Authors: Valerie Sherrard
Copyright Â© Valerie Sherrard, 2006
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.
Editor: Barry Jowett
Copy-Editor: Jennifer Gallant
Design: Jennifer Scott
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Sarah's legacy / Valerie Sherrard.
PS8587.H3867S27 2006Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.6Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2006-900508-7
1Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 4Â Â Â 5Â Â Â Â Â Â 10Â Â Â 09Â Â Â 08Â Â Â 07Â Â Â 06
We acknowledge the support of the
Canada Council for the Arts
Ontario Arts Council
for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the
Government of Canada
Book Publishing Industry Development Program
The Association for the Export of Canadian Books
, and the
Government of Ontario
Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit
program, and the
Ontario Media Development Corporation.
Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credits in subsequent editions.
J. Kirk Howard
Printed and bound in Canada.
Gazelle Book Services Limited
To Mom and Dad with much love
I pause to think of years gone by
(A child can't know how time will fly)
And moments that will never fade
That live in memory's parade.
The many times Dad read to me
Those wondrous words of poetry
(Of moo cow moos and master's hands)
Transporting me to made-up lands.
And Mom, in endless, countless ways
You cared for me through childhood days
You mended clothes and hearts and knees
And taught me so much â patiently!
Within my heart to hold, to stay
The gold remains. The dross? Away!
What live â and shall live ever after
Are memories of love and laughter.
Parents who read to their children give them something that cannot be equalled by any other means. My parents, Bob and Pauline Russell, to whom this book is dedicated, shared their love of poetry and literature with my brothers, Danny and Andrew, and me from the time we could barely walk. Some of my fondest childhood memories are centred around stories and poems, and I can still hear their voices, one soft, one deep, but both delivering the words with feeling and passion. For their love and support, then and now, I thank them. For many other things, I thank:
My husband, partner, and best friend, Brent.
My son, Anthony, his wife, Maria, and daughter, Emilee. My daughter, Pamela, and her fiancÃ©, David Jardine. My brothers and their families: Danny and Gail;
Andrew, Shelley, and Bryce. My “other” family: Ron and Phoebe Sherrard, Ron Sherrard and Dr. Kiran Pure, Bruce and Roxanne Mullin, and Karen Sherrard.
Friends: Janet Aube, Jimmy Allain, Karen Arseneault, Dawn Black, Karen Donovan, Angi Garofolo, John Hambrook, Sandra Henderson, Jim Hennessy, Alf Lower, Mary Matchett, Johnnye Montgomery, Marsha Skrypuch, Linda Stevens, Ashley Smith, Pam Sturgeon, and Bonnie Thompson.
At The Dundurn Group: Kirk Howard, Publisher, as well as very special thanks to some of the awesome team: my editor, Barry Jowett; director of design, Jennifer Scott; and assistant editor Jennifer Gallant.
My fabulous agent: Leona Trainer of Transatlantic Literary Agency.
Teenagers! Hearing from you is the
part of writing, and I love getting your letters and emails. In recent months, the following readers have taken the time to get in touch: Avalon Borg, Victoria Briggs, Laura Graziano, Melissa Harms, Vanessa Hesse, Samantha-Louise Landry, Samantha Lo, Andrea Lucchese, Chelsea Purdy, Bailey Tait, Kelisha Villafana, and Veronica Williston. Also, Fiona To has shared many words, as well as work that holds tremendous promise.
You are on these pages and they belong to you.
You know how it is when you get a feeling that something big is going to happen? Like when you wake up in the morning and everything inside you somehow
that there's a good thing coming, and then you find out that your essay won a pizza party for your class, or your best friend invites you to her family's cottage for a whole week, or something else really cool happens.
Well, it wasn't like that for me. In fact, that Thursday started out like any other day.
I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast, made a sandwich for lunch, and headed off to school. The day passed as normal as you please, with nothing out of the ordinary at all.
I checked the mail on my way in from school that afternoon. I always did that, seeing as I got home before
Mom. She worked over at Pete's Diner and didn't get home until after seven. Some days it was even later. She always brought our supper home in a brown paper bag. Usually it was the special of the day. Sometimes they ran out of the special and we had hotdogs and fries or, if the tips had been really good that day, a piece of chicken. Whatever it was, it was always almost cold because the diner was a fifteen-minute walk from our apartment. But by then I'd be hungry enough not to care, even if I'd had a snack after school.
