Sarah and the Lady


“Sarah, your father needs my help with the planting for a few hours this morning. Would you please take care of John and Laura for me? It would be a big help to us. I would like you to finish washing the breakfast dishes for me, too, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Ten-year-old Sarah was annoyed and frustrated by her mother’s request. She had wanted some time by herself today so she could finish the poem she had started last week. Sarah had gotten the idea for the poem when she had seen a mother robin feeding her tiny babies in the nest outside her bedroom window. She had just started on the poem that day when she had had to stop and help her mother.

Sarah could see, however, that her mother really needed her help again today, so she answered, “All right, Mama, I’ll help you. But do I always have to be the one to take care of the children? Isn’t there anyone else who can do it? John’s almost six. Isn’t he old enough to help out with some of the work?”

Mother smiled and replied, “John and Laura really do need someone older to take care of them. We don’t want to take advantage of your good nature, dear, but I always have a calm, secure feeling when I know you are home taking care of things. We love you and appreciate your help.” Mother kissed the children and quickly left the house.

“Sarah, why don’t you like to watch us?” asked Laura, her dark eyes flashing. “John and I are always good.”

Sarah looked at her four-year-old sister and tried to smile. “I know you’re good, Laura. It’s just that I wanted to finish writing a poem I started. I want to be a writer when I grow up, and I’ll never be any good if I don’t have time to practice. Will you and John go outside and play while I clean up the kitchen, please?”

“We’ll go outside if you tell us a story first. Your stories are always good,” said John.

“Not now. I’m just not in a storytelling mood,” Sarah replied.

The two younger children knew better than to bother Sarah when she had something on her mind, so they went outside. With a sigh Sarah began to wash the breakfast dishes. She watched the soapy water cover the plates in the large dishpan and thought about her life. Here she was, ten years old, and all she really knew how to do was wash dishes and take care of Laura and John. Would she ever have time to learn to be a real writer, like the people who wrote the books and poems she loved to read?

After the last dish was put away, Sarah hurried outside. She found Laura and John and told them a story she had written for a school assignment. Then it was time to fix lunch for the three of them. Just as they finished eating, Mother returned.

“The kitchen is so clean, Sarah! What would we ever do without you? Would you like to walk into Kirtland and meet Mary when she gets out of school? I won’t need you until later this afternoon.”

Sarah was delighted. There were a lot of things she needed to straighten out in her mind, and this would give her a chance to do it. Walking into Kirtland, she was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she hardly noticed the temple. Usually when Sarah walked into town, she gazed at the beautiful temple and admired the sparkly outside walls. Her mother had given some of their best china to the Church building committee. Their dishes, along with those of other members, were ground up and mixed with the plaster for the outside walls so that the temple would always sparkle in the sun.

Not far from the temple was a small building that was used as a school for young ladies. Sarah’s best friend, Mary, attended the school. Mary often talked about her teacher, Sister Snow, and the exciting things she taught. Sarah had seen Sister Snow many times at church and thought she was beautiful with her dark hair and eyes. Sarah hoped that she, too, would someday be taught by this fine lady. She knew that Sister Snow was a great poet, and she wanted to grow up to be just like her. As Sarah waited for Mary to come out of school, she wondered how Sister Snow had ever found the time to learn to write poetry. Girls and women had so much to do around the house every day.

“Sarah, what are you doing here?” Mary asked smilingly, interrupting her friend’s thoughts.

“Mother let me leave the house for a while. May I walk home with you?”

“Oh, you know you may. I want to tell you about our lesson in school today. Sister Snow told us about her early life. Did you know that she had a lot of younger brothers and sisters and that she always had to take care of them? She told us today that no matter how hard she worked, she always made time for her writing because it was important to her. When she was only twenty-two, she was asked to write a poem in tribute to President Thomas Jefferson and President John Adams when they both died on the same day. Her poem was published, and Sister Snow could have been famous if she had wanted to be! But she told us that such things were not important and that she would much rather write for the people she loved.”

Sarah was silent as they continued walking. When they reached Brother Whitney’s store, they went in. Sarah had brought several pennies with her from home, and she bought them some candy.

As they were sitting on the porch of the store eating their candy, Sarah said, “I’m glad you told me about Sister Snow’s life. If she could do all of the things she had to do in a family with younger brothers and sisters and still become a great poet and writer, so can I. If I do everything I’m supposed to do every single day, I can still find a little bit of time to do what I want to do. I’m going to become a great lady and a great poet just like Sister Snow. Come on, Mary. I want to get home. If Mama doesn’t need me, I’m going to work on my poem.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Beth Maryon