Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary

"Rainy Sunday afternoons in November were always dismal, but Ramona felt this Sunday was the most dismal of all.  Even lunch, leftovers Mrs. Quimby had wanted to clear out of the refrigerator, had been dreary, with her parents, who seemed tired or discouraged or both, having little to say and Beezus mysteriously moody.  Ramona longed for sunshine, sidewalks dry enough for roller-skating, a smiling happy family."

Yesterday, Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old.  When I begin to think about what this author has meant to my family I feel like slamming my computer shut, flinging myself on my bed, burying my face in my pillow to weep, and then woefully looking up to whisper, "Thank you, Beverly."  I'm sorry. This is just where I am at right now and this is how much she means to me. Thank you for not glossing over the hardships of life. Thank you for not avoiding the difficulties of growing up. Thank you for making it okay to be upset.  Our family reaches for her books like we reach for our warmest blanket on cold and cloudy day.

When my mother died the pain and loss I felt immediately would be nothing compared to the waves of loneliness to be faced as I raised my children without her gentle guidance.  It was/is difficult for me to put the challenges of child rearing into their proper place without her.  Everything can feel like a mountain instead of a molehill.  It's not an exaggeration to say that Beverly Cleary helped fill my void.  Her books are as much about parenting as they are about what it's like to be a child.  In Beezus and Ramona I read about how Ramona scribbles her name on every single page of a library book. And so when one of my own children did this, I knew to smile inwardly before marching them back to the library desk.  I read of Ramona hiding from Beezus in the basement next to a pile of apples with one bite taken out of each and I know that when my own child hides and commits a similar foul that I have seen this all before.  If Mrs. Quimby can disallow Beezus from spending the night at a friends house only to come home grumpy and tired then by golly I know that I too can stand my ground.  "There are four people in the family, and she has no right to make the whole day disagreeable for the rest of us because she has been up half the night giggling with a bunch of silly girls.  Besides a growing girl needs her rest."  Hoorah, Mrs. Quimby.
I remember sitting on the couch with my mother as she read aloud, Ramona the Pest to my sister and me. I remember impatiently waiting for her to stop laughing so she could finish reading the part when Ramona asks her Father to turn on the, "Dawnzer."   I remember wondering why she thought it was THAT funny.  Now I know why she thought it was that funny.  A few years ago I was going through my mother's books and came across, A Girl From Yamhill, Beverly Cleary's first autobiography.  It felt like a sign.  Could it be that when my mom was raising us she depended upon Beverly Cleary for the same kind of therapy that it brought me? I began to read it.  I relished every page.  Beverly's mother always told her to, "make it funny" in regards to her writing.  Boy, did she nail that and then some.
Beverly Cleary is an honorary member of our family. As is Ramona and Howie and Willa Jean and Henry and Ellen and Beezus and even Susan Snoozin' with the boing-boing curls. We empathize with Ramona who must endure Mrs. Kemp's house and we secretly cheer her on when she crumples Susan's owl and flees.  What guts she has.  What spunk we all aspire to.  
We love you, Beverly Cleary.


Anonymous said...

I just love love this, thanks for sharing these lovely thoughts. I've been thinking a lot about good old Ellen Tibbitts and Fifteen, but this definitely reminded me I need to go back to Romona, it's been far too long.


Emily said...

Oh Melinda, thank you... I reread Fifteen after your reminder this last fall and was swept off my feet again. Thank you my friend.

erin said...

beautiful...sending you thoughts and love

Emily said...

Thank you!