Chapter 19 Summary

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After learning Bud's mother's name, Herman E. Calloway locks himself in his room. Mr. Jimmy and Miss Thomas continue to question Bud in the kitchen, asking him how long ago his mother passed away, and what she looked like. Bud tells them that she died peacefully at home after a short illness four years ago, when he was six. He tries to describe her physical characteristics, but falls short in his attempt. Instead, he runs upstairs to get the photograph of her that he keeps in his sax case.

When he gets to his room, Bud is surprised to find Mr. Calloway sitting there at the dressing table, holding his face in his hands, sobbing. The boy goes quietly over to the place near the bed where he keeps all of his important possessions and takes the envelope with his Momma's picture in it. Herman Calloway does not notice. As Bud passes by the man on the way back out of the room, he reflects that babies cry all the time, but that when an adult is moved to tears:

you got a whole 'nother story...you know you're square in the middle of one of those boiling tragedies.

Even though he realizes that the old man is crying "'cause he found out the two of [them] are kin," Bud cannot help but feel sorry for him. He walks over and puts his hand on Mr. Calloway's back. The distraught figure flinches, then looks at him and mumbles incoherently, calling him "Buddy," to which the child responds, not unkindly, "It's Bud, sir, not Buddy."

When Mr. Calloway covers his face and "[breaks] down all over again," Bud reaches out to pat his shoulder, then leaves the room. He runs back downstairs where Mr. Jimmy and Miss Thomas are waiting. Bud puts his Momma's picture in the center of the table. Both adults examine the photograph closely, then Mr. Jimmy says, "Uh, uh, uh, that definitely is Angela Janet Calloway."

Automatically, Bud corrects him, declaring, "her name's Caldwell, not Calloway." An amazing thought occurs to him then, and he excitedly exclaims:

That means that's not some little dead girl's room I'm sleeping in, that's my Momma's room!

With painful realization, But asks poignantly:

How come Herman E. Calloway never called on me and my mother? All he'd've had to do was call on us one time and I know she wouldn't have been so sad.

Miss Thomas explains earnestly that Mr. Calloway didn't know anything about him. Bud's mother had run off before he was born, and no one knew where she had gone. Herman Calloway had been very hard on his daughter when she was growing up, reasoning: 

This is a hard world, especially for a Negro woman, there's a hundred million folks out there...who are just dying to be harder on her than I ever could be. She's got to be ready.

He had loved his daughter very, very much. He was determined that she was going to be the first in the family to get through college and have a profession. In his zeal, however, he never gave her a chance to decide for herself. Finally, Angela rebelled and ran off with one of the band's musicians.

Miss Thomas fetches a portrait of Bud's Momma, taken when she was sixteen years old. She gives it to the boy and asks him to be patient with his grandfather, as the hurt of his daughter's death is still "brand-new" for him. She explains that when Angela Janet was little, she had asked her father to bring her a rock from one of the places the band performed. Since that day, Herman Calloway has taken stones from every place the band visited; he inscribed them with the names of the towns and the dates. The old man stored them all in boxes, saving them for her.

Miss Thomas leaves the room then to tend to Herman Calloway with Mr. Jimmy. Bud is alone in the kitchen when the rest of the band members come in boisterously, unaware of what has just transpired. Steady Eddie ceremoniously gives Bud a battered cardboard suitcase, which contains a gift the men have joined together to buy from the pawnshop. Inside is a small saxophone that Steady Eddie has patched up as best he can. It is up to Bud now to "shine her up," because "a man should polish his own horn." When he is done, Eddie will give him his first lesson.

Bud thanks his bandmates profusely, then excuses himself and goes upstairs, carrying his Momma's pictures and his new horn. He hears Miss Thomas and Mr. Calloway talking softly in her room, but he does not stop to eavesdrop. When he is back in the room that his Momma used to sleep in when she was a little girl, he remakes the bed with his old blanket because he will be staying for a while. From his sax case he removes the old flyers announcing Calloway's performances and all but one of the inscribed stones. He takes them to his grandfather's room, leaving them on his dressing table. Bud tacks the picture he has been carrying of his Momma on the wall in her room, and he puts the one rock he has kept back in his sax case. He no longer needs to have all the mementos of his mother with him all the time; the single stone will suffice.

Bud knows that Momma lives inside him, and that there isn't "anyone or anything that could take away from that or add to [her memory] either." He picks up his sax, puffs up his cheeks, and blows as hard as he can. He then looks over at his mother's portrait that Miss Thomas has given him. From the frame, Momma seems to smile at him, and Bud smiles back. The future looks bright. Closing his eyes, he begins practicing on his horn. 

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Chapter 18 Summary