I certainly do know heaps of stories, but I learned most of them from Gramps. Gram suggested I tell one about my mother. That I could not do. I had just reached the point where I could stop thinking about her every minute of every day. (2.18)
At this moment, Sal describes the act of thinking about her mom almost like a disease that she is trying to cure. Even though she does not directly say, "I am in such pain," we can tell she is totally heartbroken. We also get the sense from this moment that storytelling is a huge part of how the Hiddles live. Gram and Gramps tell stories and love to hear stories, perhaps because they know it's a good way to heal.
And then I started thinking about the blackberries, and I remembered a time my mother and I walked around the rims of the fields and pastures in Bybanks, picking blackberries. We did not pick from the bottom were for the rabbits, my mother said, and the ones at the top were for the birds. The ones at people-height were for people. (6.18)
It seems like a lot of Sal's memories have to do with things that her mother has taught her about the world – things like how to pick blueberries and why Moody Blue would distance herself from her puppies after so many months.
It's surprising all the things you remember just by eating a blackberry pie. (6.33)
Sal uses each of her five senses to help her remember some of her most favorite and most important memories. The senses have a huge connection to memory. Can you think of other memories in which the senses play a huge role?
I was thinking of something my father once said to my mother, "We'll fill the house up with children! We'll fill it right up to the brim!" But they hadn't filled it up. It was just me and them, and then it was just me and my father. (9.21)
It seems like one of Sal's most painful memories is the memory of her mother giving birth prematurely to her baby sister and losing the baby. Because this is such a hard memory for Sal to process, she tries to remember everything leading up to and following this memory so she can understand it better. At first glance, this memory of her father talking about children is a happy one. However, when we learn more with Sal's help, we realize that it's actually very sad.
What I started doing was remembering the day before my mother left. I did not know it was to be her last day home. Several times that day, my mother asked me if I wanted to walk up in the fields with her. It was drizzling outside, and I was cleaning out my desk, and I just did not feel like going. "Maybe later," I kept saying. When she asked me for about the tenth time, I said, "No! I don't want to go. Why do you keep asking me?" I don't know why I did that. (17.16)
Why do you think Sal kept refusing to go on a walk with her mom? Why is she kind of mean to her mom here? Do you think she has any idea that something is up?
I didn't mean anything by it, but that was one of the last memories she had of me, and I wished I could take it back. (17.16)
Have you heard of that phrase, "hindsight is 20/20"? It means that when we look back on a moment in the past, we have a perfect view of what was going on at that moment and what that moment will lead to. But this is only because we've lived out the past already; at the time, we couldn't have seen any of these things. Sal's hindsight is 20/20 in this moment, because she deeply regrets not treating her mother better, and wishes she had.
Phoebe said, "Are these cheerleading tryouts such a big deal? Will you even remember them in five years?"
"Yes!" Prudence said. "Yes, I most certainly will." (17.32-33)
Will you, Prudence? Will you really? While Prudence wants more than anything to be part of the cheerleading team, Sal wants more than anything to see her mother again. They are very different young women with very different priorities.
Three weeks later he put the farm up for sale. By this time he was receiving letters from Mrs. Cadaver, and I knew that he was answering her letters. Then he drove up to see Mrs. Cadaver while I stayed with Gram and Gramps. When he came back, he said we were moving to Euclid. Mrs. Cadaver had helped him find a job. (18.21)
How do you think Sal's memories of this time change (if they change at all) once she learns who Mrs. Cadaver really is? Sal's memory of this time period seems overly simplified and very general. She doesn't want to ask her dad what is really going on between him and Mrs. Cadaver.
That day, as Mr. Birkway talked about Greek mythology, I started daydreaming about my mother, who loved books almost as much as she loved all her outdoor treasures. She liked to carry little books in her pocket and sometimes when we were out in the fields, she would flop down in the grass and start reading aloud. (19.22)
Don't you think it's interesting that Mr. Birkway reminds Sal of her mother? It's an unlikely comparison, but it goes to show just how much Sal remembers every little detail about her mom, from the little books she carries in her pocket to the way she moves.
As she approached the corner of the barn where the sugar maple stands, she plucked a few blackberries from a stray bush and popped them into her mouth. She looked all around her – back at the house, across the fields, and up into the canopy of branches overhead. She took several quick steps up to the trunk of the maple, threw her arms around it, and kissed that tree soundly. (20.4)
Sal doesn't tell us how she felt to see her mom kissing a tree, but we can guess that she loved it. How do we know Sal feels this way? Well, she just describes this scene with such detail and with such a love, as though she wants to do justice to every little aspect of it – her mom's behavior and the scenery.
At home, my father was slumped over the photo album. He used to close the album quickly when I came in the room, as if he were embarrassed to be caught with it. Lately, however, he didn't bother to close it. It was as if he didn't have the strength to do that. (20.42)
Why would Dad Hiddle be embarrassed to be caught with a photo album? We think it's interesting that we never catch Sal looking at it, too. Instead, it's like her whole imagination is one big photo album.
On the opened page was a photo of my father and mother sitting in the grass beneath the sugar maple. His arms were around her and she was sort of folded into him. His face was pressed up next to hers and their hair blended together. They looked like they were connected. (20.43)
Poor Dad Hiddle. He is so sad. It's very interesting to get to peek at the photo he's been looking at. We realize in this small moment what a great romance he had with Chanhassen Hiddle. They were so in love.
Sometimes, I would walk around the room and look at each of these things and try to remember exactly the day she had given them to me. I tried to picture what the weather was like and what room we were in and what she was wearing and what precisely she had said. This was not a game. It was a necessary, crucial thing to do. If I did not have these things and remember these occasions, then she might disappear forever. She might have never been. (30.51)
Here, Sal directly tells us why she thinks of her memories so often. In remembering every detail of her mother, she can hold onto her. Do you agree that Sal should keep these memories alive? Do you think she should let these memories go and say goodbye to her mom? Do you think these memories hurt her, help her, or both?