Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ramona and Her Mother

Lawsie mercy, this book is going to make a lot of people happy. It has soooo many good memories.

I went into this one with my hackles raised because, as we all know by now, I don't like Ramona's mom. She is a Beezus-lover and she's boring, both of which earn her a straight ticket to damnation in my book. It actually wasn't so bad, but Mrs. Quimby still is really lame.

Anyway, down to business. We opend on New Year's Day, which happens to be the day my adorable husband decided to bless this world with his presence 28 years ago. The Quimbys are all a-tizzy because they're having a New Year's brunch to celebrate Mr. Quimby's new job at the market. Ramona is a little stressed because Willa Jean is coming, so she hides all her toys and then decides that, to keep W.J. busy, she'll give her a box of Kleenex as a present. Awesome? Guests start to arrive and W.J. has an awesome new bear named Woger, after the milkman. Ooh, Mrs. Kemp, have you been spending some time in the bushes? Ramona wants to hold the bear, but since she's seven and a half, she thinks she's too old, so she starts looking for excuses to hold the bear without looking like she's holding the bear which seems mildly neurotic. Willa Jean and Ramona have to eat at the kids' table, which is totes a good thing. We used to BEG for a kids' table because when you sit at the grownups' table you have to behave, but my grandmother would never let us have one. Ramona does not see the benefit, though, and she is unhappy. Willa Jean starts bothering people so Ramona gives her her present. W.J. is stoked, but she doesn't want to let Ramona hold Woger so she makes one of the grown-ups hold him, then proceeds to pull out every tissue in the box of tissues and throw it all over the house, which is something Ramona's always wanted to do. Willa Jean proceeds to be a huge brat and ruin the party, and the Kemps proceed to not do jack about it because they are deadbeat parents who let their mean mother take care of their children. When all the guests are leaving - in a hurry, to get away from bratface Willa Jean - someone makes a remark to Mrs. Quimby about Beezus being 'her girl' (translation: lame) and Mrs. Quimby says she could never get along without Beezus. Ramona is jealous.

One day Ramona's mom is sewing and we get some foreshadowing as Beezus AW's that she's going to go wash her hair. You know, because they whole family needs to know that. Mrs. Quimby comments that she's only washed it two days ago and, ew? I wash my hair every day. I live in a city with pollution. I dont want to sleep with pollution-hair on my face every night. Anywhoo, Ramona decides she wants to sew, too, so she pulls out her stuffed elephant who is cleverly named Elly Funt. She decides to make pants. Mrs. Quimby tries to point out that this might be difficult but our girl will not be deterred, so instead of helping Ramona Mrs. Quimby goes back to her sewing and lets her youngest daughter set herself up for heartbreak. Of course the pants don't fit and Ramona gets sad. When she overreacts because of about ten million little worries she has on her mind her mom, once again showing her awesomeness, snaps at her to calm down. Ramona escapes to the bathroom to cry and spots - and economy size tube of toothpaste. SWEET! She's always wanted to squeeze out an entire tube of toothpaste, so she does, and she really goes to town, making toothpaste flowers and squiggles and whatnot. It's probably better than most modern art. (Disclaimer: I actually like and respect Andres Serrano and his work. This one was just a little over the top for me. Oh, and don't be offended. It's educational.) Beezus comes in and tattles, of course, and Ramona has to scoop all the toothpaste into a jar that she'll use until it's all gone. Gross.

In February Ramona has a bad day. Her parents start bitchfacing at her as soon as she coems into the kitchen, her teacher comments on her bad spelling in school, and Willa Jean is a brat at the Kemps' house that afternoon. Ramona and Howie escape to the basement where they build a boat. They use saws and hammers and stuff, which makes me cringe, but neither of them manages to cut off a finger or a toe. Thank God. They want to see if the boat will float so they fill up the laundry tub (?? This book was published in 1984. I was only three then, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure people had washing machines in the 80's.) The boat floats, but this is not enough excitement, so Ramona, spying a bottle of bluing (geez, this blog involves alot of things I've never heard of today) and climbs up to get it off a shelf. Unfortunately, she slips and spills bluing all over Howie and herself. Howie has blue hair and a blue face, Ramona has blue clothes and blue feet, and of course Howie's grandma is furious and blames Ramona. You know, because Ramona is seven and perfectly capable of making logical choices at all times without any direction from the adult her parents are paying to babysit her. They get back upstairs and Willa Jean has cut off Woger's leg because she wanted to see if there were any bones. Gah. Ramona's bad day continues when her parents are late to pick her up, the Kemps eat dinner in front of her without offering her any, and she's hungry. When her family finally shows, she thinks her day is definitely going to get better - there's crockpot stew waiting at home and she manages to not tell anyone about her blue feet right away. Sadly, when they get home, no one plugged in the crockpot, there's no food in the fridge, they have to make pancakes, and Mr. and Mrs. Quimby get into a sniping contest about whose grandmother was better. Yeah, really, that's what they fight about. Lame. It escalates to Mrs. Quimby swatting Mr. Quimby on the hiney with a pancake flipper and going to read the paper in the living room while he cooks. Doesn't sound too bad, but the girls are freaked out and Ramona sleeps in Beezus' bed that night. The next morning their parents are back to normal, probably having 'made up' real good the night before, and this makes the girls mad because they spent a sleepless night worrying about whether or not their parents were going to get a divorce. Aw. Ramona informs them that they are no longer allowed to fight, and they promise to try to comply.

