Study Guide

Missing May Family

By Cynthia Rylant

Family

Then Uncle Ob and Aunt May from West Virginia visited, and they knew an angel when they saw her and they took me on home. (1.5)

Uncle Ob and Aunt May might not be the closest blood relatives that Summer has, but they all come together to make a family of their own choosing. Sometimes you choose the people that you love the most.

My poor mother had left me enough love to go on until somebody did come along who'd want me. (1.4)

Summer may not actually remember her mama that well, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't feel close to her. They still have a strong mother-daughter bond because her mama tried to love her as much as she could.

Anyway, I know May herself believed in spirits from the next world. She used to talk about her mommy and daddy watching over her after they died in the flash flood. (2.34)

Aunt May is a pretty superstitious person, but her beliefs help her feel close to her family—remember, she lost her parents in a pretty horrific way without warning. It must be nice to feel like they're always still there, looking over her shoulder.

And once I realized that writer had in fact been describing me—or what she saw when she looked at me—all I wanted was to be home, safe with May and Ob, never to leave the haven of my own room again. (6.27)

There's no place like home—especially when a classmate describes you in an unflattering light and it's read out in front of the whole class. Good thing Summer has a family to go home to and take comfort in.

But all we had was Aunt May's worn-out copy of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, which she had reached for every time I threw up as a child. I didn't figure on Dr. Spock giving me any good advice about old men who couldn't go on without their wives. (6.31)

Aunt May really takes this motherhood thing seriously. She even has a childcare book to help her learn how to take care of Summer. Too bad Summer's having a hard time picking up on the mothering duties…

I had no reason to fear bats, and as I grew and discovered how many people are deathly afraid of them, it made me wonder about fear. Whether it all just starts with the people who raise us. (8.2)

Despite her tough beginnings, Summer really was raised in a loving and secure household. Maybe that's why she isn't afraid of many things… except for death, that is.

Those two people in that picture had been holding Cletus between them, frail as they were, ever since Cletus took his first breath. And Cletus just never expected them to let him fall. (8.48)

Cletus is a completely different person around his family—with them, he can be fully confident and not weird at all. He's so loved that he doesn't second-guess himself within the confines of his home.

I closed my eyes and thought of my poor young mama and May's poor mommy and daddy and my dear May herself. But I didn't dwell on them with pain or with fear. (11.24)

Summer may still have a strong connection to her family members who have died, but that doesn't mean she has to wallow and be depressed forever. After all, they'd all want her to keep living.

I had me a little girl finally, something I'd wanted all my life. I'd come to figure the good Lord wasn't ever going to give me one, for reasons of His own. But He was holding me steady all those years, waiting for you to be born, waiting for your poor mama to die, waiting for Ob to see you didn't know how to ask for a glass of milk. (11.29)

It's almost like a miracle that Summer finds just the right family for her. Aunt May would call it God, and maybe others would call it luck, but whatever it is, it's resulted in the perfect little family.

We wanted a family so bad, all of us. And we just grabbed onto each another and made us one. Simple as that. (11.37)

Aunt May's recipe for creating a family just involves a whole lot of love and care. It worked out so well that we'd call her recipe a keeper.

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