Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: The Gift of Reading #SOL18
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Slice of Life: The Gift of Reading #SOL18

Those who know me now might think I was always an avid reader.  You might think I always had a book stack on my nightstand.  You might picture me curled up with a good book on summer vacation.  You probably think I always had a book at the ready to read whenever I had a spare moment.

Now, I am not saying I never read as a child or that my parents didn’t read to me, but my reading life did not truly begin until I was twenty-three years old.  It all started with a vacation and a family tradition.

The vacation was to Cape Cod and the family was my future husband’s.  He had gone to Cape Cod every year of his life.  Three or four generations of family under one roof for two weeks, every year.  Back when I joined the tradition, it truly was like a scene from Cynthia Rylant’s, When the Relatives Came

“The relatives weren’t particular about beds, which was good since there weren’t any extras, so a few squeezed in with us and the rest slept on the floor, some with their arms thrown over the closest person, or some with an arm across one person and a leg across another. It was different, going to sleep with all that new breathing in the house.”


I knew from the minute I arrived at his parent’s house in New York to leave for our trip, that this was not going to be like any vacation I had ever been on in my life…


“Ok. Everyone show what you have and then we can make a plan.”

I head toward the living room to see what is going on.  I am surprised to see suitcases, bags, and boxes being unpacked since we are planning to get on the road in the next hour.  The drive to Cape Cod is long and traffic on a Friday will be brutal.  I take a closer look and see they are sorting books into piles.

“We can make a quick run to Barnes and Nobles before we head out.” his mom suggests.

“No, we should go to the library.  It’s closer and I prefer the library.” his dad counters.

“They may not have the book we need.  We are missing the third in this series and I want to read it.” his sister adds.

Now they break into a very strategic conversation that I am not completely following.  Next thing I know we are headed to car … without our bags and suitcases.  I look at my watch noting we are going to be off-schedule.

“What are we doing?” I whisper to Chris.

“We need a few books.  Some of us are going to the library and some to the bookstore.  What do you want to do?”

I ponder knowing that neither is the incorrect response.  I figure the bookstore might have other stores near it and more options to for me to entertain myself while they get their books.

“Let’s go to the bookstore.”

I am relieved to see the store is part of a complex so I have options.  I see a clothing store I like.  I share my plan with Chris and we set a time to meet back at the car.  As I veer off from the group, I hear my name.

“Clare, where are you going?” his mother asks.

“Oh, I am just going to pop into this store.  I will meet you at the car.”

“You don’t have your books.” she continues.

“It’s ok.  I’m all set.”


There is a pause. Everyone stops.


“We all bring books to Cape Cod.  I would like to buy your books for the trip.” she offers politely, yet firmly.

I don’t want books, but I also don’t want to offend her.  We are in a new relationship and we are about to spend the next week together. I hear my mother’s voice telling me not to be rude.

“Thank you.  That would be nice.”


What happened as we walked through those doors changed the rest of my life – personally and professionally.

Twenty-five years later we are still planning this annual trip – now with grandkids, in-laws and first cousins once removed.   Thank you, Mary, for not only being a great mother-in-law and nana but for giving me and my children the gift of reading.  Happy Birthday!     Clare

Four Generations of Reading on the Cape!

“And when they were finally home … they dreamed about the next summer.” 

– adapted from Cynthia Rylant









  • Avatar
    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 12:10h, 03 March Reply

    This is such a great story, Clare! What wonderful gifts your mother-in-law has given you: books and her son. You are a lucky girl!

  • Avatar
    Stacey Taylor
    Posted at 12:34h, 03 March Reply

    What a story to tell! What a tradition to have! I loved reading this post.

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    Cathy M
    Posted at 13:41h, 03 March Reply

    Oh my heart! This might be one of the best reading stories I have heard.

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    Erika Victor
    Posted at 14:13h, 03 March Reply

    Wow! You are right- I would never have guessed that you became a book lover later in life! Lucky your mother-in-law was persistent. What a great story to share!

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    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 14:45h, 03 March Reply

    Such a great craft move to include the reference and pictures from Cynthia Rylant’s The Relatives came. Thank you for sharing your story – it is certainly a surprise!

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 14:49h, 03 March Reply

    What a great tradition! My girls would say that books are a necessity on a vacation according to their mother, and they know that a visit to the bookstore is a reliable vacation event, but I might need to adopt your MIL’s protocol or one like it.

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    Kendra Limback
    Posted at 17:57h, 03 March Reply

    I love this story so much! I was just commenting on another website about how I always pack too much, and books are usually why. My husband continues to encourage me to read, even when I don’t think I have time! I love the family connection to reading!

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 21:52h, 03 March Reply

    I loved this story so much that I had to read it again. This tradition – a vacation in Cape Cod with family and everyone with books to read! Precious photo, too. Thanks for sharing, Clare. The dialogue snippets made it personal and real.

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    Liz Savir
    Posted at 23:50h, 03 March Reply

    Love this perspective on a very familiar story. I’m continually inspired by the way you encourage all of the little guys to follow in your footsteps as a thoughtful reader.

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 02:17h, 04 March Reply

    What a wonderful story, Clare! I loved the expectation for reading. So many moments in our lives define us as readers.

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    Gina Weaver
    Posted at 02:32h, 04 March Reply

    What an incredible tradition to have in your family. This makes my mother and someday future MIL heart sing. I can’t imagine a better legacy to have, Thank you for sharing your life story with us.

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    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 03:22h, 04 March Reply

    Just ❤️ I am indebted to her as well. Xxoo

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    Posted at 12:37h, 04 March Reply

    What a fabulous one! Thanks so much for sharing . . . and the connections to When the Relatives Came was so VIVID! You painted many gorgeous scenes with your words! 🙂

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