Pinned Hopes

Photo prompt © J Hardy Carroll


She planned every detail.

The dress. The cake. The decorations.

What games to play. Who to invite. The invitations.

She fretted over treats and props. The seating arrangement.

The day dawned bright. The weather fair.

The flowers gifted blooms. Butterflies came to visit.

The cake turned out close to perfect.

The dress fit well. Even her hair cooperated.

She breathed it in.

She smiled.

She waited.

The only thing she did not foresee

Was no one showing up,

And only her mama there

To wrap a scarf around her eyes

To hide the tears

As she pinned the donkey.




Note: Dedicated to all the children whose parties turn to pain. To those who are all too often left invisible due to social awkwardness, adversity, disabilities visible and invisible, social isolation, bullying, and the myriad ways indifference (let alone direct cruelty) can a child’s soul maim.


For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers



75 thoughts on “Pinned Hopes

    • I am glad you find it accurate, and yes … it is sad. …
      Can you say more about what you mean by “childhood is overrated by our society”?
      I am not sure I understand, but I would like to.

      As for being glad to be old — there are some distinct benefits to having left some challenges behind … 😉

      Thank you for reading and commenting and I hope it’s okay to ask if you’d respond,

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was an odd child. Too interested in books, and looking in my microscope, which were both more friendly than most kids. Many (not all) of the kids who would talk to me were “fellow outcastes.” This improved in high school. I have always been glad to have left my sad, clueless, lonely young child self behind. Even if I am still lonely, I am not as clueless about the human condition, and can sometimes entertain the notion that there are a few others who might be uplifted through my insights. It’s really too painful to contemplate the childhood that many experience. As you note in your beautiful poem, even if your parents are enlightened and care. Even if schools are trying to minimize / eliminate bullying. Kids are often meaner to each other than adults. I guess that’s the silver lining to the fact that most people claim to love truth, but in fact value politeness more. That greases the wheels of society. Too bad for truth.

        Liked by 5 people

      • Thank you for your response, and honesty, and vulnerability. I think that indeed too many value politeness over truth (though one can be kind and polite and truthful, too, in my view), and that kids can be very cruel (though I’m not sure they are necessarily crueler than adults … I would say probably the opposite is often true. Not to say that kids can’t be VERY cruel, some can, for all kinds of reasons).
        I hope the poem didn’t resonate too painfully with you — that would not be the intention, though truth is … and the reality is that for all too many children, social isolation is a reality. Some due to cruelty of others. Some due to different variations on being unseen or passed over.
        As one bookworm to another — I am glad books (and a microscope) helped, and I am glad you are writing here.
        Personally, my current adulthood is a lot easier than my childhood and early adult life, if only for some things I could not control then and can now. Wisdom helps, too. As for faith in the human condition – perhaps I’m fortunate to have an unfailing condition of that … I do believe more people are good than not, and that many will do the right thing if they are given/see a choice to do so.
        Here’s to truth AND kindness,
        Thank you again!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. You reinforced some of my points.
        And yes, most people are good. Society could not survive otherwise. Interesting point I came across while researching the causes of war in preparation to give a sermon on the 100th Anniversary of WWI. People like to elect mean jerks to protect ourselves. (Not the researchers’ words.) That way the rest of us don’t have to be mean. Let the other guy burn in H**L. But we are all responsible for each other.
        Very interesting paper. I might be able to find the paper reference.

        Liked by 2 people

      • If you do, please share! And, yes, it’s an interesting view point to consider that people might ‘use’ the meanness of others to justify ugliness they don’t want to own but don’t mind being done in the name of their perceived ‘protection’ … Still some ways to go as society to evolve beyond that, if we ever will, but I believe we can … 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is one article that I read and downloaded for free here.
        I can’t remember if the argument is made exactly the way I stated it, but you can get the idea. I had also found some other articles these two professors published.

