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I was surprised that I knew this all by myself, without my mother there. And that night in bed, I did not cry. I said to myself, "Salamanca Tree Hiddle, you can be happy without her." It seemed like a mean thought and I was sorry for it, but it <em>felt </em>true. (7.14)
Sal learns how to live without her mother which makes her happy and sad at the same time. Do you agree that it's mean of Sal to think she can be happy without her mother? Why or why not?
"Because a lunatic is – it means – it sounds like – oh, never mind." He would not explain, and he seemed embarrassed to have mentioned this in the first place. Then he said to me, "Don't people touch each other at your house?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I just wondered," he said. "You flinch every time someone touches you." (11.39-41)
Ben plays a big part in helping Sal figure out who she is and how her grief over her mother's leaving is getting in the way of her ability to live life. Also, Ben is way more reasonable and grounded than Phoebe and Sal: he knows Mike is not a lunatic, and that calling him one is actually pretty rude.
"Everybody is just walking along concerned with his own problems, his own life, his own worries. And we're all expecting other people to tune into our own agenda. 'Look at my worry. Worry with me. Step into my life. Care about my problems. Care about me.'" Gram sighed. (12.4)
Do you agree with Gram that everyone is just concerned about his or her own self? Do you think this is the way most of us live our lives? Do Gram and Gramps live this way? What other ways can human beings live?
I had never seen him angry. "Sometimes I don't think you're human," my mother told him. It was the sort of thing she said just before she left, and it bothered me, because it seemed as if she wanted him to be meaner, less good. (18.8)
Do you think that Sal's dad is to blame for the fact that her mother leaves? What do you think Sal's mother means when she says, "I don't think you're human?" It's kind of a harsh thing to say to someone, even if you're trying to be complimentary, no?
"I wish someone would call me by my real name. My name isn't Sugar. It's Chanhassen." (8.15)
It's really important to Sal's mom that people call her by her real name. But wait, did this just start? Do you think this has something to do with newfound desire to find herself? How important are names to identity in this book?
He said we were making this move to learn about bravery and courage. That sounded awfully familiar. (18.23)
Dad Hiddle sounds a lot like Sal's mom right before she left home. Only her mom's search for bravery and courage resulted in her death in a bus crash. Do you think Dad Hiddle is being brave when he moves to Euclid? Is it brave to leave?
What I really meant was, "How can she not come back to <em>me</em>? She loves me." (22.16)
We can only imagine what it would be like to have a parent leave us: it makes a kid feel pretty darn inadequate. But what we really want to know is, if she hadn't been killed in a bus crash, do you think she would have returned to Bybanks?
I could not imagine why she had chosen Idaho. I thought perhaps she had opened an atlas and pointed a finger at any old spot, but later I learned that she had a cousin in Lewiston, Idaho. "I haven't seen her for fifteen years," my mother said, "and that's good because she'll tell me what I'm really like."
"I could tell you that, Sugar," my father said.
"No, I mean before I was a wife and a mother. I mean <em>underneath</em>, where I am Chanhassen." (23.6-8)
It seems like Chanhassen can only identify as a wife and a mother, and not as a human being with her own personality, hopes, and dreams. But what is identity if not who you are to your loved ones? What else is there? What do you think?
The one thing we could not do was settle on a name. Nothing seemed quite right. Nothing was perfect enough for this baby. My father seemed more worried about this than my mother. "Something will come to us," my mother said. "The perfect name will arrive in the air one day." (23.18)
Names are pretty important to Chanhassen – her name helps her get a sense of her own identity – so it seems strange she'd just leave the name of her unborn child to whim or chance.
My mother had two operations in the next two days. She wouldn't stop bleeding. Later, my mother said, "They took out all my equipment." She would not have any more babies. (23.48)
You might say that in having all of her "equipment" surgically removed, Chanhassen loses a piece of herself – both literally and figuratively.
"My mother makes special vegetarian meals. Low-calorie and no cholesterol. We eat a lot of salads and vegetables. My mother's an excellent cook." (25.13)
To be a Winterbottom is to watch what you eat. They're all about eating healthy meals. But who cooks all these meals? Mrs. Winterbottom. So when Mrs. Winterbottom leaves, the family is lost in the woods. They hardly know who they are anymore.
"As I was saying, Pandora was not supposed to open the box, but because she had been given so much curiosity, she really, really, really wanted to know what was inside, so one day she opened the box." (27.29)
Maybe it's just Shmoop, but it seems like Phoebe totally relates to Pandora. Why do you think that is? Do you notice any similarities between them?
On that night after Phoebe had given her Pandora report, I thought about the Hope in Pandora's box. Maybe when everything seemed sad and miserable, Phoebe and I could both hope that something might start to go right. (27.39)
Here, Sal finds a way to identify with Pandora, too. Of course this helps her connect with Phoebe's feelings as well. It's one giant identity connection between Sal, Phoebe, and Pandora!
I wished I had taken some action when my mother left. I was not sure what I could have done, but I wished I had done <em>something</em>. (29.14)
Do you think there's anything Sal could have done to stop her mother from leaving? Honestly, we really want to know what you think, because Shmoop just doesn't know what to think about this one.
"It isn't good for her or for them. They have to become independent. What if something happened to Moody Blue? They wouldn't know how to survive without her." (41.12)
In this memory, it seems as though Chanhassen Hiddle sees a bit of herself in Moody Blue. Both are mothers, and both know that they have to teach their children out from under mom's protection.
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