FAITH IS A HERITAGE
Christie Lund Coles
As time went on, Enid made up, in every way possible, to Sharon for the lonely little girl years. There were barbecue suppers in the back yard, buffet suppers for the crowd, more formal dinners.
It did something to Sharon to know that she belonged, to know that she could carry her end in all her social contacts, that she needn’t be afraid to accept an invitation for fear she couldn’t return it properly.
Enid tried to give her the good things. At the same time, she had to help her keep a sense of the greater values. Sometimes, Enid wasn’t too sure she was succeeding. Sharon was so alive, so full of fun, and she seemed to expect too much from life. Was she prepared to return in full for other things, as she did for the social obligations? It was hard for Enid to judge, as she had had the entire responsibility of rearing Sharon.
Yet, all seemed well. Sharon was selected valedictorian of her high school class, which seemed to Enid to be a signal honor. She ached with pride in this tall, beautifully poised young woman, who so recently had been her baby.
On the night before the graduation exercises, Enid sat stitching on the white tulle with its delicate pink and blue embroidery. As she finished the last, tiny stitch, she laid the dress carefully over a large chair where Sharon would see it first thing when she came from the party. Enid didn’t wait up for her any more. Keeping house, teaching, entertaining, drained too much of her strength. Besides, she knew her daughter resented, just a little, her sitting up, and, after all, Sharon didn’t need to be watched; she could be depended upon to do the right thing.
Tonight, however, Enid would have liked to have waited up for Sharon, to have seen her when she picked up the billowy white dress, to have heard her exclamation. Enid wanted very much to have a heart-to-heart talk with her, to know what the girl planned to say tomorrow in her speech.
Enid wondered if she were a little jealous because life was taking Sharon away from her so much of the time, a little jealous that Sharon had prepared this speech without any help, any suggestions. They had been so close, always, that it seemed impossible now that there could be any gulf between them, anything unshared.
Enid decided that she wasn’t jealous, that she just wanted to be sure she had done a good job, so that whatever might happen to Sharon, she would have something within her that would give her the strength to meet life.
The next day, as she helped Sharon get ready, Enid was patient with her in her excitement and nervousness.
“Oh, Mother,” cried Sharon, “I’m scared to death. I’ll never get through this … I just won’t ever.”
Enid said something which she had told herself she would not say, hoping the girl herself would mention it first. “Don’t … don’t you think you should read me your speech, let me hear how it sounds before you give it? You’ve been so secretive about it.”
Sharon avoided meeting her mother’s eyes, pretended interest in the way her skirt fell about her hips. “I’d rather not, Mother … if you don’t mind. You come up there and hear it.”
“All right … if that’s how you want it. But we haven’t ever had any secrets. Don’t let’s start.”
“This isn’t a secret, Mom. It’s just … Oh, I can’t tell you.”
Her young face was so pained that Enid smiled at her reassuringly. “Forget it. And hurry! Ray will be here to pick you up in a few minutes.”
“You like him, don’t you? You think he’s nice?”
“Yes, I like him very much, but I don’t want you to get too serious.”
“We won’t … not for a few years. You can be sure of that.”
Later, Enid dressed and went to the commencement exercises. She saw Mr. Fletcher sitting on the stand. He was to be one of the speakers. Enid knew that since she had given him a definite “no” for an answer, he had been courting a widow from a neighboring town, but it didn’t mean anything to her. Even with the loneliness of her life crowding upon her, she knew that there could be nothing between them. She had known something so real, so wonderful, once, that she could not be satisfied with something inferior.
She took her seat as near the front as she dared to sit without appearing to be too anxious. Her heart was pounding harder than if she herself were to deliver the address. She kept praying that Sharon would do all right, would not be too nervous.
She was startled from her thoughts by a voice beside her saying, “Hello. Do you remember me?”
She looked up to see the tall figure of Mr. Richards, Billy Richards’s father, who had visited her at school the day Miss Nobbit had died. “Of course I do,” she assured him, putting her hand rather spontaneously into his. “How are you?”
“Wonderful,” he beamed upon her. “Are you saving this seat for anyone special?”
“Not unless it is for you,” she told him, feeling young and gay for the first time in ages. “Sit down.”
He talked to her freely until the program started, and told her they had discovered a rather rare mineral on his farm, which might mean a great deal to him. “Of course, I’ll keep on farming,” he said. “It’s sort of in my blood. I like the look of the earth, new-turned by a plow; the first green showing above it. I like to get out at sunrise and look at the quiet and beautiful world on all sides of me, to feel myself part of it.”
“Why, you’re a poet,” she murmured, delighted. “You could convert a whole city full of people to becoming farmers with such language.”
“Maybe I could convert you to coming out to see it. I’ve thought of you many times since that day. But … I didn’t dare ask you for a date. I heard you were going with Mr. Fletcher. Then, just the other day, I heard he was going to marry some woman from out of town.”
“Is he? I hope he’ll be happy,” she replied. Then she turned back toward the stage. “Sh …” she whispered, “they’re going to begin.”
The first part of the program did not register much with Enid because of the excitement of waiting for Sharon, of seeing her on the stand, her slender hands folded in her lap, her head held high.
Then, it was time for Sharon’s speech. She came forward rather slowly. No one would have dreamed that she was frightened, but Enid knew by the way she steadied herself with her hand on the small table. Her words began, they flowed out, thoughtful, sincere, beautiful words.
She said, in part, “We do not ask an easy life, we ask, instead, strength for a hard one if it comes. We ask courage and faith similar to that which those we love have shown through all the years that we have known them.
“We are the new leaf upon which will be written the story of our generation. We are not so different from those who have gone before us. We ask only to be worthy of their approbation, only to be deserving of their faith. For faith is the greatest heritage which anyone can receive.”
Enid felt the tears sting her eyes. She remembered saying those words to her daughter. The words about faith being a heritage. Sharon had remembered. Enid felt sure she would always remember. She knew now why Sharon hadn’t wanted to read the speech to her. It lay too close to her heart, too intimate. Youth had a pride that recoiled from revealing the best that was in them for fear it might appear as a weakness. But it was there, just the same. Enid knew. Here, in these words, was the answer to all her questions, the recompense for all her years, fulfillment of her prayers.
Wherever Tom was, she felt that he could see and hear and understand. She was sure his spirit had been with her all the way.
The diplomas were given out, people began to leave. Bill Richards stepped back to let her go before him. He seemed not to notice her tears, and said only, “You’ve done a good job.”
She smiled at him tremulously. He knew, as only one who had shared a similar experience could know. She appreciated his words.
They walked out together and met Sharon at the door. Enid couldn’t find words to speak, neither could her daughter. They merely looked at one another and the tears welled from their bright, bright eyes.
Bill Richards said, “It’s stuffy in here. Maybe you and your daughter would like to drive out to my farm and have some homemade ice cream.”
Sharon wrinkled her nose at him. “Oh, boy! We certainly would. Can Ray go along?”
“Bring anybody you want,” he assured her, good-naturedly. “We’ll be out front.”
They drove west of town, saw the green, lush fields, the tall poplars bordering the road, the streams that gurgled and sang over the rocks as though repeating the words, “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.”
Enid smiled to herself in complete contentment, in utter, joyous peace. She knew that, as the past had been good, the future, too, would be taken care of, would be rich and full.
If she kept her heritage of faith.