On the following Monday, Sammy meets Dicey as she arrives at work. He is brimming with laughter and can barely give her a coherent account of what has happened that day. Gram came to school with a bag of old marbles she found in the attic, played marbles with the second graders, beat them all, and then returned all their marbles, giving Sammy the bag from the attic. Dicey is so uplifted by this series of events that when Miss Eversleigh appears in the store, Dicey asks her to repeat the lecture about the value of learning domestic skills she had given before Thanksgiving. She then apologizes to Miss Eversleigh for having been disrespectful and promises to think about her arguments, reasoning to herself that the Tillerman children are lucky for Gram's domestic skills.

At dinner that night, Gram announces that the adoption procedures are complete, and the children are now her wards. The children do not quite know how to respond, but everyone feels happy and safe. Gram goes on to tell Dicey that she paid Mina's family a visit that day as well. The next day, Mina and Dicey discuss Gram's visit, and Dicey finds herself asking Mina about her future plans. After school, Jeff walks Dicey to work and finally works up the courage to ask her to an upcoming dance. Dicey, stunned, refuses, explaining that she is too young. Jeff is undeterred and promises to ask her again next year. After work, she and Mina talk over Jeff's proposal, and the two girls launch into a discussion of how people choose their friends.

When Dicey arrives at home, she finds Gram slamming angrily about the kitchen. Before long, her grandmother announces that they she and Dicey are going to Boston. The children speculate as to what has happened: Dicey is sure Momma is doing worse or even dead, while Sammy holds that she is better and that Dicey and Gram will bring her home. That night, Mr. Lingerle drives Gram and Dicey to the airport in Salisbury, promising to take care of the children and handing Gram an envelope of emergency money, which, after a moment of consideration, she accepts. Dicey sits by the window in the small plane, wondering what has happened. They change planes in Baltimore, and Dicey finally turns to Gram for an explanation, but Gram refuses to answer. Resigned, Dicey watches the ground beneath them, wishing she had a map to trace their journey. When they arrive in Boston, they settle into a hotel, and once Gram has switched off the light, Dicey again asks for an explanation, which Gram promises to give the next day.

The next morning, Gram leads Dicey to the hospital. At first, the receptionist prepares to send the pair to meet with Dr. Epstein, but Gram demands to see Momma. Cowed by Gram's fierce demeanor, the woman concedes, but says Dicey must wait downstairs. Gram announces that Dicey will come with her, and they march into an elevator. When they reach the fourth floor, a strong and capable-looking nurse, Preston, leads them to a ward lined with beds. Pain and sadness wash over Dicey when they come to the foot of a bed on which Momma is lying.


The attic serves not only as a repository for a veiled and buried history, but also as a well of resources for dealing with the challenges of the present. At first, these resources are at first purely physical. Gram hauls down shirts, sweaters, boots, and coats to clothe the children against the approaching winter, thus using these artifacts of the past to ensure the physical well-being of her grandchildren. At this point in the novel, Gram extracts an emotional resource from the attic. For example, the marbles allow her to help Sammy overcome his problems with his peers. The marbles are a synecdoche for Gram's skill at marbles and her insight to use her skill to help Sammy at school. In this way, Gram calls not only on physical objects from the past but on her past skills and capabilities, which have been dormant for many years.

Momma suddenly intrudes on Dicey's life at a point when many of the problems and uncertainties she had been facing have been resolved. Jeff has asked Dicey out, Mina and she are becoming close friends, Gram has helped Sammy solve his fighting problem, James is making friends, Maybeth is learning to read, and, most importantly, Gram has officially adopted the children. These other challenges, meaningful as they have been, merely lead up to the greatest challenge Dicey will face in the book—facing, making sense of, and letting go of her mother. Indeed, the challenge of forgiving themselves, forgiving Momma, and accepting their past without shame or resentment underlies all of these previous challenges. Maybeth's difficulty in learning and the other three children's difficulty in making friends, all stem from their ambivalence, guilt, and shame about their past. Now Dicey must face her most complex negotiation of her resolve to hold on and to reach out.

Dicey and her grandmother, in their trip to Boston, retrace the journey the Tillerman children made from Massachusetts to Crisfield. They stop in Salisbury, then Baltimore, and then fly over the Connecticut coast into Boston. Dicey brought her siblings to Crisfield in search of safety and security, and now she returns to Massachusetts to reconcile herself with the mother and the illness that precipitated the journey in the first place. Now that Dicey has found and made a home for herself and her siblings, the reverse journey is physically easier than their long trek to Maryland. The same uncertainty characterizes both journeys. While traveling to Crisfield, Dicey and her siblings were moving toward a grandmother they had never met and they did not know what kind of life might await them there. While traveling back to Boston, Gram, who herself cannot come to grips with what has happened, refuses to tell Dicey what awaits them at the end of their journey.