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Summary On graduation day, Sissy accompanies Francie to her school, while Katie goes to Neeley's graduation. When the play is presented, Francie again wishes it had been her play that was chosen; she feels the one she is watching is weak and inferior to her own.
After the graduation ceremony, she goes back to her classroom to pick up her report card and autograph book. There is a custom that the graduates will have flowers placed on their desks by family members or friends. Francie, of course, does not expect to find a bouquet on her desk and is totally amazed when she finds two dozen dark roses. She quickly looks at the card, which reads, "For Francie on graduation day. Love from Papa." Sissy tells Francie that her father had given her the card and money for the flowers a year ago, for he wanted to make certain that she would have flowers in case something happened to him or he forgot. Francie breaks down when she hears this explanation. When she is again calm, she bids farewell to her teachers and her friends, who write nice autographs in her book.
At home, Katie congratulates her son on his grades, even though he has made only Bs and Cs. When she looks at Francie's report card, which contains all As and one C, Katie ignores the As and criticizes Francie for the C that she received in English. Then Katie, Evy, Sissy, and the children go to the ice-cream parlor for a celebration party. When the check arrives, each of them watches Katie, wondering if she would tip the waiter. When she does, the children are pleased, but Sissy says it is a silly thing to do.
Katie thinks about the future. She wonders where Neeley and Francie will be able to find real, permanent jobs. She also thinks about Sergeant McShane, whose wife is now very sick. Finally, she is forced to think about Francie growing up, for a boy asks her out for a date, and Katie gives her consent.
Graduation day is a very important one for the entire family. Katie is especially excited, for she has always dreamed on her children completing their education. Even when times were tough, she never considered letting the children quit school in order to work. Although she is not surprised, Francie is disappointed because her mother chooses to go to Neeley's graduation rather than her own. She is at least glad, however, that Sissy will go with her.
The roses on her desk are a special treat for Francie, for she never expected to receive flowers. When she learns that they are from her father, she is particularly touched and pleased. Although the reader questions whether Johnny really gave Sissy the money for them, Francie never questions it. At least Sissy understands the special relationship that Francie had with Johnny and wants the deceased father to be a part of Francie's special day.
Katie's criticism of Francie's grade of C in English hurts Francie, especially since she ignores all the other As and praises Neeley for his Bs and Cs. Francie, however, has learned to deal with Katie's favoritism in a mature way and refuses to let it spoil her day. The reader understands that Katie expects more of Francie than Neeley, for she is a brighter child.
The celebration at the ice cream parlor is a rare treat for Francie and Neeley. When Katie also leaves a tip for the waiter, the children are pleased. When Sissy criticizes the action, Katie explains, "For once I wanted us to feel like millionaires. And if twenty cents can make us feel rich, it's a cheap price to pay." This reasoning is a flashback to the times when she used to let the children pour their coffee down the sink in a wasteful way.
Katie's thoughts about the future are significant. She worries about the children getting good jobs. She also thinks about Sergeant McShane, revealing for the first time that she has some interest in him, even though she does not consider herself good enough for him. Finally she is forced to think about Francie growing up when she is invited by a young man to go on her first date.