Study Guide

Homecoming Abandonment

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Momma must have gone away on purpose. (But she loved them, loved them all.) Why else the addresses on the bags? Why else tell them to mind Dicey? (Mothers didn't do things like going off. It was crazy. Was Momma crazy?) How did she expect Dicey to take care of them? What did she expect Dicey to do? Take them to Bridgeport, of course. (Dump it all on Dicey, that was what Momma did.) (1.1.39)

Yeah, this is probably what we'd think if our mom left us alone to fend for ourselves in a strange place. Dicey has to spend a little time processing the gravity of their abandonment before she's able to decide what to do.

"I'm not going anywhere," Sammy said. "And you can't make me anymore. You can't."

Dicey's patience was at an end. She spoke bitterly. "No I can't. And maybe I don't even want to. You've been a pill all day. I'll tell you what, you don't think I'll leave you, but I will. I'll be glad to leave you behind."

"I know." Sammy's voice was low. "So go ahead. Go on, because nobody cares about me except Momma, and Momma will come find me but she won't find you, so go ahead." (1.3.54-56) 

Sammy is a pill, but he also suspects that Dicey wants to get rid of him. Hey, if Momma left him (and she really cared about him), why wouldn't Dicey, too?

"Dicey wouldn't ever go off and leave us. You wouldn't, would you, Dicey?"

"No," Dicey said […]

"You know what?" James asked. "We're the kind that people go off from. First our father and now Momma. I never thought of that before. Whadda you think, Dicey? Is there something wrong about us?"

"I don't know and I don't care." (1.3.113, 117-118)

Wow—James really cuts to the heart of the whole abandonment thing. Why have both their parents left them? Is it really their fault after all?

"Would you get me back?" Sammy asked.

"Of course. What do you think?"

"I don't know," Sammy said.

"We're all together, aren't we?" Dicey asked him. "We'd just have to get you back. But it would be hard, really hard—so I'm glad." (1.5.62-65)

Okay, so Dicey wouldn't leave Sammy after all. He seems a bit surprised that if he got caught stealing his big sister would come after him. But it's true: Dicey's not like Momma and she won't leave anyone behind.

"Oh, don't be sorry," Cousin Eunice said, leaning forward, pushing her glasses back up her nose. "We are family, aren't we? And when I think of you, all alone—abandoned— like myself really, in a way. Why, I couldn't do anything else, could I? (1.9.134)

Um, okay. Is Cousin Eunice really drawing parallels to her situation here? She was a grown woman whose mother died, while these kids were abandoned and left to fend for themselves in a mall parking lot. Seriously—<em>not</em> the same thing.

"The police are trying to trace [your father] for me. They had searched for him some years ago. He seems to have disappeared."

"I don't mind," Dicey said.

"I do." Father Joseph's voice was sharp and angry. That surprised Dicey, and, sensing his concern, she was grateful to him, for the first time in all the time in Bridgeport, truly grateful. (1.11.34-36)

Father Joseph does not take abandonment lightly. Here is someone, for the first time, finally saying that what has happened to these kids is not okay. They don't deserve any of this.

"Before—we were always the ones who were run away from. This time I want us to do it." (2.1.20)

James says this as the kids leave for Crisfield. It seems like he's still thinking about his earlier statement. People just love leaving them—but this time, they're the ones leaving others behind. Finally, they're not abandoned kids, but a family on a mission to find a home.

Jerry flushed and bit his lip. "At least she cares about her kids."

Tom laughed. "You can't get me that way, old friend. My parents care about me—but I've made my declaration of independence, and they were smart enough to accept that. I've got my freedom." (2.2.110-111)

This is pretty ironic. Tom and Jerry have parents who care about and love them, but they don't want to be bothered by them, while Dicey and her siblings have been cast off by their parents and have their "freedom," but of course, total freedom isn't all it's cracked up to be. 

"I don't know yet. But I thought… James, I want to go out there alone. Just in case. I want you to stay here with the kids. And I'll come back for you when I know."

"Know what?"

"If it's okay for us there."

"I don't like that, Dicey. What if you get in trouble?"

"Better just me than all of us, right? Will said we could call the Berlin police to get him if we need help. So if I don't come back then you can call him. Here's the money, for lunch and anything. Can you keep an eye on Maybeth and Sammy?"

"Yeah, but I don't like it."

"I'm in charge, James. Remember."

"Okay. But . . . "

Dicey gave him the money she had left, nine dollars. She leaned over to talk to Maybeth and Sammy. "You do what James says. You hear?"

They both nodded.

"That's all right then," Dicey said. She stood up quickly and hurried away, without looking back. (2.7.95-105)

No wonder James doesn't like this. Dicey says the exact same thing to the kids that Momma did before she left. After all this time, the little kids are still worried that they'll be abandoned yet again. Poor little dears.

"Momma matters to me," Sammy said, his chin stubborn.

"She went off and left you," their grandmother said.

"She wanted to come back," Sammy said.

"How do you know that," their grandmother said. She didn't ask it, she said it.

"Because she loved me. Didn't she, Dicey?"

"Yes, she did. She loved all of us," Dicey said.

"Humph," their grandmother said, reaching for another crab.

The Tillermans had won that battle. Dicey knew it. She knew it as close to her bones as she knew that Momma did always love them. (2.8.235-242)

No one talks about their Momma. Even after all the kids have been through, they don't blame their mother. She was sick and she left them, but she didn't want to leave them and she did love them. They may be abandoned, but they still have people who care about them.

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