Can I call you Dorothy? Did you ever have any fun nicknames? Your sister often goes by Aunt Bea, so I wonder if you were ever Dot or Dory.
I’ve recently listened to almost all of the Ramona books with my five-year-old daughter, and while I love Ramona and Beezus, Howie, and even Picky-Picky, as a mom, my heart goes out to you.
I can’t help but be curious about the spacing of your children. Beezus is about five years older than Ramona, and then when the baby (Roberta) shows up in Ramona Forever, Ramona is eight. Did you suffer miscarriages? Were you super young when Beezus was born? As someone who crammed three kids in four a half years, I always wonder about those age gaps. I can’t help but assume Roberta was a surprise, given your family’s financial problems and Mr. Quimby’s job woes.
But maybe not. Maybe you were just longing for another little one as you watched your girls grow up. Many of us can relate to that feeling.
Speaking of those financial problems, I think most of us can relate. As an adult, I definitely connect with that part of the Ramona books: trying to scrape by and make ends meet. You go back to work part-time to help pay for the extension on the house, then full-time when Robert loses his job. You might not have loved that job at the doctor’s office, but it made life work.
There’s never a real time frame for Ramona and your family; the first book was published in the ’50s and the last one in 1999. Maybe that’s why they feel so timeless. Other than the lack of cell phones, everything feels like it could be happening now too. Ramona is sick at school. She hates going to a babysitter’s house. A father loses his job and goes back to school. And a mother tries to lead two (and then three!) daughters into womanhood — or at least get them through grade school.
As the mom of two daughters myself, I feel deeply for you.
My own five-year-old has never taken one bite out of each apple, but she has definitely sneaked ice cream out of the freezer and eaten it in her bedroom (and then lied until she was blue in the face). She hasn’t tried to wear her pajamas under her clothes to school, but she has worn pants she decided to cut decorative holes into (which I didn’t notice until we were in the car line). Just as Beezus navigates puberty, we’ve grown through mood swings and pimples and endless phone calls and hating parents. My own daughters are eight years apart, so although I have sons who fill in their age gap, I understand the difficulty of parenting two girls at vastly different stages.
I think often about the moment when Ramona decided she was going to run away from home and you loaded up her suitcase so full she couldn’t pick it up. Ramona thought you were perfectly fine with her leaving, but in the end realized a mother’s love is too heavy.
You were often tired and probably a lot exasperated, but you didn’t spend a lot of time yelling or lecturing; instead, you asked questions, guided, and taught lessons in interesting ways.
A lot of women might aspire to be the more fun Lorelei Gilmore, or the feisty but brim-full-of-love Molly Weasley, or maybe even strict and stoic but quietly adoring adoptive mother Marilla Cuthbert. But I hope to be a little more like you, Dorothy, Beverly Cleary’s portrait of a real, middle-class, hard working kind of mom. Not perfect, not sticky sweet, not overly strict, but present, available, and ready for a hug.