The Great Gilly Hopkins: the kids, the neighborhood, what I was not

The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson. 1978.

When I was eight or so, I had to spent a lot of time at my great-grandparents’ house. It was a tiny, tumbledown thing with low ceilings. My Papaw and Mamaw didn’t move much. Neither did their faces. Mamaw had Alzheimer’s, so you couldn’t blame her; she mainly nodded and swayed in her towel-draped chair. Papaw was fine; his face was just set like that. He had the color and scowl of a cigar-store carving. He was not unkind, but he had little to say to me, or to anyone, and I did not know what to do with myself while I was there with my father.

The house had almost no privacy, and certainly no cable. If the weather was nice, I might go in the little backyard, and find some blackberries in season, but there was no seat and no shade. There was Mama-cat, who often lay in the driveway, but she had other local responsibilities, and she didn’t care to be much company. I wasn’t allowed to walk through the neighborhood, but I could see that there were children in the yard of the house across the street, and I wondered if I could make friends. Not those kids, I was told. Those are foster kids. They’re mean. One of them’s retarded. I’d leave them alone if I was you.

This place was where I imagined the world of Gilly Hopkins. Continue reading