Even when Ponyboy's parents were alive, the Curtis family was poor and struggled to make ends meet. But there was plenty of love in the family, and Pony remembers his mother and father fondly. His mother baked the chocolate cakes the boys loved so much, and she seemed to be the only adult who could get through to Dally.
"You've got quite a mom," Dally used to say. "She knows the score." (Chapter 3)
Pony remembers his mother as "beautiful and golden, like Soda, and wise and firm, like Darry." But there are no similarities between Pony's mom and Johnny's mother. Johnny's mother and father argue constantly, and their hostility spills over into violence toward Johnny. His father often beats him, and his mother shows him no love or attention whatsoever.
"I think I like it better when the old man's hittin' me... At least then I know he knows who I am... I stay away all night, and nobody notices... I ain't got nobody." (Chapter 3)
Johnny's mother "ignored him, except when she was hacked off at something, and then you could hear her yelling at him clear down at our house." While Pony dreams of his mother and the good times they spent together, Johnny doesn't want to see his mother even while he is suffering in the hospital. Johnny knows that seeing her will only make him feel worse, and that she will only tell him "how glad her and the old man'll be when I'm dead." The nurse tries to talk Johnny into seeing her, but Pony and Two-Bit understand Johnny's dilemma when they meet up with Mrs. Cade in the hall. She angrily criticizes Johnny and calls the two boys "no-count hoodlums." Two-Bit was close to tears when he told her
"No wonder he hates your guts." (Chapter 8)