Anyway, I was mentioning the mail. I never paid much attention to it, although I knew some people did. They probably got more interesting mail than we did. We never got any mail worth getting excited over. At least, we didn't before this particular day. Mostly, the only thing we got was bills. Mom tried to look cheerful when she opened them. She'd usually say something like, “Well, this isn't too bad. We can pay this.” Once in a while, though, she didn't say anything and she couldn't quite hide the worry. Then I knew not to ask for money for a Saturday matinee or any of the other little extras that we could usually afford.
On this Thursday, there was a letter for Mom. I hardly glanced at it before I put it on top of the fridge, except to see that it had some kind of business return label in the corner and that Mom's name and address were typed. I figured that meant it was probably a bill
of some sort. I hoped it wasn't an overdue notice. We got those once in a while and they always upset Mom.
I guess most people would consider us poor. Well, I suppose we were, in a way. But we had enough to eat and a place to live. Mom always said that if you had those two things you were doing okay. She said there were more important things in life than fancy houses and cars and stuff and I guess she was right. Still, there were times when I wished I had some of the things other kids at school had.
Most of all, though, I wished that my mom didn't have to work long shifts at Pete's Diner. She worked six days a week but Pete didn't pay her any overtime. He said he could always get someone else to work the extra hours at regular pay if she didn't like it. I guess that was true, but it's hard to see your mom tired all the time and looking a lot older than her thirty-four years.
When she got home that evening everything was still going along the way it always did. She brought Styrofoam bowls with chili and thick slices of whole wheat bread and we sat at the table to eat. It was wobbling a little, like it always did, because the floor wasn't even and one leg didn't quite touch.
Mom asked me about my day at school and I asked her about work. She didn't eat much of her supper, which was pretty normal too. She always said that after looking at food all day her appetite was gone.
Our television hadn't been working since about a month before, when it had just died in the middle of
. Mom thought it was the picture tube and she figured it would cost more to fix it than the set was worth. We'd started a TV fund, but I wasn't expecting we'd get another one anytime soon. We had a cookie jar, the old-fashioned kind, and we'd put spare money into it when we were saving up for something special. Somehow, other things always came up and we had to borrow from the jar. Well, we called it borrowing, but the jar never seemed to get paid back.
I didn't care much about the TV. Most evenings I did my homework and read for a while, or Mom and I sat around and played rummy and crib and just talked. That night was no different.
We'd gotten out the crib board and cut the deck to see who'd have the first crib hand. Low card always wins that, and I'd cut a three to Mom's seven, so it was my turn to deal. I was just shuffling the cards when I remembered the envelope for Mom.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” I said. “There's a letter for you.” I jumped up and fetched it from the top of the fridge, hoping it wasn't anything that would upset Mom. Then she might not feel like playing cards. I passed it to her and sat back down, waiting.
She looked at the return address for a minute and her face got puzzled and a bit worried.
“This is from a lawyer's office,” she said slowly, sliding her fingernail under the flap and tearing it open. “What could it be about?”
It was the kind of question that isn't looking for an answer so I stayed quiet, feeling almost angry at whoever had sent the letter. We sure didn't need any bad news.
Mom's mouth was moving then, the way it does when she reads something to herself. Sometimes I'd try to read her lips but this time I just sat there crossing my fingers. I've never found that this helps, but I still did it just in case.
“My great-aunt Sarah passed away,” Mom announced when she was partway through the letter. Her shoulders kind of sagged with relief and I thought maybe crossing my fingers had finally worked. Not that I thought someone dying was good news or anything, but it was better than an overdue notice we couldn't pay. And I couldn't remember ever hearing of this aunt before, so it was pretty hard to feel sad.
“Sarah?” I asked, curious because that's also my name. “Am I named after her?”
“Yes and no,” Mom said distractedly. I hate it when she says that, like it's supposed to tell me something. I said nothing, though, because she was reading again and the expression on her face was changing. “Wait,” she said, “that's not all.” Pink spots appeared in her cheeks and she looked shocked.