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.