As Taylor drives closer to the heart of Cherokee Nation, Estevan and Esperanza start to feel more comfortable as they find themselves surrounded by people with skin color similar to theirs. Taylor, though she knows she has Cherokee blood, feels out of place. Still, she enjoys the beauty of the land and proudly tells Estevan and Esperanza that the Cherokee nation has its own president.
Estevan and Esperanza finally feel like they belong in America because they look like they belong to this community. They also look even more at home because of this new confidence.
Suddenly, Turtle points out the window and shouts, “Mama” at a cemetery, and Taylor wonders if this is the cemetery where Turtle’s birth mother is buried. This mention of Turtle’s “real” mother makes Taylor even more insecure in her role as Turtle’s mother. Turtle and Esperanza have bonded over the course of this trip, and Taylor feels somewhat jealous of the connection that these two have built.
Turtle too is finding herself at home in Cherokee Nation. She connects the graveyard to her mother, making Taylor realize that Turtle must have seen her birth mother buried. While Taylor grieves for Turtle’s hardships, she is also sad for herself. If Turtle maintains a connection to her birth mother, Taylor cannot be Turtle’s “real” mother.
At the beautiful Lake of the Cherokees, the group rents a small cottage for the night. Turtle plays in a little stream behind the house and Taylor drinks in all the greenery, not realizing how much she had missed it while in Arizona.
While Taylor loves her life in Arizona, this green interlude of natural beauty reminds her that she will always have a connection to her Kentucky home.
Esperanza also comes to life at this cottage. Taylor thinks that some ice in Esperanza has finally started to thaw. Estevan presents flowers to Taylor, Esperanza, and Turtle. Taylor is supposed to start calling the couple Steven and Hope, but she can’t bring herself to let go of their beautiful Spanish names.
Taylor describes Esperanza in natural terms, comparing her happiness to the coming of spring. Estevan presents all the women with flowers, a familial gesture rather than a romantic one. Taylor cannot let go of the names that Estevan and Esperanza had when they began to feel like family, even though these new identities are necessary for the couple.
The next day, Estevan and Taylor rent a boat on the Lake of the Cherokees while Esperanza and Turtle feed ducks. Taylor dabbles her feet in the water and Estevan takes his shirt off to feel the sun, making Taylor’s heart flip. She desperately wants to kiss him, but stops herself and just says that she will miss him. Estevan tells her to throw a penny in the lake to make a wish, but Taylor refuses to throw money away. The two wish on the pop-tops from soda cans instead, which Estevan says makes the wishes more American. Taylor says only one of her two wishes could possibly come true.
Taylor is again in water with Estevan, a site where she must always consider her romantic feelings. She still feels attracted to him, but is resolutely not acting on these feelings. The pop-tops of soda cans represent American consumerism as Taylor and Estevan attempt the American dream of a safe home. Presumably, Taylor’s two wishes are that she could stay with Turtle and that she could be with Estevan. Clearly, Taylor feels that she and Turtle are much more likely to stay together as a family.
Later, Taylor, Estevan, Esperanza, and Turtle picnic by the lake and Turtle amuses them all with her three-year-old antics. Taylor lifts out of her sad mood and helps Esperanza practice her English. Turtle wanders off and starts to bury her doll underneath a tree. Taylor tells her that the doll won’t grow, but Turtle calls the doll Mama. Taylor realizes that Turtle must be trying to reenact her mother’s burial.
Taylor’s love for Turtle allows her to put aside her longing for Estevan. Turtle’s habit of burying things so that they will grow at first blinds Taylor to what is really going on as Turtle plays. Yet, Turtle has to bury her birth mother so that Taylor and Turtle’s relationship can grow.
Taylor has no idea how to talk to Turtle about her mother’s death, so she just hugs Turtle and tells her how much her mother must have loved her. They watch boats on the lake and Taylor remembers back to her childhood attempts to fish. Taylor knows that she still hasn’t had to deal with all the loss that Turtle has already felt. She promises Turtle that she will do her best to stay with her forever. Turtle nods and tells Taylor that she wants to leave her doll here.
All Taylor has to do is love Turtle with all her might to be a good mother. Thinking of her childhood attempts to fish also subtly recalls Taylor’s mother’s unconditional love for Taylor. When Turtle leaves her doll behind, she metaphorically leaves her birth mother in the past to make Taylor her real mother.
That night, Taylor asks Estevan and Esperanza to do her one more favor. She explains that it will be risky and gives them the night to think it over. Estevan and Esperanza agree on the spot, telling Taylor that they want to do it immediately.
Estevan and Esperanza are willing to do anything for Taylor and Turtle, just like blood family is supposed to do. This chosen family is a strong bond for all four characters.