This is probably the best chapter in the history of chapters. You should really go read it right now. And then read it another three times. You won't be sorry.
Basically, we learn all about Sal's life in the present:
She and Gramps are back in Bybanks, and Gram has been buried in the aspen grove where she and Gramps were married.
Sal tells us that she thinks that just as there was a fireplace buried behind the plastic wall in Bybanks, her mother's story was buried underneath Phoebe's. And underneath both those stories is the story of Gram and Gramps. See? Everything is connected.
In other news, Sal has written to Tom Fleet, the boy who robbed them and who saved Gram's life in Minnesota. In her letter, she tells him Gram has died. Tom has written back, too, telling her that he is sorry to hear about Gram and that he'd like to visit her someday.
Sal is practicing her driving with Gramps on his old farm, and Gramps has new beagle puppy that he has named Huzza Huzza, in memory of Gram. Sometimes, the two of them play something called the moccasin game, which involves imagining what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes. Sounds like fun to Shmoop.
Sal realizes that the trip to Lewiston had been a gift from Gram and Gramps to her, so that she could say goodbye to her mother. Plus, she finally understands why her dad didn't take her to Idaho in the first place – he was too sad and too heartbroken.
Sal tells us that Phoebe's family helped her understand and come to terms with her own family, and our girl's grateful for that.
This prompts her to offer us some really amazing nuggets of philosophy. She tells us she realizes that though there might be horrible things in the world (like axe murderers, war, and brain tumors), most of us have a lot in common and are just trying to get by. You can choose to focus on all of the horrible and scary things in Pandora's box, or you can focus on the other box – the one with all of the beautiful, amazing, hopeful things in it.
Sal still looks at her mother's postcards and mementos, and she hears the singing tree sing all the time these days.
Still, not everything is perfect, which she totally admits. For one thing, Sal is jealous of three things:
That Ben Finney wrote a journal entry about a girl that he liked (before he had met Sal).
That her mother wanted to have more children. Wasn't she enough?
That Phoebe's mother came back but hers did not.
But she is also able to see the other side of the story when it comes to thinking about these jealousies, because she is getting really good at walking in other people's moccasins.
Sal tells us that Phoebe, Ben, Mrs. Cadaver, Mrs. Partridge, and possibly Mr. Birkway are coming to visit next month in August. Sal is super excited about this. She and her dad are getting ready for these guests to arrive.
"But for now, Gramps has his beagle, and I have a chicken and a singing tree, and that's the way it is.