A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Book 5, Chapters 55 - 56
Francie works for the last time as an operator and gets ready to start college at the University of Michigan in the Fall. Grandma Rommely has died and Willie Flittman has run away from Aunt Evy to work on his one-man band. Francie thinks about the past years:
"But, then, so many things seemed like dreams to her. That man in the hallway that day: Surely that had been a dream! The way McShane had been waiting for mother all those years - a dream. Papa dead. For a long time that had been a dream but now papa was like someone who had never been. The way Laurie seemed to come out of a dream - born the living child of a father five months dead. Brooklyn was a dream. All the things that happened there just couldn't happen. It was all dream stuff. Or was it all real and true and was it that she, Francie, was the dreamer?" Chapter 55, pg. 467
Ben tells her that the Midwest is a good place for her to explore her intellect. Katie agrees. However, Francie loves that she belongs somewhere: Brooklyn. Ben also tells Francie that in five years he wants to marry her if she is willing. He is amazing, but he is not Lee. Francie wonders about him, whether he is alive or dead. She knows that Ben is the one for her despite her passionate feelings about Lee. She wants him to need her above all else.
Katie gets ready for her wedding. She gives Evy $200 of the $1000 McShane gives to her for her wedding present, because that is the sum Evy would have collected from Willie's life insurance. They believe him to be dead. Francie visits all the places of her youth: the library, Carney's junk store, her old school, the closed McGarrity's pub. She put all her belongings in a box: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, one diploma, four stories, Johnny's barber shop cup, the photograph from her confirmation, and her library card. She plans to reopen them in 1967, fifty years from that date. Neeley runs home to say goodbye to Francie before she leaves for college. He teases her about her looks, knowing secretly that he is extremely handsome and talented. "So like papa...so like papa, she thought. But he had more strength in his face than papa had had." Chapter 56, pg. 481. She and Ben go to a play on their last night together before he leaves for college. She gets ready in front of the window and looks out at a ten year old girl named Florry Wendy. Florry reminds Francie of herself when she was a little girl. The tree that grew in the yard has been cut down. A new tree grows in its place.
"A new tree had grown from the stump and its trunk had grown along the ground until it reached a place where there were no wash lines above it. Then it had started to grow towards the sky again. Annie, the fir tree, that the Nolans had cherished with waterings and manurings, had long since sickened and died. But this tree in the yard - this tree that men chopped down...this tree that they built a bonfire around, trying to burn up its stump - this tree had lived!" Chapter 56, pg. 483