Melody’s mom became pregnant when Melody was eight years old. Melody could tell her mother was pregnant even before her mother knew because she smelled different and her skin was softer. When her mother officially announced her pregnancy, Melody and her mother agreed that they hoped this baby turned out healthier than Melody did. Melody’s mom assured her that “we love you…but we’re hoping this child doesn’t have to face the challenges you do.”
Melody’s intimate connection with her mother, the same connection that allows them to communicate even though Melody cannot speak, alerts her to her mother’s pregnancy. The pregnancy is an opportunity for Melody to consider how her parents feel about her. It’s clear that they love her, but they also acknowledge the burden that having another child with a disability would place on their family.
Melody’s mother was careful to stay healthy during the pregnancy. Melody worried about her new baby sibling. Would her parents have time for both of them? What if her parents sent her away to make time for the baby? One afternoon Melody overheard her parents talking, worrying that their new baby would have a disability like Melody. Melody’s mother admitted that she didn’t think she could handle another child with a disability, and confessed that she thought Melody’s disabilities were her fault, since she was the mother. Melody’s father tried to comfort her, explaining it isn’t her fault, and there’s nothing she could have done. Melody wished she could tell her mom that it wasn’t her fault, but she isn’t able to speak.
Melody’s parents love her. Her cerebral palsy has no impact on how they feel about her. However, her parents hope their new child is able bodied because of how difficult Melody’s life is. Melody’s mother feels guilty because she worries that somehow she caused Melody’s disability. Once again, Melody wants to speak, but she cannot. It must be painful for Melody to not be able to comfort her mother in her time of need, especially since some of her mother’s anxiety revolves around Melody.
Melody’s little sister, Penny, was born perfectly healthy. Sometimes her parents would fight, because two kids were harder to take care of than one, especially since Melody required so much extra care. Melody often felt guilty. She knew life would be easier for her parents if they only had one child.
Melody’s disability causes many of the people in her family to feel guilt. Her mother worries that she caused Melody’s disability, while Melody worries both that she’s a burden on her family and that they wished she were healthy.
Melody got an electronic doll for Christmas, but it was broken. It was supposed to talk and cry and move its body when a button was pushed, but all it could do was squeak. Melody’s mother returned the doll to the store. Melody wondered if her parents ever wanted to get a refund for her.
Melody’s electronic doll is a representation of Melody herself. Melody bought the doll expecting it to work, just like her parents had her with the expectation she would be healthy. The key difference, however, is that Melody returns the doll to the store, while her parents have done their best to provide for her and give her a happy “normal” life. Melody worries that her parents wish they could return her, however nowhere in the book do her parents imply that they do not love her or want her in their lives.
Penny was a healthy baby who developed exactly as she was supposed to. She could crawl, sit up, and even talk. By the time she was one year old she could even walk. Melody’s dad followed her around taking videos of her progress. This made Melody jealous sometimes, watching a baby do what she never could. Still, Melody was happy to share her favorite books with her little sister, and loved that Penny’s third word after “ma-ma” and “da-da” was “Dee-Dee,” for Melody. Having two children meant Melody’s parents were busier all the time, and this occasionally led to tensions and small fights.
It is difficult for Melody to see her sister reaching all the milestones she was unable to hit. Melody rarely allows her frustration with her sister to show, because in reality she is not irritated with Penny, but rather at herself and her own body’s limitations.