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I.

Single mother - Alice


A. Encouragement
1. Praises about fish - “I would go pond fishing. . . and bring home the boniest
mess of bluegills . . . and the way Mama would carry on you would think I’d
caught the famous big lunker in Shep’s Lake” (2)
2. Praises about all accomplishments
a. “No matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was
the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars” (10)
b. “Mama, you were always so good to me. . . . I couldn’t believe you
thought I was that good” (236)
A. Advice
1. Can leave to Cherokee Nation - “’If we run out of luck we can always go
live on the Cherokee Nation” (14)
2. Proverbs
a. “’Hogs go deaf at harvest time.’ It meant that people would only hear what
they wanted to hear.” (91)
b. “Even a spotted pig looks black at night. This is another thing Mama used
to tell me quite often. It means that things always look different, and
usually better, in the morning.” (148)
1. Blood relation isn’t everything - “I don’t think blood’s the only way kids
come by things honest. Not even the main way. It’s what you tell them,
Taylor. If a person is bad, say, then it makes them feel better to tell their kids
that they’re even worse. And that’s exactly what they’ll grow up to be” (236)
2. Don’t scout for men - “’Well, Taylor honey, that’s the best way to be, is not
on the lookout. That way you don’t have to waste your time. Just let it slip up
on you while you’re going about your business” (234)
A. Comfort
1. Comforts after death in hospital - “She gave me the biggest hug and said,
‘Missy, I have never seen the likes of you’ We didn’t talk too much more
about it but I felt better with her there” (10)
2. Comforts after Estevan leaves - “’Something’s wrong, isn’t it?’ . . . .’I lost
somebody I was in love with,’ I finally told her. . . . ‘You feel like you’ll
never run into another one that’s worth turning your head around for, but you
will. You’ll see’” (234)
3. Turtle is in fact like Taylor - “’How’s that youngun of yours?’ Mama
wanted to know . . . . “She’s asleep in the car right now or I’d put her on to
say hi. Or peas and carrots, more likely. You never know what she’s going to
say.’ ‘Well, she comes by that honest” (236)
A. Opportunities and freedom
1. Teaches about car - “The day I brought [the car] home, she knew I was going
to get away. She took me to one side and said, “Well, if you’re going to have
you an old car you’re going to know how to drive an old car” (11)
2. Teaches about tires - “. . . [S]he stood in the road with her arms crossed and
watched while I took off all four tires and put them back on. ” ‘That’s good,
Missy’ she said. ‘You’ll drive away from here yet” (11)
3. Lets her change her name - “I still felt kind of awful about leaving her, and
changing my name just seemed like the final act of betrayal, but Mama didn’t
see it that way. She said I was smarter than anything to think of Taylor, that it
fit me like a pair of washed jeans. She told me she’d always had second
thoughts about Marietta” (85)
4. Encourages getting job - “I said, ‘I’ll tell him. If he hasn’t already given it to
a Candy Striper.’ Mama smiled and said, ‘Even if’” (6)
I. Adoptive parent – Taylor
A. Uneasy about parenthood
1. Doesn’t know what to do
a. “My plan had been to sleep in the car, but naturally my plans had not
taken into account a wet, cold kid. ‘We’re really in trouble now, you know
it?’ I said.” (21)
b. “I realized I had no business just assuming I could take the responsibility
for a child’s life.’ ‘There’s not a decent mother in the world that hasn’t
realized that.’” (186)
1. Doesn’t know what to do to get Turtle to recover – “’I’ve just spent about
the last eight or nine months trying to convince her that nobody would hurt
her again. Why should she believe me now?” (177)
2. Afraid and cautious
a. “When you told me about babies getting dehydrated it scared the living
daylights out of me.” (186)
b. “She was shaken up, and there were finger-shaped bruises on her right
shoulder, and that was all. ‘All!’ I said over and over. ‘She’s just been
scared practically back into the womb is all.” (176)
c. “There was a thud in the back seat, and then a sound, halfway between a
cough and a squeak. ’Jesus, that was Turtle.’ I said. ‘Lou Ann, that was
her, wasn’t it? She made that sound. Is her neck broken?’”
1. Bewildered parent - “’Tell me the honest truth. Did you think I seemed like
any kind of a decent parent?’ ‘I thought you seemed like a bewildered parent.
Which is perfectly ordinary.” (186)
2. Doesn’t know if she can give Turtle best life
a. “’So how does a person make a decision that important? Whether or not
they’re going to do it?’ . . . . ‘Taylor. . . . [y]ou’re asking yourself, Can I
give this child the best possible upbringing. . . . The answer is no, you
can’t. But nobody else can either. . . . That’s why it’s the wrong thing to
ask. . . . Do I want to try? Do I think it would be interesting, maybe even
enjoyable in the long run, to share my life with this kid and give her my
best effort. . . .” (187)
b. “’Why should I think Turtle’s better off with me than in a state home? At
least there they know how to take care of kids. They won’t let anything
happen to her.” (184)
A. Comfort
1. Comforts Turtle about mother – “Did you see your mama get buried like
that?’ I asked her. ‘Yes. . . .’ I held her in my arms and we rocked for a long
time at the foot of the tine tree.” (222)
2. Comforts Turtle about Estevan and Esperanza – “’And Estevan and
Esperanza were good friends too. I want you to remember them, okay?’”
A. Possessive and loving
1. She is only true ‘ma;’ turtle calls everyone ‘ma’
a. “I know it’s been confusing, there’s been a lot of changes in the
management. But from here on in I’m your Ma, and that means I love you
the most. Forever.” (239)
b. “She called every woman Ma something.” (110)
1. Jealous of Esperanza
a. In car – “It did bother me though, just as it bothered me that Turtle was
calling Esperanza ‘Ma.’” (201)
b. By lake – “Turtle still had a good deal of energy . . . . Every so often she
found a pine cone, which she would bring back and give to me or to
Esperanza. I tried very hard not to keep count of whose pile of pine cones
was bigger.” (220)
I. Friends - Lou Ann
A. Safety and protection
1. “Watch out, there’s peas in there. A child’s windpipe can be clocked by
anything smaller than a golf ball.” (87)
2. “’Lou Ann had once said to me: ‘there’s so many germs in the world it’s a
wonder we’re not all dead already.’” (177)
3. “’I said no! Give it to me right now. Where’d you get that from?’ She grabbed
[Dwayne Ray’s] wrist, which was headed on an automatic pilot course for his
mouth, and extracted a dirt-covered purple jelly bean. ‘Where in the heck do
you think he got that? My God, Taylor, just imagine if he’d eaten it!’” (192)
A. Takes care of Dwayne Ray and Turtle
1. While Taylor Works – “Lou Ann kept her some days. . . . I felt a little badly
about foisting her off on Lou Ann at all, but she insisted that Turtle was so
little trouble she often forgot she was there.” (81)
2. After Turtle is attacked – “Lou Ann took off a week from Red Hot Mama’s,
putting her new promotion at risk, just to stay home with Turtle.” (177)