Melody’s family is important because it holds everyone accountable to caring for everyone else. While this brings about a sense of belonging and safety, it can also lead to guilt when characters believe they have caused family members pain, or have been unable to fulfill important obligations. Importantly, Out of My Mind does not define family as only biological relatives—the book also includes those who love and support Melody as part of her family. For example, Melody’s next-door neighbor, Mrs. V, is as much a part of her family as her mother, father or sister. Mrs. V sees potential in Melody and challenges her in ways her parents do not, from preparing her for Whiz Kids to teaching her how to safely fall out of her wheelchair as a small child. Melody’s aide, Catherine, is also family. Catherine respects Melody’s intelligence and defends her against other students who try to bully her and undermine her academic accomplishments.
Melody’s (extended) family provides an important support network even as teachers, doctors, and other students dismiss Melody as incapable or speech or thought. Melody’s mother advocates for her in medical settings and in school. Her father builds her a ramp that will allow her to move more easily. Mrs. V and Catherine together help Melody find a Medi-Talker to allow her to better communicate with the world. However family comes with a sense of responsibility for one another, which means that family members feel guilt when they believe they haven’t done enough to help each other out. Melody’s mother blames herself for Melody’s illness. She tells Melody’s father, “I'm the mother...It was my job to bring a child into the world safely, and I screwed it up!” When Melody’s little sister Penny is hit by their mother’s car, Melody blames herself. She feels as though she should have tried harder to make her mother understand that Penny was behind the car, and she simultaneously worries that her own frustration with Penny somehow led to the accident. Melody is even more concerned that Penny will become brain damaged or physically disabled by the accident and will therefore suffer the same hardships as Melody.
The bonds of family are important and they help the characters in Out of My Mind deal with an inhospitable outside world, but family can also be a source of tension when family members worry they’ve inadvertently hurt one another. Melody often believes she can’t support her family in the same way they’ve supported her, but they make sure to let her know that they appreciate her, and that she’s doing all she can. Although her family can be a source a pain, Penny, Catherine, Mrs. V, and Melody’s parents also make up her strongest safety net. Because they are bound together, biologically and by choice, Melody’s family works to address any pain they’ve caused one another.
Family Quotes in Out of My Mind
“But a person is so much more than the name of a diagnosis on a chart!”
“Of course I’ll watch Melody,” she’d said with certainty.
“Well, Melody is, well, you know, really special,” Dad said hesitantly.
“All kids are special,” Mrs. V had replied with authority. “But this one has hidden superpowers. I’d love to help her find them.”
I once got one of those electronic dolls for Christmas. It was supposed to talk and cry and move its arms and legs if you pushed the right buttons. But when we opened the box, one of the arms had come off, and all the doll did, no matter which button you pushed, was squeak. Mom took it back to the store and got her money back.
I wonder if she ever wished she could get a refund for me.
I can’t believe Dad is making a video of me saying my first words. It’s almost like when he filmed Penny’s first words—well, not really.
I type very carefully and push the button to make the machine speak.
“Hi, Dad. Hi, Mom. I am so happy.”
Mom gets all teary-eyed, and her nose gets red. She is looking at me all soft and gooey.
When I think about it, I realize I have never, ever said any words directly to my parents. So I push a couple of buttons, and the machine speaks the words I’ve never been able to say.
“I love you.”
Catherine jumped out of her chair and stormed over to where Claire and Molly were sitting, her new black leather boots clicking sharply on the tiled classroom floor. “I did not help her! Did it ever occur to you that she might have some smarts of her own?”
“She can’t even sit up by herself!” Claire replied, her voice petulant.
“What your body looks like has nothing to do with how well your brain works! You ought to know that by looking in a mirror!”