Counting by 7s - Chapters 45 - 48 Summary & Analysis

Holly Goldberg Sloan
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Summary

In Chapter 45, the sunflower seedlings begin to sprout. Quang-ha’s is bigger than the others. One day Willow finds a drawing of the plant that he has made depicting the sprout coming out of a man’s head. He lets her have it. She knows they’ll have to move the sunflowers soon but doesn’t mention it because she doesn’t like to talk about relocation. During dinner one night Willow thanks Pattie and the other for what they have done for her. She describes the reaction as if she’d pulled out a rotten fish. Quang-ha leaves the table.

Willow decides she isn’t physically fit. She notices how alive Dell looks when he comes back from running and wants to experience his feeling. She tells him she wants to start running with him. Mai decides to go along as well. At the Salvation Army store she gets a pair of hot pink running shoes that she doesn’t like but tries to pretend like she does.

Willow continues to help Quang-ha with his homework. She believes she has a natural teaching ability as she’s seen he’d gotten a 91 out of 100 on a recent pop quiz. Even the teacher is impressed. Meanwhile, she charts out a one-mile running course for herself, Mai and Dell. After trying the course the first time, Willow is surprised how out of shape she is. She can barely run six blocks without passing out, Dell and Mai have to walk with her back to the apartments. After this experience, she vows to exercise every afternoon from that point forward. As she struggles to keep up her routine, Willow believes she is making progress. She knows that exercise changes brain chemistry and wonders if that is what is happening with her.

In Chapter 46, Willow discovers there is dirt under the plastic and red rocks in the apartment courtyard. She tells the others she wants to plant her sunflowers there. Dell is against the idea. Mai tells them they should treat it as a community project and ask the bank that owns the building for permission to plant the flowers. Dell says he’s too busy to work with the bank so Willow says she will do it.

Jairo agrees to pick her up at the nail salon and take her to city hall the following day. Pattie tells Willow she’s happy Willow has a project. Willow doesn’t tell her how nervous the change in routine makes her. Jairo comes in the shop to meet Pattie. The two begin speaking in Spanish to each other. She gives Jairo her cell phone number in case there are any problems. Willow realizes Jairo is the only person Pattie has spoken to whom she hasn’t tried to boss around. On the way to city hall, Jairo tells Willow about his good fortune and that he planned to use the money to go to school. Once they arrive at city hall, Jairo calls Pattie to let her know they arrived okay.

Inside, Willow asks to review documents on file for building projects that had come before city council. The woman asks where Willow’s parents are to which Willow recites a poem by Williams. The woman directs her to the Office of Building and Safety where Willow speaks to a variety of different people. She learns that her plans for the garden don’t need to be submitted to city officials, but that she needs to make her proposal to the bank look professional. When she finishes, she’s afraid she might have given too much information. It’s the first project she’s done since before her parents’ death. She puts the proposal in Dell’s name and asks him to submit it. He balks but agrees when Mai enters the conversation.

In Chapter 47, a new court date has been set for Willow. Pattie wonders how the unusual child will fare in an adoption fair setting where prospective parents are supposed to mingle with adoptable children. During a shopping trip with her mother to the farmers’ market, Mai notices sunflowers growing in tubs. She remembers what Willow said about their flowers needing to be put in the ground so they could develop their root system.

In Chapter 48, not only does the bank approve Willow’s proposal, they also make Dell the building representative. When they begin on the project, Quang-ha suggests they give the rock away. Willow advertises the rock as being given out on a first come, first served basis. Four different people fight over the rock. Willow sends Dell down to mediate. After the rock is gone, they look at the hard packed dirt. Quang-ha points out that nothing will grow there. When the adults talk about how big the project has become, Willow wonders if they might be talking about her. When Willow looks at the plot the next morning, she realizes they need a Rototiller. Dell wants no part of the project. It is another tenant from the building, Otto Sayas, who motivates Dell by telling him that nothing will grow there.

Analysis

Willow, and the others around Willow, continue to compare their situation to a garden. When she and her mother are at a farmers market, Mai sees big tubs of sunflowers for sale. She remembers Willow telling her the sunflowers would need a place to put down good, solid roots. As Mai looks at these flowers she thinks that Willow, like the flowers, also needs a place to put down roots. Meanwhile, Willow takes charge of the garden project. It is the first one she’s started since her parents’ death, so her willingness to devote herself to such a big project is a sign that she’s beginning to heal. As the project progresses, stumbling blocks and hurdles are discovered. When the others talk about what a big project the garden is turning out to be, Willow wonders if she, like this garden project, is turning out to be a bigger job than anyone had imagined.

Willow can be compared to the sunflowers in more ways than one. Not only does she need a place she can put down roots, she, like the flowers, also may have to be relocated in order to put down those roots. When the flowers get big enough that they need to go outside, Willow is hesitant about talking about the needed move as she feels she’s also talking about her own move. For this reason, the sunflowers can be seen as a symbol for Willow and the situation she is in. They are growing and becoming healthy in the situation in which they are living, but can’t stay there forever. A change is coming for both the flowers and for Willow.

Notice also in this section that Dell seems to be motivated by people saying that something can’t be done. For instance, in an earlier chapter when Sadhu had told Willow the three computers for which Willow asked were junk, Dell stands up for the girl saying that one person can find treasure in another’s junk. In the garden project, Dell has balked from the beginning. He doesn’t want to get involved until a resident in the complex tells Dell and the others they are wasting their time trying to get anything to grow in the rock hard dirt of the courtyard. These words of discouragement seem to have the opposite effect on Dell as they make him want to put effort into the project.

Discussion Question 1

Discuss the meaning of the poem that Willow recites for the woman at city hall.

Discussion Question 2

Consider the reaction that Willow perceives the family has when the thanks them for what they have done for her. Do you think their reaction meant what she thought it did? Why or why not?

Discussion Question 3

How significant is it that Willow has taken on a project to beautify the apartment complex in which she now lives?

Vocabulary

germination, regime, distillation, phenomenon, pungent, bureaucracy, communal, visceral, palindrome

This section contains 1,354 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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