Study Guide

Three Times Lucky Family

By Sheila Turnage


Lucky three times when Miss Lana took me in like I was her own, and kept me. (3.11)

Even though Mo doesn't know her biological parents, she still feels super lucky that Miss Lana and the Colonel took her in. After all, she loves them both to pieces.

Behind my back, Anna Celeste Simpson—my Sworn Enemy for Life—says I'm a throw-away kid with no true place to call home. So far, nobody's had the guts to say it to my face, but I hear whispers the way a knife-thrower's assistant hears knives. (3.13)

All of Anna Celeste's taunting makes Mo paranoid that people are talking behind her back about how she doesn't have a "real" family. That's probably not the case, but Mo still feels like an outsider.

"You are family," he said. "You're just not blood, is all. And blood don't count for much anyway. Look at Macon and me." Lavender calls his daddy by his first name, but as far as I know, he's never called him that to his face. (4.27)

When Mo starts down the path of self-pity because she doesn't have a "real" family, Lavender sets her straight. He reminds her that sometimes blood relatives don't act like real loving parents at all, and that she's lucky to have the Colonel and Miss Lana.

"Okay, but I better check in with Mama first," he said. He folded his last pancake into his mouth.

One thing about Miss Rose: She likes to keep track of her baby. (9.70-71)

Dale is definitely the baby of his family, and because he's so much younger than his brother Lavender, Miss Rose keeps a very close eye on him. When Mr. Jesse turns up dead, Miss Rose just gets increasingly overprotective. Can you blame her?

I studied her parents' faces: strong faces, with eyes that peered straight into my heart. I wondered if my own people would look into my heart too. "Your people have kind faces," I said. "I wish I'd known them." (11.14)

Mo is pleased that Miss Lana is giving her old pictures from her childhood, but at the same time she feels an acute sense of loss. She's sad that she doesn't have this kind of family history in her own photo album.

Mr. Macon rose unsteadily, his face twisted in rage. "There ain't nothing wrong with the way I'm raising my boy," he said, his voice thick. "If anybody's to blame for the way he turned out, it's his mama. Ain't that right, Mo? Who does she think she is, telling me to get out of my own house?" (12.85)

Mr. Macon's all upset that his wife doesn't want him in the house anymore, but it's his fault that he's lost his family—he's the one who's treated them all so poorly over the years. He really shouldn't expect unconditional love anymore.

"You know, Mo, I've always thought you were lucky to have two mothers," she said. "Miss Lana, plus a fantasy one." (21.40)

Anna Celeste's statement may sound like just another insult, but she's actually trying to explain why she's jealous of Mo. After all, her mom is an absolute nightmare, so she'd rather have Miss Lana any day.

"And I'm sick of hearing about your Upstream Mother. You think you're the only person that ever got thrown away?" he said. "You think Anna Celeste doesn't get thrown away every time her mother looks razor blades at her? You think I don't get thrown away every time Daddy…" (22.72)

Dale isn't tired of hearing about Mo's Upstream Mother because it's just the same old story time and again—he's tired because he feels like she doesn't appreciate how awesome her family is compared to other peoples'.

I pictured the Colonel pulling me from the flood, smoothing a bedroll beneath the stars, sitting at Miss Rose's table with his forehead resting in his hands. I pictured Miss Lana struggling in with her arms full of hurricane candy, walking me to kindergarten, writing Mr. Jesse's eulogy. I pictured them laughing with me and scolding me, and teaching me to hold my own at the café. (29.78)

When Mo thinks about her family, she doesn't think about some random strange woman who is her Upstream Mother. She immediately thinks of the Colonel and Miss Lana and all of the memories they've shared.

I splashed to the creek bank and zipped through the garden, Dale at my heels. "Colonel!" I shouted. "Welcome home."

He and Miss Lana started toward me. "Thank you, Soldier," he called, opening his arms. "It's good to be home." (29.90-91)

At the end of the day, Mo's just happy to have her whole family at home with her. And her family isn't some biological relation she's never met—it's the people who have raised and loved her for eleven years.