Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Celebrating True Gifts on My Birthday
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Slice of Life: Celebrating True Gifts on My Birthday


Every year my mom made the best cupcakes for my birthday celebration at school. There was always a theme to how she decorated them. Usually spring, sometimes Easter or a favorite sport. This year she made a rainbow out of cupcakes. Each row was filled with cupcakes made of a different color. It was perfect! I couldn’t wait to go to school for my birthday celebration.

March 31 brings lots of different weather patterns. Over the years I have birthday pictures in raincoats, snow boots and shorts. This year the day started off with rain, but by mid-morning the sun started to come out. Sr. Joanna decided to put off snack, and my birthday cupcakes, to go outside for recess. She nodded assuredly as she shared her plan with me, signaling to me that I agreed before I even heard it.

Morning recess was on a parking lot and a big rolling hill down the back of the school. We loved to play tag. This year the game was getting more and more competitive. We started to play girls vs. boys. We started to get a bit rough. Sometimes there may even have been some kicking….

Oh the power of kicking! We quickly discovered you could take a person twice your size down with one … well-positioned kick. No one was getting hurt and it had a kind of playful feel to it. I don’t think there ever would have been a problem if it weren’t for the mud… and the footprints.

Over the intercom we heard…

Will Clare, Kristen, Maureen, Jennifer, Sandra and Dana please come to the office?

We quickly and silently made our way down the hall to Sr. Pauline’s office, sharing a quick glance, tucking our shirts in our skirts and hiking up our knee-highs.

Please come in and sit down.

We immediately saw Frankie sitting in the office.

What was happening at recess today?


Will someone tell me what you were playing?


Only tag?

 We nod our heads in unison.

Was there any kicking involved?


Frankie, please stand up. Turn around.

Then I saw it…. Big Foot prints, on his pants, in well-positioned places. I glanced down, wondering, hoping someone else had Buster Brown Big Foot shoes on her feet.

Can anyone explain how these prints wound up on Frankie’s…..pants?

No one moved.

Ladies, feet up please.


This was it, the moment of truth. We all slowly raised our feet and Sr. Pauline’s eyes were immediately glued to mine.

Clare, with me please. Everyone else back to class.

She called my mom into school and I was sent home early… without my cupcakes.

That night when we celebrated my mom handed me my present.

I know you really wanted them, but you might want to reconsider….

A brand new pair of red Buster Brown Big Foot shoes.   We shared a smile and I knew the day’s events would be our secret – -that was the best birthday present of all.


Thanks to Fran McVeigh who shared her process for each post this month. You inspired me to think more about my process. So …here’s a peak into my process:

I had been thinking a lot about this last post. It falls on my birthday and it is the end of a great challenge. I had been thinking about different ideas. I wanted to write something about a birthday memory with my mom. I have been inspired by Anna’s letter structure, but it wasn’t working (still going to get there though). I have also been studying how Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty bring childhood memories to life by capturing voice and setting so clearly. Rose Capelli has a knack for getting me to laugh and I have been looking at how she crafts her pieces to bring the humor to life. I was thinking and thinking and then… I found Keith. I have been trying to respond to one new person each day – his title caught my eye. I read his post about Catholic School memories and immediately remembered my story. It all came together.

I searched – Big Foot Shoes –


then Big Foot Shoes Red –


then I was off and writing….

Thanks to the #SOL16 community. I have learned so much and I have connected with so many over this past month. I have been touched by your stories, inspired by your reflections, mentored by your craft and comforted by your responses. I love that I am ending this celebration on my birthday, remembering my mom, laughing and sharing with all of you!  This month has truly been a gift!

Two Writing Teachers – you rock!!!

  • Avatar
    Aileen Hower
    Posted at 10:47h, 31 March Reply

    Thank you for your comments and writing too!

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    Posted at 10:49h, 31 March Reply

    What a great summative post, Clare, that captures your birthday past and present. I’m also intrigued by Anna’s letters but couldn’t make it work. Your stories, Catherine’s poetry, and yes to Lynne, Rose and Dianne’s elegance . . . so much fun learning with all this month. Stretching and growing as writers – It has been such fun!

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    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 10:57h, 31 March Reply

    Happy birthday, Clare! Today is my mom’s birthday too!! Those Buster Brown shoes sure brought back memories of my childhood. This was such a fun slice and I enjoyed learning about your writing process. I’m glad you were a part of the challenge this year!


