The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 11 Summary

Byron, Kenny, Joey, and Momma sleep for most of the rest of the way as Dad drives through the night and into the next day, covering nearly a thousand miles over eighteen straight hours and bringing the family safely to Alabama. The Ultra Glide stops working, and Dad, exhausted, resorts to listening to country music (which he hates) on the radio. Kenny wakes up and spends a little time keeping Dad company as they traverse the final miles of the trip, but he falls asleep again before they reach their destination. Finally, he awakens to the sound of Momma honking the horn of the Brown Bomber "like she [is] crazy." The Watsons have arrived at Grandma Sands's house. Looking out the window, Kenny is surprised to find that Birmingham actually looks a lot like Flint, Michigan.

Byron, Kenny, and Joetta step out of the car into the intense Alabama heat. The door of the "regular little old house" before them opens and out comes a

teeny-weeny, old, old, old woman that look[s] just like Momma would if someone shrank her down about five sizes and sucked all the juice out of her.

She waves her cane and demands why the family is there today when they had not been expected until Monday. Kenny and Joey have never met Grandma Sands, and Byron had been only four when he had seen her last. In light of her reputation as a formidable force, this little, wizened crone is nothing like what the children had expected. In a raucous, emotional homecoming, Momma hugs Grandma Sands and introduces her offspring while Dad comes up for his share of "hugs and tears too." Kenny is filled with anticipation when Byron steps up to greet Grandma; these are "the two meanest, most evil people [he's] ever known," and from the looks of things, Kenny estimates that Byron will destroy the old woman in short order. To Kenny's disappointment, however, Byron is uncharacteristically subdued and respectful, and when Grandma predicts that they are going to "get on just fine," he keeps his head down and smilingly responds with a quiet, "Yes, ma'am." Grandma tells Byron that he can...

(The entire section is 541 words.)