Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 14

By Betty Smith

Chapter 14

  • The Nolans continue to like life on Lorimer Street, but then something happens to change all that. Aunt Sissy happens. Poor misunderstood Aunt Sissy. The narrator says it involves tricycles and balloons. (Sounds innocent enough, right? Just keep those balloons in mind.)
  • It all begins one afternoon when Sissy is off work and wants to go visit with Francie and Neeley since she knows they are alone at the apartment.
  • On the way over, Aunt Sissy sees this gorgeous, spectacular tricycle. It is huge and has a leather seat big enough for two… and it is just sitting there with no one around.
  • Yes, you know what’s going to happen: She takes it… not to steal it per say, but to give the kiddos a little ride.
  • The three of them are in the middle of a ride around the block when a small crowd headed by a woman yelling robber approaches. A nearby policeman notices the commotion and approaches too.
  • The angry owner of the tricycle tells the policeman about how Sissy stole it, and Sissy tries to explain that she just borrowed it to give the kids a ride and was planning on returning it. Well, Sissy is looking pretty darn good today (like usual) and the policeman’s eyes are fascinated with her large… um… eyes.
  • Instead of getting Sissy in trouble, he asks the owner why she is being so mean before making the crowd disperse and escorting Sissy and the kids around the block on the tricycle three times. People know exactly why he is talking to Sissy—he thinks she’s hot—and they whisper all about it as they walk by.
  • This little incident gets people chatting about the Nolans, which gets Katie considering moving again.
  • One day when Katie is working, Sissy comes over to hang out with the kids. When it is time for her to leave, the kids are upset, so to make them happy, she decides to leave a small box that has a really interesting picture on the front. She claims it has cigarettes in it and tells them not to open it. (Yeah, right. You know what’s going to happen—but you probably don’t have it totally figured out yet, so stay tuned.)
  • Anyway, of course the kids open it, but there aren’t cigarettes in it or snakes or anything else they thought might be cool.
  • Whatever is in the box is uninteresting to them, and they tie whatever it is to a string, hang it out the window, and forget about it.
  • Johnny is completely embarrassed when he sees this on his way home.
  • He tells Katie about it when she gets home, and they decide that Sissy may never come over again.
  • So just what was in the box? Not balloons exactly, but condoms. Katie decides it's time to up and move again after this incident.
  • She finds a place where she can be the janitor on Grand Street in Williamsburg. The tin-can bank has a little over eight dollars in it at this point, but two dollars has to go to the movers.
  • She nails the new can down in the new closet again.
  • This place is not as nice as Lorimer Street; the bathroom—just a toilet—is shared by two families.
  • They live on the third floor instead of the first floor, but at least this means that the roof is theirs.
  • Johnny takes Francie up on the roof while Katie is talking to the movers. Brooklyn looks like a whole new world from the roof, and Francie can even see the beautiful and mysterious Williamsburg Bridge.
  • Johnny tells her that he crosses the bridge to get to work sometimes, and she thinks this is fascinating.
  • They stand on the roof for a while talking and holding hands.
  • Johnny breaks the silence by talking out loud about how he has been married for seven years and that in that time, they’ve had three homes.
  • He says that this one will be his last home.