Somehow, Mameh knows that Ruth is pregnant. Though a quiet woman, Mameh is very perceptive. For many years she could see that Ruth was unhappy and so would send her to New York in the summer to stay with aunts and Bubeh. Ruth likes New York because “everyone seemed too busy to care about what race or religion you were.” Her aunts are kind enough to her, and take pity on her because of Mameh’s disability.
Mameh isn’t able to offer much of a family life to Ruth, but she does what she can to make Ruth’s life easier. In this case, Mameh sends Ruth to New York every summer because she can tell that Ruth needs to get out of Suffolk, and this specific summer Mameh sends Ruth to New York to help her deal with her teenage pregnancy.
When she visits New York Ruth stays with her grandmother, Aunt Mary, or Aunt Laura. Aunt Laura is rich, with a live-in maid and cook, but doesn’t mind doing her own housework. Aunt Mary runs a leather factory that Ruth works in some summers. Mary is not kind to Ruth, but Ruth forgives her, as it is difficult to run a business as a woman in the 1930s. Ruth’s mother’s family takes care of her, but she says, “I didn’t feel loved by them.” They provide her with food to eat and a place to stay, but they do not feel any emotional obligation to her. The exception to this is Bubeh, who loves Ruth.
Ruth’s mother’s family is not warm to her. Like her immediate family back in Suffolk, they provide her with the very basics she needs to survive — food, a place to sleep — but she still feels starved for love and affection, and doesn’t feel as though she is wanted or as though she fits in.
Bubeh is warm, funny, and “full of life.” She’s older and diabetic, and Ruth is constantly worried that she will go into diabetic shock. Ruth repeatedly wakes Bubeh up from naps to make sure she’s alive, and Bubeh always responds sweetly that she’s sleeping, not dead, but is happy to talk if something is wrong.
Bubeh is the one member of Ruth’s family who treats her the way family is expected to treat one another. Bubeh clearly loves Ruth, and is actually kind to her, offering her more than just the bare necessities.
Ruth’s Aunt Betsy lives with Bubeh. She can tell that Ruth is upset about something, and asks what is wrong. Eventually, Ruth breaks down and explains that she’s pregnant. Betsy doesn’t ask any more questions, but finds Ruth a Jewish doctor who can perform an abortion. The operation is painful and the doctor does not use anesthesia. After this, Ruth feels guilty for being a burden.
Ruth appreciates the help her Aunt provides her. Although Ruth’s mother’s family is not warm, they feel an obligation to help one another because they are all related. In this time of need, Ruth’s family proves reliable, if not particularly comforting.
As an adult, Ruth goes to Aunt Betsy again for help, but Betsy slams the door in her face. Ruth explains that she’s never felt bitter towards Betsy, because her mother’s sisters were just “trying hard to be American,” and as a result were focused more on money and their own hardships than on their extended families.
As an adult Ruth is cast out by her family, and when she approaches them for help in her middle age, they shut the door on her. However, instead of feeling resentful, Ruth understands that her mother’s sisters’ obligations were to themselves and their children, and that she, as a niece, didn’t deserve any kind of help from them.