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.

Water

The clock in the hallway chimes out the hour.

At the kitchen sink, she turns on the faucet and watches the warm water flow over her hands and down the drain. Soap, a fragrant lavender blend from her favorite bath store, foams up as she squishes it through her fingers.

The scent catches her attention only for a moment, then she’s back to her task.

Twisting and turning her hands around each other, squeezing the fragrant soap between them, she feels the grime of the day leave her body through her hands. Such a dirty day, and it feels so good to wash it all away.

One thousand one, one thousand two…..

The warm water makes her think about the twins, who love to play in the bathtub even though they’re in kindergarten now.

She’ll need to go pick them up soon.

She soaps up again, not quite finished yet. The water feels a bit too hot now, so she turns it down ever so slightly. Smelling the soap again, she hopes it’s working.

One thousand one, one thousand two….

The clock chimes out the half hour.

She turns off the water. The towel is just out of reach by the stove and she stretches to grab it without leaving her spot in front of the sink.

Patting her hands so gently with the towel, she glances at the clock. The twins will be out of school in 15 minutes, she has just enough time.

She turns on the faucet and watches the warm water flow over her hands. She reaches for the lavender soap and squirts some into her palm, breathing in the aroma.

She hopes it works better this time.

One thousand one, one thousand two….
________________

This post is for the Red Dress Club’s weekly writing club, Red Writing Hood. This week’s prompt: Water gives life, water takes life away.

This post is fictional, but for a woman like this who suffers from OCD that compels her to wash her hands over and over again, water is indeed taking her life away.

The Very First Thing

The box is heavy, and of course on the very top shelf in the garage.

He’s such a pack rat, but I secretly think this shows his sentimental side.

I am searching for an old diary of mine, a book of thoughts and silly rants written by my 12 year-old self. I think it may help to bridge the distance between my 12 year-old daughter and her mother who seems to not understand a thing.

About being 12.

I bring the box down to the floor and blow the dust from the top. How long since it’s been down? I can’t remember.

The packing tape pulls off easily; the adhesive has lost it’s grip long ago. I peel it away and toss it aside, then gently pull open the top of the large box.

Right on top of the pile of memories and treasures it sits.

But not my diary.

It’s the baseball cap.

It has seen better days, the Kuhn & Co. baseball cap. The brim is no longer stiff and straight, having finally been washed one too many times. The bright blue lettering has faded and the white background has taken on a shade of dull.

The pizza parlor was crowded, infested with teenagers that Friday night. The basketball game was over and groups of friends spilled out of the doorway and wound around the tables. The jukebox was playing loudly but it was hard to make out the songs over the excitement of the young voices.

The boy sat quietly at the table, soft curls peeking out from under the Kuhn & Co. cap. I knew who he was, but we’d never spoken. His friends were loud and animated, and he stood out among them. A soft smile, an easy laugh.

The baseball cap.

I tossed my shy, reserved nature aside for a moment and went over to the table. I was drawn to him.

And in that I’m 16 and don’t know what to say way, I playfully grabbed his hat.

And put it on my head.

Thirty years ago this Sunday.

We’ve built an entire existence together, for better or for worse, based on the foundation of that old baseball cap.

And am I ever glad that he’s part pack rat.

This post is for The Red Dress Club weekly writing prompt: write a piece – 600 word limit – about finding a forgotten item of clothing in the back of a drawer or closet. Let us know how the item was found, what it is, and why it’s so meaningful to you or your character.

Knock Knock!

This post is for The Red Dress Club weekly writing prompt.

This week’s prompt was to write a short piece in which a character told a joke and a character cried. The piece has to be maximum 600 words and must be able to be read aloud in no more than 3 minutes. The idea is from an NPR contest called Three-Minute Fiction.

This post is fiction.

As I walk down the hallway, the sound of Blue’s Clues emanating from the television grates on my nerves. It’s her favorite show, even the episodes she’s seen several times over.

Why does it have to be so loud?

Entering the room, I cross over to the television set and turn it down ever so slightly, hoping she doesn’t notice. She’s too engrossed in the show to care and I can’t decide whether to be thankful for this or sad.

“Would you like some lunch?” I ask, a bit louder than usual. “I can make grilled cheese, your favorite?”

Nothing.

I walk over to the couch, trying to stay calm in my second attempt to get her attention. It shouldn’t be this hard; she shouldn’t be able to tune me out so completely.

Maybe she watches too much TV.

“Sue, did you hear me? Lunch? I’ll make you some grilled cheese?”

I really don’t feel up to this today. My patience is worn threadbare and I haven’t slept well in days. I feel so cooped up in this house with her, as snow flurries blow around outside the windows like crazed ghosts.

I wish Paul weren’t out of town this week. Doing this all alone is just so much harder.

“Knock-Knock! Knock-Knock!” she says suddenly, apparently still oblivious to my question about lunch. I am really not in the mood for this, but I swallow those feelings yet again.

“Who’s there?” I reply, as if I have no idea what’s coming. Oh, but I do.

“Orange!”

“Orange who?” I say, turning around to face her. Here it comes.

“Orange you glad I didn’t say Banana? Ha ha ha! Get it? Banana!”

Hearing her childish laughter spill so effortlessly from her tiny body, I can’t help but chuckle. She loves this joke, understands the silliness of it all, and tells it repeatedly.

Her laughter drifts away and her focus returns to her show, still oblivious to the lunch question I posed five minutes earlier.

I wipe away the tears spilling down my cheeks with my sleeve and decide to make lunch anyway.

Because my mother-in-law is losing her battle with reality.

One knock-knock joke at a time.