Some people have a soundtrack for their life. I have a book shelf. (Fine, I have a soundtrack too, but right now we’re talking about books.) The shelf marked “Elementary School” is full of Beverly Cleary books. I read them all. I cannot remember a single disappointment.
My favorite character was far and away Ramona Quimby. I adored Ramona. I wanted to be her. I might have been just a little bit.
All her life she had wanted to squeeze the toothpaste really squeeze it,not just one little squirt…The paste coiled and swirled and mounded in the wash basin. Ramona decorated the mound with toothpaste roses as if it was a toothpaste birthday cake. ~ Ramona and Her Mother
I have an older sister who was perfect, just like Beezus. I was always doing or saying the things other people wanted to do or say, but somehow knew better. I still suffer from that. I am constantly confused why things don’t go the way I intended. Why can’t people see what’s so obvious to me? And I named a poor dog Skit Beatrice Jackson when I was about 8. My mother is still making Chevrolet-as-a-doll-name jokes.
But mostly Ramona looked like me. She had plain brown, completely straight hair. She was too skinny, with chicken legs. She wore hand-me-down clothes. She was pretty enough to pass, but nothing to get excited about. Welcome to my mirror.
But what she lacked in beauty, she made up for in gumption. That was something I could accomplish. I could get things done.
She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next. ~Ramona the Pest
I think every kid needs a Ramona, some character in a book who speaks to her. Somebody in this world, even the world of make-believe, that understands what it’s like to be her.
That’s when everything starts to get better. That’s how life seems survivable. That’s how you get through the tyranny of middle school. You know that somewhere Ramona Quimby feels just as wretched as you do over the insult of a weird name.
“Didn’t the people who made those license plates care about little girls named Ramona?” ―Beverly Cleary
This week was the book fair at my son’s school. His current obsessions are Lego books and comic books. Grandparents bought some of the books on his wish list when they were here for Grandparents Day. I went over later and picked up the rest of the books on the list. It’s my own personal weak spot. I’ll buy that child all the books he wants.
Before bedtime, we read the Chima encyclopedia. Don’t ask. It’s not the slightest bit interesting to me, but Jackson is enthralled. He gets lost in all of it for hours at a time. And that’s how it should be. He needs a Ramona too.
You can say anything you want about my parenting, and I’m probably guilty of it. But my son loves to read. And I really think that’s enough to get him through life.
Who’s your Ramona? If you don’t have one, don’t worry. The public library is open every day of the week. Go explore and find her. I promise, she’s there.