That was actually two chapters, and it's one hell of a long paragraph. So long, in fact, that while you were reading it I went to Chipotle and got a vegetarian fajita burrito with extra guacamole. And then I died of ecstasy. And then I came back to life, and now we can continue this blog.

One Saturday morning Mrs. Quimby is cutting Ramona's hair and she's twitching her nose to get hair off of it. Her mom calls her a little rabit, and Ramona's imagination is off and running. She spends most of the rest of the book twitching her nose when she's happy and pretending to be a bunny, which is cute. Beezus bitchfaces about at-home haircuts which leads to what is probably the only time EVAR in one of these novels that I feel sorry for Mrs. Quimby. Beezus goes off on a rant about how she's tired of being sensible all the time and Mrs. Quimby informs bitchface Beezus that she, too is tired of being sensible all the time and that sometimes she wishes she could just sit on a cushion in the sunshine and blow the fluff off dandelions. Were you a hippy, Mrs. Quimby? Anyway, apparently life is hard when you are a working mother of two, struggling to make ends meet with basically no help from your husband. Aw, Mrs. Quimby, I feel your pain on at least one of those things. Anyway, the hair standoff continues for a few days until Beezus finally announces that she's saved up her allowance so that she can get her hair cut at the beauty school. Instead of asking if she's saved up enough money for gas to get there, too, which is what my sister-in-law would do, Mrs. Quimby agrees to drive her. This leads to one of my favorite memories in a Ramona book, and an exchange that made me uncomfortable with giving directions for the rest of my life:

Mrs. Quimby: 'Do I turn left'
Beezus: 'Right'
Mrs. Quimby turns right when Beezus meant 'that's right, you turn left.' Hilarity and carsickness ensue.

They get to the trade school and Beezus goes back to the little shop of horrors while Ramona and her mom wait. One of the students, who I'm guessing is bored, offers to cut Ramona's hair. Ramona gets an awesome pixie cut, which is something I've always wished I could pull off. Beezus, however, gets an awful cut, complete with hairspray and frosting, and is distraught over her old-lady hair and her wasted allowances. Wow. That really does suck, Beezus. Sorry. Fortunately when she gets home and washes her hair she looks normal again, which is lucky. Seriously. I think if Beezus had to be more lame than she is naturally, she would just explode into a big, squishy pile of lameness and never be heard from again.

One lovely evening, Ramona is hopping down the hall, pretending to be a bunny, when her mother notices that her pj's are too small. She gives Ramona a new pair, and by 'new pair' I mean NEW, BABIES, not handed down from Beezus or anything! Ramona is super stoked. The next morning she doesn't want to take them off to get dressed for school. Here is her train of logic that leads to the following decision:

1. When she was in Kindergarden, her class took a field trip to the fire department.
2. She got a plastic fire hat, which she liked a lot.
3. Firemen sleep in their underwear so that they can jump right into their clothes and save lives faster
4. Ramona doesn't sleep in her underwear, she sleeps in her pajamas.

That's right, kids, Ramona WEARS HER PAJAMAS UNDER HER CLOTHES TO GO TO SCHOOL. She pretends she's a fireman to rationalize it. This kid is awesome. I hereby bestow upon Ramona G. Quimby one win button.