        Here’s the link to my sermon (audio) and some written comments about the background research I did for the sermon. But you have to scroll down a bit to get to the section on

        100th Anniversary of the END of World War I

        As you are, I’m happy to get comments, favorable or not, but this is set up as a page, not a post, so there’s no way to leave comments. You will have to respond here! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Indifference, invisibility, lack of awareness, not realizing that if you don’t come it may mean others won’t come, too. … (people sometimes think, “oh, it’s okay, one kid not showing up isn’t a big deal” only to have no kids show up …).
      It is also about not always being aware that even if a child isn’t ‘best friends’ with a classmate, perhaps it is important to check whether the invitation is still important …
      Some of this pain is often unintended. In some ways, as you said, this feeling of being indifferent to, can be as painful (if not more in some ways) than being openly shunned (though both are horrible to experience).
      Thank you for the comment, Trent!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think it is indeed the adults who must actively teach children empathy, including how to be kind to those who may not have many friends and how to notice – and help – the child (or later, any person) who seems to be isolated or awkward. It is also important that adults take the extra steps (sometimes literally) to help their children get together with children who are less well-connected. Is it too easy to be in a clique and not notice that there are those who are stuck outside of it.
      If a child says they don’t want to go to someone’s birthday party, perhaps being curious about it, or checking in with the teacher (who may know more about some of the dynamics) is more helpful than just saying “oh, okay, then you don’t have to go.” Mind you, not every time a child doesn’t want to go to someone’s birthday, one must force them … but it is ALWAYS worth understanding more about. Perhaps the child is a bully. Perhaps YOUR child is the isolated one and is feeling uncomfortable going to the party. Perhaps something happened …
      In any event, yes, as adults, it is our job to be attentive not only to our child, but to who our child is growing up to be, which includes helping children develop social sensitivities, generosity, tolerance, manners, and experience in being kind and extending themselves when possible.
      Great comment, Fatima!


  1. What a loving, gentle, humane story and dedication. You chose an excellent theme to illustrate social exclusion, because parties are occasions we all expect to be special and celebratory, so the disappointment when they fail is even more acute. I also enjoyed the precision of your description of the party preparations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Penny. Yes, your comment highlights some of the reasons for just how devastating such a reality is. And too often it is … I’m glad the feelings in the setting came through. And may it be that one day no child had to live it this way.
      Thanks for this,

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rochelle.
      Yes, it is true for too many, and it is such a heartbreak to hear – let alone witness – the heartbreak as it unfolds, and have little to help with making it anything but a heartbreak.
      Thank you for the comment, Rochelle. I hope your body is catching up with the time-zone — it is a difficult jetlag …


    • Yes. I know of several such heartbreaks, and it is always devastating.
      It makes going to other people’s birthdays a constant reminder of what COULD HAVE been and what DID NOT manifest and WHY and WHAT IT MEANS and other painful questions which lead children to further isolation because they sometimes can’t bear to go to others parties after that …

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad it didn’t happen to you — it shouldn’t happen to any child, and I’d like to think it does not happen to MOST children. And yet … to too many it does, and often they are already the vulnerable children. I think that to include everyone in everything in the same way is not realistic. At the same time, to be mindful of including everyone at least in some things is … So, perhaps if there’s an invitation to a party of a child one doesn’t feel particularly gung ho to go to, it still may be important to find out who IS going and what the invitation is about: maybe they are only inviting a few kids they feel better about, maybe they are socially awkward and don’t have many friends, maybe if you don’t come … and others think they’re the only one not coming … it’ll be that no one does …
      So … it is, in the end, all about balance and sensitivity even as it ought to also be about choice and discernment.
      Complicated, social stuff is, isn’t it?


    • Yes, children can be intentionally cruel but they can also be unintentionally insensitive and come across as cruel without even knowing they’d been experienced this way … Sometimes children don’t go to someone’s birthday not out of spite but because they have other things the prefer to do, or children they prefer to play with, and they think that it won’t matter if they don’t go because “others will be there” … not realizing that if enough of them do that, their not coming might mean NO ONE comes …
      So it goes back to teaching sensitivity and empathy and being curious about why a child may not be interested in going to a classmate’s or neighbor’s party even though they’d gotten invited … (and on the flip side, being conscious of who THEY don’t invite and why …). Parents can learn a lot about who the isolated children are, and can help their child be a champion in a vulnerable child’s life and learn kindness and generosity in the process. Also, one never knows, the child one does not know well may become one’s best friend, if one only stretches themselves a bit to think outside their ‘ready made’ circle of existing friends ….
      Thank you for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There was a child in my sons year who was unpopular for some reason. His Dad started a football tram to get him involved, that team has been running now for 4 years with the same core of boys, they’re so close now and have real empathy with each other, they’re thicker than thieves. Problem is they all go to big school in September, we, the parents, are desperately trying to keep the thing going. It’s such a great thing

