“You’ve inspired me,” Sister #2 said, waving Max’s copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at me. I had invited myself over for dinner.
A few months ago I decided to include childhood favorites as a part of my 2010 reading plan, and Tales was one of the first books I revisited.
Last night I left Sister #2’s house with Beezus and Ramona and Ramona the Pest, borrowed from my 12-year-old niece Jaycie. Incidentally, these are books I bought her for Christmas when she was six or seven, about the time she became obsessed with chapter books.
I was eager to dive into these classics. Last year on Beverly Cleary’s birthday, I reminisced about how much her books meant to me. I wrote:
Oh thank you Beverly Cleary. While Judy Blume taught me a lot about life, you were the first person to show me how books can mirror real life and what a comfort that can be. It was through Beezus and Ramona that I first discovered I am not alone and that has been a comfort throughout my life.
Today as I raced to the end of Beezus and Ramona tears fell from my eyes. In the story, Ramona has ruined not one, but two of Beezus’ birthday cakes. Beezus is bereft, sure her birthday will be cakeless and ruined thanks to her bratty sister.
But then Aunt Beatrice arrives — Aunt Beatrice of the cool car and the fun career and the awesome gifts. Aunt Beatrice is the recipient of Beezus’ unconditional love. Unlike Mother who is distracted, Father who is mostly absent, and Ramona who is obnoxious, Aunt Beatrice is the embodiment of adult sophistication and understanding. Aunt Beatrice saves the day with a beautiful store-bought cake. Aunt Beatrice gives Beezus a beautiful sewing box.
It was right around the opening of the sewing box that I really lost it. See, I bought my own beloved niece, the niece who longs to be a fashion designer, a beautiful sewing box for Christmas.
Even though the scene was kind of light-hearted with Aunt Beatrice and Beezus’ Mother discussing how rotten they were to each other as children, I cried through the last pages of the books. I closed the cover and continued to cry.
I cried because as a childless woman my niece and nephews mean the entire world to me. I cried because sometimes being the spinster aunt I forget the role I am playing in their life. I cried because thirty-years after I first read Beverly Clearly and she taught me about sisters, I was learning something wholly new.
And I cried because of the beauty and wonder that can be found in books and how once again Beverly Cleary has taught me that I am not alone and that will continue to be a comfort to me.