Saturday, May 11, 2013

Say Goodbye, Ramona Quimby

 ‘"Guess what?”  Ramona Quimby asked one Friday evening when her Aunt Beatrice dropped by to show off her new ski clothes and to stay for supper…’  -Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

The weekend before I left for Saudi, I took my daughters to the Taichung People's Park to fly the panda kite one last time before saying goodbye.
 ‘“Ramona’s mother, father, and big sister Beezus, whose real name was Beatrice, paid no attention and went on eating.  Picky-Picky, the cat, meowed through the basement door, asking to share the meal…’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

Believe me, these are very strange times.  Lucky for me, I have some very strange people in my life.
 ‘Aunt Beatrice, who taught third-grade, knew how to behave toward her third-grade niece.  “What?” she asked, laying down her fork as if she expected to be astounded by Ramona’s news…’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

I had a debt hanging over my head, a debt that had to be paid, and I waited patiently for this little window of time where leaving wouldn't be so traumatic.
 ‘Ramona took a deep breath and announced, “Howie Kemp’s rich uncle is coming to visit…’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

It was August, 2012 and the plan was to spend a year in the Saudi desert, but with the agreement that I could return at the EID holiday for a week in November.  I was going to make enough money to pay off my debt and retire.
‘”Why that must be Hobart Kemp,” said Aunt Beatrice.  “He was in my class in high school.”  “Oh yes, I remember.  That boy with the blond curly hair who played baseball… all the girls said he was cute.”’   - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

But leaving was hard.  A horrible decision.  I second-guessed myself every day. 
 ‘”That’s the one,” said Aunt Bea.  “He used to chew licorice and spit on the grass to make the principal think he was chewing tobacco like a professional baseball player, which was what he wanted to be.’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

So when I went out to fly the panda kite that day... tried to let it go to the wind.
 ‘”Where’s this cute licorice-chewing uncle coming from, and how did he get so rich?” asked Ramona’s father, beginning to be interested.  “Playing baseball?”’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

I had been reading Berverly Cleary's Ramona Forever to my girls, stopping at this rich uncle, asking them to tell me three things they knew about him from the story.  The girls laughed, saying funny names in books mean interesting characters in life, that boys that spit licorice mean born trouble-makers, and the aunt saying he was cute means she wants to meet him again, many years later to see if he still catches her eye.  Yeah, I've taught these little inchworms well.
 ‘“He’s coming from,” Ramona frowned.  “I can’t remember the name, but it sounds like a fairy tale and has camels.”  Narnia?  Never-Never-Land?  No, those names weren’t right.  Saudi Arabia,” said Beezus, who also went to the Kemp’s after school.’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

So we went out to fly the kite and say goodbye.
 ‘“What’s Howie’s uncle doing in Saudi Arabia?” asked Mr. Quimby.  Besides spitting licorice in the sand...’  (Her father, who would earn his teaching credential in June…was inquiring around for schools that needed an art teacher, and he also told about the problems of the men who worked in the same frozen-food warehouse in the below freezing temperatures).’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

Maybe that's what we're always doing, saying hello and saying goodbye.
‘No more was said about Howie’s uncle that evening.  Days went by.  Uncle Hobart didn’t come and didn’t come.  Every evening Mr. Quimby asked, “Has Old Moneybags arrived?”  And Ramona had to say no…’  - Ramona Forever, by Beverly Cleary

That whole summer I had agonized about it, through Paris to London to Ireland and Scotland, I dreaded about it every hour of that trip...and now the time was here.  Walking out the door was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

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