Growing Up With the Quimbys
Tedious math problems were put on
Hiatus as we settled down
As our teachers bade us — We,
Nascent adventurers, listening deep, for all of the news from
Yearning to live in Portland’s
Oasis — that sweet little street held childhood in stasis,
Until school tugged us onward, however unjust,
Beguiled, we moved forward, into new worlds thrust.
Essentially, all kids grow at their own pace; we’re
Valiant some days and others
Erase every sign of maturing,
Resist every nudge. Embrace what we hated, and
Loathe what we loved…
Yet, somehow, we did it. We failed and we tried, and
Candid – and callow – took life in our stride. Became
Long-legged teens, with all that implied!
Elusive, those child-spaces bright with sunshine
And limited, privileged childhoods defined, but
Rambunctious Ramona — and her kith and kin — a
Youth filled with innocence gives us again.
I’m not the only one who wanted to live with the Quimbys, I’m sure, but I was probably one of the most quietly rabid. I hid my Uncle Sly’s smokes in the sandbox when I was little; I would have been all over helping Ramona’s dad quit. Sure, Beezus was a pain, but she was the mild version of an older sister; I had two and I can tell you that her little piques and pains were nothing to what I put up with. I loved Henry; I wanted a paper route, an ice-cream eating dog, a mouse called Ralph, motorcycle, and a cat named Socks (and lobbied hard to rename our cat that, but no, my boring family called her TC. Yes. The poor thing’s name was “That Cat.” *throws up hands*). Additionally, I wanted to take ballet, be a bridesmaid and turn fifteen and wear a crinoline. In short, my confused self wanted to live in 1950-something with the Cleary characters, not realizing until I was much older how heinous that would have been for me. Still, there’s a universality and timelessness in Mrs. Cleary’s work which, though almost entirely (? correct me if I’m wrong, here) about privileged white kids, their lives, and the lives of their pets, nonetheless spoke to what diversity she saw and understood at that time. I loved hearing my teacher read these books aloud in grade school, and will keep the work and worlds of Beverly Cleary as a bright spot of childhood memories.