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I heard screaming from the basement. Moms have a “scream gauge.” We know when the scream is a benign scream (472 times in a day) or when it is a “drop everything and run” scream. In my panic and rush to get to them, I fell down the last few steps. (Always graceful under fire!) I landed in water. Water was rushing through the window, the children were standing on furniture, and all I could muster was, “But, we never get water in the basement,” as if my proclamation took care of everything. But, my daughter knew what to do- “CALL DONNA!”

Donna was our neighbor and we all knew that she could fix anything. And, she did. She showed up with her shop-vac and started giving orders. Within a few minutes, she had us all calmed down and the situation under control. “You need new gutters on the front of your house.” She had all the answers.

Our life on Ridgeway Avenue included so many Donna moments. She was my friend. She was a surrogate grandmother to my kiddos.


When I brought my babies home, she was the first to bring a casserole.

When I was overwhelmed or certain that I must be the worst parent on the planet, she would make a cup of tea and tell me stories. By the end of her stories, I was calm and reassured that I could, indeed, do this.

When it was grandparents day at school, she showed up with treats not just for my children, but also for their friends.

When there was a lemonade stand on Ridgeway Avenue, she was our best customer.

When my children were interested in nature, she walked them through her yard, patiently explaining the science behind each new discovery. Afterward, they would sit on her back porch and have long talks.

When it was Halloween, she would have special FULL SIZED treats for my gang.

When she fell off a ladder, she bounced up and brushed off our worries. “I’ve taken a lot harder falls than that!” She was badass.

When she became sick and knew that an ambulance was being called, she sent someone to update us. She didn’t want us to be upset when we saw the ambulance.

When the time came to move in with her daughter, we braced for life on Ridgeway Avenue without Donna. We didn’t know when the final day would be. It came and went without any fanfare. We didn’t know until the kids knocked on her door and there was no answer. This had happened many times before, but we could usually find her in her back yard or on her back porch. Not that day. She had moved out without any fuss. It was her style- no fuss, no muss, no drawing attention to herself.

Yesterday, we were in the grocery store when all hell seemed to break loose. Someone shouted, “IT’S DONNA!” Some of us saw her and some of us were just following the mob toward the promise of Donna. To say we ambushed her would be an understatement.

I watched as my now 6’2″ son bent to hug her, my girls threw themselves into her familiar embrace, and Donna’s daughter wiped tears from her eyes.

I hope she saw it in our eyes. I hope she heard it in our words. I hope she felt it in our hugs. We miss you. We love you. Thank you for making our lives on Ridgeway Avenue so magical.



Comments (11)

  1. Lisa Reply

    December 21, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Our next door neighbor recently passed away. She had recently started the 100 year of her life. She was the first to welcome me when I bought my first house, she was there when I brought my babies home and we always looked out for one another. We even had a sleepover one night when my husband worked the midnight shift. We found her screaming for help the day she fell and broke her hip. She was 95. We thought she would live forever, she thought she would live forever. I cried like a baby the day I said good-bye at her funeral. I miss her, she made life special on our street too.

    • thatswhat Reply

      December 21, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      I read your comment in the Target parking lot and boohoo’d like a baby! I’m so sorry you lost your Donna but so happy you had someone so special in your life. I love that you had a sleepover!

  2. Johanna Hensley Smith Reply

    December 21, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Kerri, This is beautiful!!!

    Wouldn’t the world be a better place if every child…..every new mom…..every FAMILY had a “Donna” next door?!?!?!?

    Great story……….thanks for sharing!!!

    Merry Christmas!!


    • thatswhat Reply

      December 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      YES! I always say that everyone should have a Donna in their life! Thank you, Johanna!

  3. Robyn Reply

    December 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    This is so beautiful, and I’m so glad your family has a Donna to love and appreciate in your lives. xoxo

    • thatswhat Reply

      December 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you, Robyn! We hit the jackpot of life with Donna.

  4. Denise Reply

    December 22, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Our Donna was “Corky”, she was a wonderful neighbor! Her and I had many fence post and front porch chats. Our older children had the opportunity to live next to a grandparent type, experiencing how to give of self to help someone and bring a smile. Corky always tried to pay the kids for helping to shovel the drive, carry in groceries, haul her brush pile, etc. Loved that my kids always said “no, Cork. Glad to help.” I joked with her that I was the blessed one, as every young mother should have a girlfriend in the neighborhood twice their age. She was my sounding post and confidant on every topic you could imagine. “Merry Christmas Cork, miss you much. Thanks for being a wonderful example, embracing live & giving back, every step of the way.”

    • thatswhat Reply

      December 22, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Corky sounds amazing. Our families are lucky to have been blessed with those fireballs, huh? Thank you for sharing that, Denise!

  5. Meredith Reply

    December 23, 2015 at 9:13 am

    So beautiful…crying with the magic love of your Donna. xoxo

    • thatswhat Reply

      December 28, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Thank you, Meredith! She is one special woman!

  6. […] were flooded basements and Donna to save the day with her […]

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