The history behind “Sophia’s Legacy”

Chess pieces
Photo: David Lapetina [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

THE STORY IN BRIEF
A teenager is asked to help her great-grandmother at a crucial moment in their family’s history.

HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
I remember being told a story by my grandmother about my great-grandmother: my mother’s mother’s mother. Her husband, my great-grandfather, was a trader who traveled around Russia and Ukraine doing business, and who did quite well for himself. At one point, my great-grandmother was taking French lessons from a private tutor until my great-grandfather decided it wasn’t proper and stopped the lessons.

They used to play chess in the evenings, and after the lessons stopped, my great-grandmother suddenly started winning the games. After losing a few times, my great-grandfather got the message, and the French tutor was rehired.

I have no idea whether this story is completely true, somewhat true, or totally made up. It could be passed-down family history or a story my grandmother made up for fun. But I loved the tale, and I wanted to try to incorporate it — or something like it — into my own story.

The story was published in 2015 in Mythic Delirium #2.1.

The water still ripples slightly; Rachel watches as they resolve into the wavy lines of her great-grandmother’s dark blue dress, heavy and rich with embroidery and tiny pearl buttons.

Sophia’s Legacy

NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
Many of the characters in this story have already been introduced to us elsewhere in the book. None are based on anyone in particular.

We will learn more about Rachel in the next couple of stories. She is the daughter of Eileen (whom we met in “Time and the Parakeet” and who is also part of this story) and the granddaughter of Isabeau from “Gingerbread House.” In fact, Rachel makes a brief appearance as a five-year-old in the end of “In the Gingerbread House.”

Susan is married to Eileen’s brother Mark. We will also see more of her in an upcoming story.

Sophia has grown up from her adventures as a child in “The Clearing in the Autumn.” The circumstances of the chess game were taken from my family story; however, it takes place in Germany. Sophia’s husband Meyer is completely fictional, although when I picture him, I think of the portrait we have of my great-grandfather, a distinguished-looking bearded gentleman.

While their daughter Isabeau is completely fictional, her schooling in Paris was borrowed from the personal history of my partner Jim’s mother, who as a girl went to school in Paris.

NOTES ON THE PLACE
The story takes place in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The area of the lake that is first visited is off of Prospect Park SW; if you follow the lake around to the west, you will eventually get to a small, rocky area where there’s a small pond that feeds into the main lake. It’s not as isolated as the area described in the story, and in fact, there is no forested area like the one described. But then, this is a fantasy story, after all.

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