It was Friday afternoon that social media first alerted me to the fact that a National Treasure among children’s authors, Beverly Clearly, had passed away at the very impressive age of 104. I can’t help but to feel that the mind behind such an amazing and interesting character as Ramona Geraldine Quimby simply needed more time on this planet than most people because the average human life expectancy was simply not enough time for her to fit in so much fun.
I still remember reading the Ramona books as a child, around the third grade or so when I was the perfect age for Romana Quimbly, Age 8 and Ramona Forever. The Ramona books were fun and grounded in a reality because Cleary had a very special empathy for what it was like to be a kid especially, as your family navigated issues and changes both big and small. Decades after the first Ramona book was published, kids still flock to these books, even if certain aspects date them just a touch, because at their core they never stopped being about how life felt as a kid.
I don’t think I ever appreciated them as much as when I became a parent.
A, our older son, listened to the audiobooks fondly and read each of the books at least once. They are calming stories to him and we often use the phrase “Henry Huggins” haircut to describe why he needs to remain still for haircuts. To those of you who may not remember, Mrs. Huggins gave poor Henry a hack job of a hair cut after buying a hair trimmer on sale because she was convinced she could do it herself. He likes the stories still for something nice and calming. Romana’s adventures were also particularly helpful in helping A understand when our family cat died of old age much like Picky-Picky did in Ramona Forever.
W, our younger son, latched onto the Ramona audiobooks like no one’s business. It didn’t take too long for us to figure out why. In our house, W is the Ramona of the family. He is the younger sibling by several years, he is creative, enthusiastic, and about 20 lbs of spunky personality in a 5 lb bag. He loves to chat, he loves to ask “why,” and sometimes it’s just so hard for him to be the younger brother or to not be understood by grown-ups. Sometimes I feel as a parent that I understand what is going on in W’s head better than I might have because of Ramona. There’s been many times that I have explained why something is so frustrating for W to A by saying “it’s just like with Ramona.” W has just about hit the right reading level to read the books on his own for the first time, and I am excited for him to get that experience.
So while the last Ramona book came out in 1999, and Beverly Cleary has left us, I still feel like the essence of Ramona Quimby is very much alive in our house today. It just exists in the spunky personality of our first grader.