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 What a lovely story that shows EXACTLY how one can use empathy and social sensitivity to help children who struggle socially–and that it does not at all need to mean that other children ‘sacrifice’ something but that they, too, get to gain from the experience and enjoy friendships (and types of friendships) that they might otherwise had missed on.
      I hope that they will remain friends come September, and that if things shift – as they sometimes can with time – that they all have great memories of years of team play and friendships! Sounds like a great thing indeed! 🙂
      Thanks for sharing this with me!


    • Yes, anger and sadness are both very appropriate here! Anger for being wronged — by the other children who didn’t come, by the adults who didn’t get their children there … even anger at their own caregivers (who perhaps — if they’d know their child was struggling socially — could have checked with others to make sure some are coming; and who if they did not know their child was struggling … really should have a better idea of their child’s world …).
      Thanks for this comment, James! It adds texture and depth!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Michael.
      I think that stuff that’s taken out of real life — whether our own or that we can imagine in ours — can does that. I’m glad this resonated, though I wish it weren’t a reality for all too many children.
      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Jellico, I’m so so sorry … I can understand how you might not have had another party, though I hope one day it’ll be possible to have a variation on the theme, with selected friends who you know will be there for you because they WANT to be with you and because they understand.
      While this did not happen directly to me, it did happen to people I love, and I know the devastation lingers.
      It is so so unfair.
      I’m sorry if my story elicited pain and I hope that perhaps, it also told a story that often remains untold by people, because it is so painful to talk about.

      On another topic — your phones and accounts!!! YIKES! How horrible! I hope things are sorted out – or in the process of. It must be ENRAGING to have stuff hacked this way. Like having your house (and underwear drawer and journal) broken into and taken over. Oy vey! Sending hugs if they are welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No pain here. It was just a reality that is past. I turn 50 this year and hubby is planning something, but he won’t say. Kinda scares me… 🙂 ❤ The only thing not squared away is Inlinz who still has me at an email that's been dead for almost ten years…. though I've attempted to change with them. Oh, well. not going to sweat it as long as people can see my fri fic posts, which they can! Hubby did just admit that his tablet was nuked as well. Gotta love modern tech!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oy for the tablet sorrows, too.
        Good for you for taking it in stride (what are the options … I know … but still …).
        Also, yay to the almost 50!! The view is great, the company is fun, and the water’s lovely here, so come on in!
        Tell hubby I said he better have something REALLY fun planned. It ain’t the money or the glam but the heart put in and then some. …

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brenda.
      If her own anticipation was mirrored (and some of her heartbreak, too), then I am gratified. For it is a reality that needs to be known, so fewer ever have to experience it in real time.
      Thanks again, for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • What puzzles me about this is why this would happen. Are the no-shows people who SAID THEY WOULD ATTEND? Or are people too non-committal to say that they will come? Are today’s young families so non-committal that they don’t even ASK for RSVP’s?
        I’m old. There were plenty of people I gave up on over the years for such actions. But at least in the old days, they called to say they would not make it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think that it can be more than one reason. Many times these days people don’t RSVP birthday parties for children (though I totally agree with you that it would be only polite to call and let know either way, and if something changed beside), especially when those take place at a backyard or someone’s home (versus in a play space or some place one must have a particular number of attendees ahead of time). Also, when it comes to children, sometimes a child might say “yeah, I’ll come” or “yeah, I got your invitation” and it is understood as “I’m gonna show up” even though that child might not have checked with their parent and/or may not have told the party-child the honest answer (i.e. that they aren’t planning on coming …). Some families ask for RSVPs (and I think that’s good practice, in general), but not all do. Also, sometimes children don’t respond and it leaves the party-child thinking that maybe some are coming because they didn’t say they WEREN’T coming …
        So, yeah, it comes down to manners, communication, expectations, and the responsibility of parents to follow up (the parents of the party-child as well as the parents of the invited children).
        This before we even get into invitations that are given directly to the children (i.e. at school) and may never find their way to the parents’ hands …
        Also, the sad thing here is that the children who don’t have many friends are those most vulnerable to having their peers not even think them important enough to get a response for whether they are or aren’t coming …
        Can it be prevented? I think it can, and I think that your question about the circumstances that allow it is a fair one to ask, and a good one to keep in awareness as to what can be done to prevent such heartache.
        Thanks, Shona!


