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Summary: Chapter 19

Bud, Miss Thomas, and Jimmy discuss the news. Bud tells them about his mother’s passing when he was six years old. He goes to his room to fetch the picture he has of her and finds Mr. C. there, sitting at the dressing table crying. Bud retrieves the picture from his sax case. Before leaving the room, he puts his hand on Mr. C.’s shoulder, who looks up at him. Bud realizes that Mr. C. isn’t upset about being Bud’s grandfather but is devastated with the news that his daughter is dead. Bud pats and rubs his shoulder a couple of times, then runs downstairs to the kitchen and sets the picture in the middle of the table.

Miss Thomas and Jimmy look at the picture of the girl they recognize as Mr. C.’s daughter. Miss Thomas tells Bud that his grandfather didn’t look for him because he didn’t know that Bud existed. Bud’s mother had left, and no one knew where to. Miss Thomas explains how Bud’s grandfather had great dreams for his daughter, but he was very hard on her, and she fought back, and one day she was gone. They think she ran off with one of the band’s drummers. It’s been eleven years since she left.

Miss Thomas gives Bud a picture of his mother that she’s kept in her room. She tells Bud that his grandfather thinks about his daughter every day, and that he collects the rocks for her. She and Herman love Bud’s mother as much as he does. She asks Bud to be patient with Herman. 

Jimmy tells Grace (Miss Thomas) that Herman’s asking for her. She leaves the room, and the band members come in through the back door. Doo-Doo Bug carries an old cardboard suitcase, which he gives to Bud. Inside is a baby-sized saxophone, just like Steady Eddie’s. The band had pooled their resources and bought it for Bud. Bud is overjoyed and thanks them, telling them that he’ll practice so much he’ll be better than them in three weeks.

Bud excuses himself and goes up to his room, the room that was once his momma’s. He arranges his things, blanket on the bed, the picture on the table, and takes the rock that says Flint out of the pouch. Then, Bud takes the four other rocks and the flyers that have been in his suitcase this whole time to Mr. C.’s room and leaves them on the dressing table. 

Back in his room, Bud thumbtacks the picture of Momma on the pony to the wall and sets the Flint rock in his saxophone case. Bud realizes that Deza Malone was right. He’s been carrying Momma inside of him this whole time. 

Bud wets the reed of the saxophone and blows, thinking that the squawks that come out are the sounds of one door closing and another one opening. Bud smiles at the picture of Momma on the wall. “Here we go again, Momma,” he thinks, “only this time I can’t wait!”

Analysis: Chapter 19

Mr. C. reacts to the news that his daughter is dead with immense grief, leaving the reader to wonder about the backstory: he didn’t know her whereabouts or that she’d had a son. Bud finds him in his room and is at first confused by Mr. C’s crying. Bud doesn’t understand that he is grieving his daughter: “He was acting like me being his grandson was the worst news anyone could ever give you in your life.” When he realizes the depth of Mr. C.’s feelings, Bud reaches out to console him. Bud reintroduces himself, which marks a new beginning in their relationship, “It’s Bud, sir, not Buddy.”

All of the pieces of the puzzle about who and whose Bud is are falling into place. When Bud shares the picture of his mother on the horse, the pictures on the walls in the bedroom suddenly make sense. It was his mother’s bedroom when she was his age. Bud learns from Miss Thomas that his momma ran away, which is one thing he and she share in common. Mr. C. wanted the best for her, but his method of pushing her toward his dreams actually pushed her away. She wanted to be her own person, and perhaps because of her experience as a child, had wanted to raise Bud with a strong sense of self-identity. His momma’s memory, he learns, is as much a part of Miss Thomas and Mr. C.’s lives as it is his. The news of her death, and the news of Bud’s existence, will take a while for all of them to process.

The baby saxophone that the band gives to Bud is a symbol of belonging and new beginnings. Their gesture to Bud is one of acceptance and love and pride. In his immense gratitude, Bud wants to make his new family proud. Practicing his new saxophone is one way he can demonstrate his gratitude. When he tells the band members that he’ll be playing better than all of them in three weeks, their affection for him is obvious in the way they tease and joke with him.

When Bud returns to the bedroom that was once his momma’s, the reader knows that he is finally home. He arranges his few possessions in the bedroom in a permanent way, adding his momma’s picture to the wall. The flyers and rocks were treasured clues that led Bud to where he is, and he is ready to let go of them now that he’s found his family. Deza’s words ring true: “… I was carrying Momma inside me and there wasn’t anyone or anything that could take away from that or add to it either.” Bud recognizes how valuable the flyers and rocks would be to his grandfather now, and leaves them on his bureau, a simple but meaningful gesture. 

Significantly, at the close of the story, Bud’s first blows on the saxophone sound to him like the closing and opening of a door and remind him of his momma’s wise words. The reader knows that Bud is never going to stop missing his momma. He’s carried her and her wisdom with him this whole time and will continue to do so. However, Bud is in a place he can call home and can smile at his momma’s picture on the wall, excited for all that is yet to be.