A tiny marshmallow puff of a kitten shows up at the house where young Sara and her father might as well be strangers. Sara desperately wants to talk about her mother’s death, but her father remains aloof, choosing instead to keep his distance, retreating more and more into himself while avoiding all the questions that if answered truthfully would help both put the missing pieces of the puzzle back together.
Little do they know that this darting snow white bundle of energy will soon ease their misery and pain.
“Serendipity & Me” is one of those endearing stories that I like to turn to when there’s so much tragedy, anger and unhappiness to be witnessed in the news, within families and neighboring communities. Judith L. Roth gives us ‘serendipity’ not only in the form of a kitten, but also in our ability to live through our misfortunes, be open about our fears and have the courage to face our pain so we can heal.
It is hard for Sara, who is in the sixth grade, to understand why her father, a professor, is so secretive and bitter, not very willing to explain what led up to the accident that took the life of his wife.
His wife was a lot like Sara in appearance, sensitivity and imagination. Sara inherited her mother’s love of cats and writing. Sara finds old pictures of her mother and father. In one photo of Sara as a baby, there is also another presence: a cat keeping vigil over her. It’s as if the cat was her protector.
Sara was very young when her mother died, so she is unable to remember those early years. Just about everything to do with Sara has to do with the desire to have a cat: pictures of cats are a feature attraction on her bedroom wall. Her bed is full of stuffed cats, and more cats just about take up her entire room. However, she knows her father is strictly against the idea of her, or them, caring for a real cat.
Cats, kittens…it doesn’t matter. They are unwelcome and forbidden by her father. It’s almost an emotion of utter contempt he displays except for the rare occasions when she catches him off guard, smiling at the enchantress’s playful romps.
Sara and Serendipity completely surrender to each other, and Sara tries her best to keep the kitten with its one blue and one green eye. It’s no use. Her heart is broken once again when she is told to get rid of it and to find another home for the kitten.
The symbolic references to serendipity also occur when Sara and other students rehearse the school play, “Peter Pan.” She develops a crush on a boy, Garrett, who portrays Peter Pan. And there is another secret admirer who has her eyes on him, too.
Disappointingly, the play goes on without Sara due to her becoming ill long before opening night. She is in urgent need of motherly care because she can neither go to her dad for comfort nor even try to talk to him. Sadly and ironically, it’s not only boys who need a mother.
Roth shows how difficult any loss of a family member can be for children and adults. They, in turn, like Sara and her father, cope in ways they can only understand or tolerate.
I deeply feel for young people like Sara, and I think that, although Roth did portray much anger coming from both father and daughter, the father wanted to spare his daughter further confusion and sadness by grieving more on his own.
The important issue is that somehow they will find a way to become closer as a family and that might not have been possible without a little bit of serendipity.