    • Thanks for the comment, Shirley.
      Yes, disappointment is difficult and painful to observe, let alone experience. It would break my heart to witness this happening, and I’d like to believe it would break most people’s hearts, if they knew something like this happening. Alas, all too often they don’t know it had, because they might not be told – people are often too embarrassed to admit no one showed up, and it might bring up too much pain to discuss … so those who didn’t come may not know no one came …
      Great comment. Thank you!


    • Thank you, Margaret! The comments are often the best best BEST! I’m ever so grateful for the people who take the time to read and then take more time to comment, because it is the discussion that often truly brings the post to life (and that includes your comment, too!).
      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Abhijit, Yes … so sad and alas all too common a reality that is all too rarely disclosed, for there is so much pain and shame involved. I am glad her mother was there, and I wish there was more that could have been done for her so she not endure this rejection.
      Great comment — thank you!


    • Indeed sad, and if intentional, it is indeed terribly cruel. Sometimes it IS intentional, with children (who can learn cruelty from their surroundings, directly and indirectly) deciding to collectively shun someone.
      Many other times it is the cruelty of indifference, or of not wanting to go the extra mile, or of selfishness, or of blindness to the plight of others. Where kids might not want to go to someone’s party because they are ‘not best friends with them’ or because they have other things they’d rather do with other people, and they don’t realize that if THEY aren’t coming, perhaps OTHERS aren’t going to be there, too …
      It is sort of like what can happen with voting, when people shrug off their responsibility and civil duty and say “meh, if one person doesn’t vote it won’t change anything” … when we know full well that if people stay away, the results of voting will be affected … So, it is about teaching children responsibility AND sensitivity. It doesn’t mean one needs to go to EVERY party, but it DOES mean paying attention to who the less connected children are, and perhaps going out of one’s way to make sure they have friends, and for parents to ask their children why they don’t want to go to someone’s birthday. “He doesn’t have friends” or “She’s not my friend” is in my view not a good enough answer in of itself … and worth a bit more inquiry, be it with one’s child or the child’s teacher or other parents. So no child ends up like the one in this story …
      Off the soap box for me … 😉
      Thank you for a great comment!


  3. Oh my, Na’ama
    I’m so surprised that your story has a ring similar to mine. I never start reading the entries until I’ve added mine. I believe there is so much of this still going on to this day. Perhaps, the devices kids use are an escape from these who choose to cause trauma and pain in them.
    Awhile back, I wrote a story about no one showing up to my hubby’s birthday party. His birthday is April 1st. No one thought it was true. A very sad day he remembers to this day.
    Your story is a wonderful tribute to those who suffer from the claws of those who choose to carve their initials in the hearts of others.
    Isadora 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this sensitive and informative comment, Isadora! Isn’t it amazing how sometimes associations take us along a similar path even though there can be many others? Perhaps it is a response to the realities of injustice and the need to protect children (and the realities that for too many, birthday parties do not necessarily elicit feelings of unbridled joy, but may also be reminders of pain, isolation, worry, anxiety, wariness, and disappointment, to name a few).
      I’m so sorry about people not showing up to your hubby’s birthday. How sad! I know of similar realities in others close to me (not on April 1st, but with no one showing up), and it is a heartbreak that never quite heals.
      May there be more awareness to the tenderness of others, and more kindness all around!


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