For some reason, Ramona is hot in her many layers of clothing. Her teacher sends her to the principles office to get her temperature taken because she looks flushed, and Ramona uses the opportunity to fan herself out a little bit and fantasize about really being sick so she can go home and chillax. No temp, so she gets sent back to class. At recess, her teacher keeps her back and asks if there's anything Ramona would like to tell her. Ramona is embarrassed, but her teacher eventually coaxes the truth out of her and, to her credit, does not laugh and promises to keep the secret. She gives Ramona a paper bag and tells her to go take her pj's off and hide them in the bag. This creates some stress for Ramona because she is not wearing underwear. Um, I don't understand this. I always wear underwear, even with my pajamas. ESPECIALLY with my pajamas. You never know when there's going to be a fire, an earthquake, a car accident, or a sick baby that needs to go to the hospital. Underwear are very important in my life. Now, I'd take all my husbands' and burn them if I could, but that's another story and it's entirely inappropriate for a YA blog.

Ramona gets home and doesn't realize that she left her bag of pajamas at school until time to go to bed. She quickly gets into some old pj's and pulls the covers up tight around her neck so that no one will notice. The next morning she dresses in her closet and starts thinking that she might be able to get away with her deception for the weekend. After breakfast her father, in a fit of actually doing something for once, decides the house needs cleaning and assigns everyone chores. Beezus is vaccuuming and she chases Ramona behind the couch, where Ramona remains because she doesn't want to clean her room. Word. I don't want to clean my room either. The phone rings and Ramona overhears her mother having a conversation with her teacher. Furious that her ally has spilled her secret, Ramona has a tantrum, spitting out the whole story. It turns out that her teacher called about something else but, with her family laughing at her, Ramona feels no other recourse than to run away. She goes to her room to pack and is very hurt when her mom comes in with a suitcase to help her out. Taking this as a sign that her mother truly doesn't love her, Ramona watches miserably as her mom packs her skates, her doll, two bananas, her baby teeth, and various other things. When she goes, at last, to pick up her suitcase, she can't lift it. Realizing that her mom made it too heavy on purpose, and, giving Ramona a hug, she says the words Ramona has been waiting to hear this whole book: 'I couldn't get along without my Ramona." Aw. I choked up a little bit.

Oh, and by the way, Ramona's teacher called because she had noticed Ramona twitching her nose alot and was wondering if something was making her nervous. Mrs. Quimby admits that she and Mr. Quimby had noticed it too, Ramona fesses up to the whole rabbbit thing, and we have

The end.

Best. Ramona. Book. Ever. Especially the part about the pancake flipper.

7 comments:

dru-plus-spike said...

I remember this book so vividly, it's kind of insane. And if I weren't buying my own toothpaste nowadays, I'd want to squeeze out a whole tube in the sink.
The Kemps were so raised in a barn, who has someone over during dinner and then doesn't offer them anythin?

colleenn said...

I hated Willa Jean for cutting off Woger's leg. And I somehow knew what a laundry tub was, but I have no clue how I knew that. I never knew what bluing was though.

And I agree, the Kemps eating dinner in front of Ramona and not offering her any is crazy. That chapter where the crockpot wasn't plugged in and the parents fight used to really hit home for me. I could relate to being really scared about the argument, and about having no food and no money. That pancake flipper moment, where the dad slashes the mom's pancakes to prove that they're not done and then the mom swats the dad with the flipper scared me so much as a kid, but now as an adult I just find it cute and funny.

Also, that Runaway Train video used to make me cry so much when I was 9.

Fear Street said...

Ugh, I hate when parents favor one child over the others.

Oh poor Woger :(

ImSoNotHeather said...

I agree, best Ramona book ever (though it runs a close second to Ramona Forever for me). I always liked this one because I was kind of the Ramona to my Mom, and my older brother was the Beezus. I wanted to know she couldn't get along without me. Anyhow.

Once, as a kid, I had to stay at my baby-sitters house late, and they totally had dinner in front of me and offered me, like, a PB&J. So I always felt for Ramona there.

Love your blog. Love.

dru-plus-spike said...

Word, Colleen. Willa Jean was such a beastly child.
When I was little, I had no clue what blueing was either or pinking shears. But my house had a laundry tub, so I knew what that was.
Part of why I loved the Ramona books so much was because how tight money was for them. My mum was a single mum, and my stepdad was often laid off when she did remarried. It was really important reading about realistic people instead of princesses or rich girls.

MaybeSomeday said...

I hated Willa Jean. And poor, poor Woger.

This was the best Ramona book. If my kids ever threaten to run away, I'm turning to Mrs. Quimby for parenting advice!

kahran042 said...

Your husband was born on New Year's Day? That's pretty cool. My sister was born on New Year's Eve.