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noting her oddlyshaped head and disproportional body. Ellen feels abnormal, which, to a large extent, she is, as her domestic life leaves her with no other choice. But, just as she has faith that she will someday find a loving family and a happy home, Ellen assures herself that with "a chest and hips," for which she has been "waiting for some time," she will grow to be attractive. Ellen's faith in herself is undying, for despite her many hardships, she is ever confident that she will escape the trauma of her childhood and live happily, though she knows not where, nor with whom.In the meantime, though, while she waits for this happy home and loving family to take her in, Ellen amuses herself by creating this idealized image of family on her own. She constructs the family and the home she so desires with the figures she finds in the mail order catalogs, and, when her hope for such a family is no longer fulfilled by this stretch of her imagination, Ellen moves on to join the Girl Scouts, a temporary, quasi-family for her to act as a member. But neither the catalog families nor the Girl Scouts can provide Ellen with the love or attention she needs and wants from her own, actual family. Ellen finds the "real" affection she seeks anywhere she can (for example, in the affection she feels for the teacher who lets her rub her back during nap time). Understandably, Ellen enjoys the physical tenderness of rubbing her teacher's back, as she can find it from no other source. This teacher also acts as somewhat of a living substitute for Ellen's deceased mother, exuding a maternal femininity and warmth that before Ellen could see only in her mother and now can find nowhere.Ellen, in a sense, takes on the role of her mother, adopting the responsibilities her father neglects. Ellen's father does not parent her, but, rather, Ellen serves as a parent to him: budgeting, paying the bills, caring for herself, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and performing other household chores. Clearly, Ellen is an extraordinary ten year old, who endures in spite of struggle. There is no doubt that Ellen loathes her father, namely for allowing her mother to die, though she is not vengeful and still cares for him as she would herself. This selflessness, so evident in her relationship with her father, reappears
later in the novel when Ellen must care for her mama's mama, who has fallen ill.Unlike most other ten year olds, Ellen does not believe in Santa Claus, and is glad not to, as she knows that relying on fantasies and hopes will most likely lead to disappointment and pain. Ellen has seen enough disappointment and pain and does not wish to bring more upon herself. Presumably, Ellen knows that there is no Santa Claus because, in Christmases past, she has received nothing. However, Ellen's undying optimism and hope prevail, as always, when she buys herself a few small gifts and then wraps and hides them, so that she may be surprised "in the spirit of Christmas" when she finds them the next morning. Selflessly, she even considers wrapping a gift or two for her father, who does not even