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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 11:39h, 31 March Reply

    Happy Birthday, Clare! My sister Sandy and my sister-in-law Gwen have a birthday today, too, so now I will always remember yours. I hope today is a beautiful day filled with sweet memories. As for this piece, it’s priceless. I felt like I was reading a chapter in a book, and I wanted to read the next chapter and the next! The surprise when Frankie turned around and there were the telltale footprints! Your inclusion of dialogue with italics I thought worked so well – the dialogue was important and was tucked in all the right places (unlike your shirts, I might add!).By the way, the description such as “hiking up our knee-highs” also added another dimension to the writing, I laughed outloud and read your piece to my husband. The ending with a gift of “THE SHOES.” Oh, this story is delightful! Thanks for all the tears and laughter – the heartfelt emotions and connections to everyday life and our classrooms. I hope you are going to slice on Tuesdays!

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    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 11:41h, 31 March Reply

    Happy Birthday Clare. Too bad you cant buy those Buster Browns any longer. You’d rock them!
    Your posts have been such a great inspiration to me and I am sure others. Thank you for your daily posts and for your stories that always make me think!

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    Posted at 12:33h, 31 March Reply

    I laughed so hard, Clare! I could picture everything, especially Frankie’s pants. And once again you have revealed more about your mother. No wonder you miss her so much! Here’s hoping you have all your wishes come true on this special day! Happy birthday!

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    Kimberley Moran
    Posted at 13:42h, 31 March Reply

    Oh my word that made me laugh. I didn’t have those shoes, but now I see why you might not want them! Hilarious. Happy happy birthday. Your comments this month have been a joy to me. You have such depth in your perception. t=Thank you for sharing your thinking with me and reading my writing.

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 14:00h, 31 March Reply

    I think your mother saved the day in more than one way. You knew she made those wonderful cupcakes, despite the fact that you didn’t get to have one, and then less was said in the family celebration except the gift, those shoes. You must have been a little upset at being sent home, but your mother helped you look at it as something humorous too. Oh the irony of a gift of shoes! Happy Birthday, Clare. I’ve enjoyed all your sharing in different ways during this month of slicing.

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    Posted at 15:18h, 31 March Reply

    Happy Birthday, Clare! What a wonderful slice to gift us with today – I had to smile at your Mom’s well thought out gift.

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 16:21h, 31 March Reply

    Happy Birthday, Clare. What a great story! And a wonderful way to end the month too. I so remember Catholic school and the uniforms and the knee highs. You made me see Frankie and Sr. Pauline (she must have been one of my principals too). Thanks for the glimpse into your process as well. I always like to see how other writers proceed to write their pieces.

    It has been a thrilling ride for me this month. I do appreciate all of your comments. I always read your posts, but I didn’t always comment because sometimes I just got too emotional, remembering my own mother and my mother-in-law. Your writing resonated with me.
    See you on Thursdays!

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 18:28h, 31 March Reply

    Clare, your posts have inspired me. I love your writing style. I have learned from you in many ways. Thank You. And Happy Birthday!

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    Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 23:49h, 31 March Reply

    Happy birthday, Clare! Your posts have brought tears and joy this month. You have served as a mentor several times for my writing (even if you didn’t know it). Even though I did not post every single day, I can see why you are invested in this Slicing Community. I’m excited to join each Tuesday.

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 01:11h, 01 April Reply

    Happy Birthday, Clare. You have captured a hilarious event with your writing. Love the story and admire the writing. You have done such beautiful work honoring and remembering and sharing your mom. You have written some of the most memorable posts for me this month, maybe because of a common experience, but also because you have so much wisdom and insight. May you continue to enjoy and embrace the memories you have. Don’t they all make us stronger?

    See you on Tuesdays!

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    Anna Gratz Cockerille
    Posted at 01:17h, 01 April Reply

    Happy birthday Clare! It has been a priveledge and joy to write with you this month. What a perfect final post. Though your mom only appears at the start and the end of your story, the whole thing says so much about your relationship with her. Thank you for sharing this moment and your process with us. It was wonderful getting to know you through your writing this month!

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    Elisa Waingort
    Posted at 06:05h, 02 April Reply

    Happy birthday, Clare! Great memory and story.

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    Posted at 12:11h, 02 April Reply

    Oh my goodness this made me laugh. I just loved the image of you out there playing tag — and kick that could take someone down twice your size. It reminded me of a Cinderella story in reverse as you lifted your shoes for inspection. Also, thanks for sharing your process. It’s always amazing to me how an idea is ignited. Your story made me think of recess days under the old oak tree on our playground. Our game was red rover…until it got a little rough. Oh, childhood.


    • Avatar
      Posted at 12:12h, 02 April Reply

      ….and the happiest of birthdays to you.


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