donut. An occasional treat, possibly covered in frosting or sprinkles.

Maybe a cruller to dip in a steaming hot cup of coffee on a wet spring morning.

But to a young child celebrating a birthday?

That cumbersome white box with the window on top is a trophy.

A banner that shouts to the others on the playground, “It’s my birthday! My parents let me bring donuts for the entire class! I’m a hero!”.

They love me.

So the excitement surrounding the acquisition and handing out of the donuts often begins the week before the actual birthday.

By the time the actual day arrives and the birthday child appears at the classroom door with two dozen donuts and a stack of napkins, it’s official.

She’s a rock star.

Several months had passed since her mother died, when her birthday came in January.

A birthday to be celebrated without her mother; with her father still picking up the pieces and trying to move forward when all he really wanted was to have her back.

When her father dropped her off at my house that morning it was still dark outside. The cold January mornings felt too much like night but teased us with the possibility of daybreak at any moment.

We said our quick goodbyes, all three anxious to leave the cold behind. She looked small and tired; she didn’t make eye contact with me when I wished her a Happy Birthday.

I led her to the playroom where she could distract herself while my daughter got ready for school.

And I stood in the kitchen and wept for the missing donuts.

That little girl needed her rock star day. She needed to be able to feel that someone cared enough to remember a little thing that was actually quite big.

I wasn’t about to let her go without them.

This post is for The Red Dress Club weekly writing prompt. This week’s assignment was to write a piece, fiction or non-fiction, inspired by this picture of a donut.


  1. And…I'm choked up. The ending just killed me.

    I have to say, though, that the beginning was confusing. I actually don't think you need that beginning about the importance of the donuts to BE the beginning. If you started with "Her mother died…" and then, after "donuts on her birthday" you could bring in some of why that's important, that it means you're a rock star, and then continue on.

    Does that make sense?

  2. Dang you for making me cry.


  3. Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points says:

    This taps into that very primal fears all mothers have of knowing the holes that would exist if they vanished from their children's lives.

    The big things? Someone will see to the big things.

    it is the infinite little things that would go wanting.

    And all moms will read this and cry.

  4. BalancingMama (Julie) says:

    What a great use of the prompt. So sweet.

  5. Honest Convo Gal says:


    This is a lovely post. It does what good writing is supposed to do. It made me care about this little girl. I don't want her to ever go without donuts.

    From the writing feedback perspective, I agree with Cheryl. Some of the beginning is unnecessary. It is a "writer's wind-up". I do it all the time. You start writing to get to the good part. When there is time, it is a good practice to re-write your first couple of paragraphs once you can look back and see what the heart of the piece really is…of course, when is there ever time? I was telling someone today that I'm rarely ever truly "showing" and not "telling" until my 4th revision. Um, that means I have to have time to get to that revision…

    But we all remember elementary school birthday parties and the heroic status of the birthday boy/girl. So, you don't need that.

    That is all brush strokes on the Mona Lisa, however, because this is a lovely piece of work. Your descriptions especially are able to paint a lovely image without being laden down with too many words.

  6. Leighann says:

    so emotional.
    I'm all weepy.
    Great job on this prompt

  7. Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds says:

    Heart wrenching as usual, Sherri. I hope you got TWO for each kid.

  8. I'm crying like a baby.

    I could use a sweet treat right about now….

  9. Oh I am all choked up Sherri. Just as Lori said, this is all of our biggest fear, those little things that would never happen if we were gone. My husbands mom died when he was very young and he missed all of those little things. Ugh, this piece tugged at my heart. So achingly beautiful.

  10. I've definitely connected with the characters. 🙂 Now I must know, is this fiction or non-fiction?

  11. I'm so glad she got her donuts! I was so afraid she was going to school empty handed on her birthday.

    Toward the end you said "And I stood in the kitchen and wept for the missing donuts.". How did you know about the donuts? A family tradition?
    It just caught me off guard.

  12. mamatrack.com says:

    This broke my heart. I wanted to go out and buy her doughnuts myself.

    I think I read it post-edit, right? I like the intro a lot. I was drawn in immediately.

  13. Kids bringing treats to class really are heros among men.

  14. Lula Lola says:

    As a motherless child whose dad never remembered the donuts, this hit me hard! I'm hoping really hard that this was fiction!
    I pray I'll be here long enough to see my boys grow up!

  15. Barbara L says:

    You made me cry

  16. Very sweet, very touching. I'm sad, of course, like everyone, but so grateful and hopeful for the people who are willing to take over and buy the donuts.

  17. Heartbreaking! My biggest fear!

    But so glad she would have her rock star moment!!

  18. I'll be back when I can pull my thoughts together.
    This story guts me…I wish I thought it was fiction.
    Beautifully written…as always.

  19. I'm sitting here in tears.. Lori hit the nail on the head. This is every Mother's worse fear. I know someone will provide food, clothing, shelter for my babies. But who will love them like I do? The everyday little moments are what this mom-gig is made of.

  20. Veronica says:

    This is incredibly sad and one of my worst nightmares. That poor girl, and I pray that if that ever happened to my children, that my friends would be there to take my place in those moments.

    Your writing is beautiful.

  21. Mandyland says:

    This made me tear up. I've read books, seen movies, heard stories of all the things a dying mother does to tie up loose ends. Forgetting something this big and yet this small, would be one of my fears.

    Fantastic job. Now…I need to go blow my nose and dry my eyes.

  22. Cheryl D. says:

    Thanks, now I have tears running down onto my keyboard!

    Really beautiful post!

  23. You would forget so much as a mother if you only had a few months to prepare the ending. I really liked this piece and felt so sad for her.

  24. Coffee and tears this morning. Just so beautifully written, but I think you owe all of us moms some donuts. Love.

  25. I don't want to be sappy, so I'm going to focus on the donuts to school thing. Sounds like Krispy Kremes are your standard; we always brought a box of DD donut holes for bdays. 🙂

  26. Becky McWhorter says:

    Sherri, great story, it really brought a tear to my eye {actually several}. I must ask, have you actually experience this? You content was so real and to the point. I have experienced it only I am the widow, my son was 5 and his birthday was 4 months later. Me being the Mom, I knew what to do! I often wonder if that is why God left me here? Great job, thank you.

  27. Dang, you sure do know how to tug at the heart strings. Beautiful.

  28. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom) says:

    Another beautiful story Sherri. I'm so glad you remembered her pink donuts. Beautifully told.

  29. And now I'm crying! Your words provoke emotion – that's such an amazing thing!

  30. The Flying Chalupa says:

    Wow – who knew that a picture of a donut could bring about a story like that? Beautiful, Sherri, and so heartbreaking. I'm hoping this is fiction, but I have a feeling maybe not.

    Cancer's a fucker.

  31. Mommy Needs a Vacation says:

    Beautifully written. I really hope this is fiction….

  32. Sluiter Nation says:

    oh everything about this post makes it impossible for me to critique from an objective place.

    Cancer is an asshole.

    Daughters without mothers to remember donuts should never happen.

    Husbands trying so hard and falling short of what their baby girl needs by no fault of his own shouldn't exist.

    You crying for the donuts makes me weep with you. I wish I could give that little girl all the donuts in the world.

  33. Lovely! It tugged at my heart strings and I had to remind myself it was fiction 🙂

  34. Ohhhhh, I really loved this one, Sherri! So touching & sweet. It was perfect.

  35. CDG @ Move Over Mary Poppins! says:

    Cheryl has a laser focus for the real beginning of a piece. I see she's found yours.

    This was an amazing read, and anything I could add here has already been said.

    So gorgeous and sad and sweet.

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