When she died and all her brothers and sisters passed me from house to house, nobody ever wanting to take care of me for long, I still had that lesson in love deep inside me and I didn't grow mean or hateful when nobody cared enough to make me their own little girl. (1.4)
Summer hasn't had the easiest early childhood. After her parents die, she's pretty much left on her own—that is until Aunt May and Uncle Ob come along. Maybe that's why she's so desperate to hang onto them forever.
But now I am twelve, and expected to go it alone out to the stop [...]. It's worse needing somebody in the dark, in winter, of an early cold morning. (2.5)
Winter is coming, and it's not kind to Summer and Uncle Ob. On top of missing Aunt May something fierce, they also have to deal with the bitter cold and the fact that they don't know where to go from here without her.
"But it kept her in a pickle because she always feared losing her Ohio kin, too. Feared one of them would up and die, unexpected, like her mommy and daddy in the flash flood, if she let them out of her sight for too long. So every so often she'd have to leave this place and go check on them." (2.29)
Just like Summer, Aunt May is always afraid of losing those closest to her unexpectedly. Maybe that's why she understands Summer so well and wants to care for her like a parent would.
And if Ob does go, goes off to be with May, then it'll be just me and the whirligigs left. And all of us still as night, praying for wings, real wings, so we can fly away. (2.41)
What would Summer do if she didn't have Uncle Ob? He's literally the only family she has left, so she'd be in quite the bind if he disappears on her. Maybe that's why she's so concerned with keeping his health in check.
May would tell Cletus and me, if she was here right now, that it's okay to grab for something or somebody that's being swept away from you. She'd tell us to hold on tight because we're all meant to be together. We're all meant to need each other. (3.28)
Even if Summer feels abandoned, at least she's still got Cletus and Uncle Ob around. Aunt May might be floating further and further away from them, but they've got each other and they should take advantage of that support system.
It suddenly hurt me that Ob hadn't told me about the second—and that now he was revealing everything to Cletus instead of me. I felt more than ever cut apart from him, sent off on my own while he took off on his [...]. (4.47)
Poor Summer—she's already lost one parental figure, and now she feels like she's being pushed away by the second. What's a girl to do to get some real quality parenting around here?
I had been dreading Ob's death for so long that in my mind I practically had the coffin picked out and which tie he'd wear. I thought this morning might be the one for truly final decisions. (6.11)
Well that's morbid—our little goth-in-training is constantly afraid that Uncle Ob is going to leave her too. It's not such a ridiculous fear when you consider the fact that every single other parental figure in her life has already peaced out.
I'm afraid. Already I've lost many things, important things, and I don't want to lose more in Putnam County. (7.32)
Uncle Ob and Cletus may be excited about their upcoming road trip, but Summer's full of apprehension. Is she really the only one who thinks that there's a good possibility that the advertised spiritualist medium might be a quack? Seriously?
Well, Ob had seen how at the supper table you'd been too scared to death to ask for anything. Run out of milk in your glass and too scared to ask Connie Francine to fill it up again. (11.27)
Baby Summer's been so neglected her whole young life that she can't even pipe up to ask for a glass of milk. Uncle Ob and Aunt May recognize that she needs a family—a real family—and decide to take her in even though they're old and don't have much money.
And my guess is that the Lord wanted us all to be just full of need. If Ob and me had been young and strong, why, maybe you wouldn't've felt so necessary to us. Maybe you'd've thought we could do just fine without you. (11.36)
Uncle Ob, Aunt May, and Summer all had some kind of gap in their lives that they needed to fill. They were all missing some kind of family, and in each other, they found what they needed.