Togetherness lost


Memories are cloudy. It was a ritual that was conducted on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings. It was cold and wet. Cabin Fever had set in. Mom and the Kids needed to get out. Our first stop was Barnes and Noble. Rachel, in her pink galoshes, wandered the aisles in search of the prettiest book covers she could find. She would unzip her down jacket and sit on a Lilliputian bench flipping the pages. Eric would be tugging on his Mom’s coat, impatient, and ready to move on. After negotiating with Rachel that she could only have two, we would head off to lunch, which would include a sandwich or burger, french fries and steamy hot chocolate.

Ah, yes. The good ole’ pre-internet, pre-Amazon days. Who visits book stores today? What book stores carry large inventory? Who’s got time to read to their children? Do children have the patience or interest to sit quietly with a book? The Tech candy is flashing and twitching, coaxing them over. ME. ME. ME. Forget the boring books. Pick ME up.

That evening after we returned from the bookstore, and during weekday evenings that followed, we would read bedtime stories to our children. This parental ritual is beautifully captured by Daniel Pennac below in his reflections:

Togetherness lost…

Insomnia settles in as we remember the evening ritual of reading at the foot of his bed, when he was small, always the same time, the same preparations. It was a little like praying. A sudden state of grace after the uproar of the day, a coming together that healed life’s little wounds, the ceremonial moment of silence before the first words of the tale were spoken, our voice finally ringing true, the liturgy of chapters… Yes, reading a story every evening fulfilled the finest function of prayer, the most impartial, the least speculative, the one that touches only the human kind: the forgiveness of trespasses. No wrongdoing was confessed, we weren’t grasping for our portion of eternity, it was a moment of communion, the absolution of the text, a return to the only paradise worthy of the name: togetherness. Without realizing it, we were discovering one of the essential function of stories – and more than that, of art itself – which is to call a truce in the daily battle we fight.

Love was given new skin.

Everything was freely bestowed.

Free. That’s how he understood it. A gift. A time out of time. Set against the world outside. The nightly story freed him from the weight of the day. He cast off, he went with the wind, almost weightless, and the wind was our voice.

~ Daniel Pennac, Better Than Life (Coach House Press 1994)

Notes: Photograph via Your Eyes Blaze Out. Thank you Rob @ The Hammock Papers for pointing me to “Better Than Life.”


  1. Reblogged this on Crash Course.

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  2. Oh those sweet memories. The only time the kids were quiet while we spoke. Hanging on to every word, snuggling under our armpits….hmmmmmmmmm

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  3. The local book store, “Books a Million” seems to be a place that people come to flip through magazines they don’t want to pay for while other family members shop in nearby stores. For me, it is the place I go when I hear about a book that I just can’t wait to order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ray, good for you that you have a book store that meets that need. Far too often my experience has been they don’t carry what I’m looking for. So, I no longer face disappointment on Amazon. Although, I do miss the bookstore experience. Very much.


  4. I don’t give up so easily…though the boys are grown, we two of the three can still be found clutching a hardcover along with their mom on an evening – and it still whispers ‘grace’. And as goofy as it sounds, I’ve already started a collection for the yet-to-be-born grandchild o’ ours – so she too can run in pink galoshes through the magic of a book store, grabbing the gorgeous possibilities on each shelf. On this, technology will not beat tenacity.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I have myriad happy memories of being read to as a child–I could not get enough. Not having kids myself, I’ve largely missed sharing this wonderful ritual with the next generation. But when visiting my brother recently, my niece bestowed the greatest gift upon me. She said, simply, “Aunt Lori, will you read my bedtime story to me?” I cried….

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  6. I have a granddaughter (5 months), I have started reading to her, when she is not trying to eat the book, that is. My son has the fondest memories of me reading to him and his brother and strongly wants me to pass this one to his daughter. I am glad to do so.

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  7. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This is so true …. We need to recapture it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My parents never read to me, but Gramma did. I remember sitting on her little stone patio in the shade of her house during summer afternoons, the Big Book of Bible Stories on her lap. I didn’t care what she read, just that her voice filled me.

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  9. absolutely beautiful memories, david. and i still love the bookstores and go as often as i can. all of my daughters enjoy them as well, one son in law worked his way through college in one, and we now include the grandies. it’s a tradition i love to pass on and share )

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  10. I love this David…thanks for sharing such memories. AND, one thing that my grandchildren know about me…is that the three of us go to the bookstore every Wednesday afternoon when I pick them up from school. It’s something we all look forward to and they know that it will happen without fail. It’s turned them into great readers and it makes me feel wonderful to think that they associate books and bookstores with me, their grandmother. 🙂 Oh, and by the way…we also have Ice Cream Day…so I’m known for books AND ice cream, I guess…and that’s it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Vera Kanigan says:

    Reading to my children, grandchildren, was my job when my grandsons would come to our home once a year from Europe. Each time they came, Markus and Patrik would ask if I still had, “Mouse Tales”, a small soft cover pamphlet, or one of Tolstoy’s booklets. Although grown up now, they still ask if I have the book… Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Olga Kanigan says:

    Did not have many books to read when growing up but aunt Vera had Harlequin romances they took you away to far away places . Love of reading and travel started from that time on.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My daughter after 4 long years of trying to get pregnant is now pregnant with twins! How she told us with a Mother Goose Book, sonogram picture and the request to read to them after they are born.. may start before birth!


  14. deeburleson says:

    My daughter after 4 long years of trying to get pregnant just told us over Christmas that they are pregnant with twins… They told us with a Mother Goose book, a sonogram picture and a request to read to them after they are born. Most likely will start before birth…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So beautiful, David. I can tell you all of this is not dead and buried as yet. Last night my granddaughter (4.5 years old) asked me to read the classic Moomin book she got for Christmas. After that we read four more books from her overflowing bookshelf before I got the good night hug. Precious.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. If it were up to the kids our first stop when we arrive in Kelowna would not be Dad and Olga’s (sorry), but Chapters. They love it in there and could spend hours looking at, reading and finally selecting their books. Never have we walked out of there with less than 3 books each…..need to add a library to our house plans!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on Makere's Blog and commented:


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