Momma and Marguerite and Bailey live in Los Angeles together while the children adjust to life in California. Looking back, Maya can see how remarkable it was that her grandmother adjusted to living in LA, which was so different and so far away from the place she was used to. Eventually it is time for Momma to leave, and she hands the children over to their mother and takes the train back to Arkansas.
Another example of Momma’s strength and resilience in the face of displacement. Having lived in Arkansas her entire life, Momma must have found LA to be like a foreign country. But she handled the feeling of being out of place so capably that Maya doesn’t even realize, as a child, the kind of challenge Momma was facing.
Bailey and Marguerite drive to San Francisco with their mother (Vivien). They live in a dingy Oakland apartment. One night Mother wakes Marguerite up at two in the morning—this makes Marguerite nervous, but when she sees Bailey is up too, and smiling, she relaxes. Her mother tells them they’ve been invited to a party and serves them chocolate and biscuits. Their mother’s laugh is infectious and they grow to love her even more. Yet for all her gaiety and silliness she was also tough and uncompromising—Marguerite admires her for her strength.
Marguerite’s mother is an example of an entirely different variety of strength—as a black woman, Vivien has also presumably had to endure a lifetime of injustice and abuse. The levity and determined positivity that she shows in this scene, we can imagine, has carried her through hard times in the same way that Momma’s practicality and resilience have helped her survive.
Marguerite hears that America has declared war on Japan when she is walking home from the movies. She is frightened and runs all the way home, where she is comforted. Not long after this, Mother marries Daddy Clidell, who will be the first father Marguerite has ever known.
With the start of WWII, the pace of the story shifts. Maya has moved out of the South, into a big city with her mother, in a more politically and socially progressive state. After this point, the events in Maya’s life are recorded at an almost rapid-fire pace.