Beezus and Ramona
A Party at the Quimbys'
Saturday morning turned out to be cold and rainy. Beezus wiped the breakfast dishes for her mother and listened to Ramona, who was riding her tricycle around the house, singing, "Copycat, cappycot, copycat, cappycot," over and over at the top of her voice, because she liked the sound of the words.
Beezus and her mother finished the dishes and went into the bedroom to put clean sheets on the beds. "Copycat, cappycot," droned Ramona's sing-song.
"Ramona, why don't you sing something else?" Mother asked at last. "We've been listening to that for a long time."
"O.K.," agreed Ramona. "I'm going to have a par-tee," she asng. "I'm going to have a par-tee."
"Thank you, Ramona. That's better." Mother held one end of a pillow under her chin while she slipped the other end into a fresh case. "You know, that reminds me," she said to Beezus. "What would you like to do to celebrate your birthday next week?"
Beezus thought a minute. "Well . . . I'd like to have Aunt Beatrice over for dinner. She hasn't been here for such a long time. And I'd like to have a birthday cake with pink frosting." Beezus smoothed a fresh sheet over the bed. She almost enjoyed helping Mother when they could talk without Ramona interrupting all the time. The rain beating on the windows and Ramona's happy singsong made the day seem cozy and peaceful.
"All right, that's exactly what we'll do." Mother seemed really pleased with Beezus' suggestions. "It's a long time since we've seen Aunt Beatrice, but of course teachers always have a lot to do when school starts." Beezus noticed that Mother gave a little sigh as she smoothed her side of the sheet. "She'll probably have more time now that the semester has started and it really isn't long before Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. We'll see a lot of her then."
Why, Mother misses Aunt Beatrice too, thought Beezus. I belive she misses her as much as I do, even though she never says so.
Leaving Beezus with the new and surprising thought that grownups sometimes missed each other, Mother gathered up the sheets and pillowcases that had been removed from the beds and carried them to the basement. While she was downstairs the telephone rang. "Answer it, will you, Beezus," Mother called.
When Beezus picked up the telephone, a hurried voice said, "This is Mrs. Kemp. Do you mind if I leave Willa Jean when I bring Howie over this afternoon?"
"Just a minute. I'll ask Mother." Beezus called down to the basement stairs, repeating the question
"Why, no, I guess not," Mother replied.
"Mother says it's all right," Beezus said into the telephone.
"Thank you," said Mrs. Kemp. "Now I'll (Howie, stop banging!) have a chance to do some shopping."
Well, thought Beezus when she had hung up, things won't be quiet around here much longer. Howie, who was in Ramona's class at nursery school, was the noisiest little boy she knew, and he and Ramona often quarreled. Willa Jean was at the awkward age -- too big to be a baby and not big enough to be out of diapers.
"You know," said Mother, when she came up from the basement, "I don't remember telling Mrs. Kemp that Howie could come over this afternoon, but maybe I did. I've had so much on my mind lately, trying to get the nursery-school rummage sale organized."
After an early lunch Mother decided there would be enough time to wash everybody's hair before Howie and Willa Jean arrived. She put on her oldest dress, because Ramona always squirmed and got soap all over her. Then she stood Ramona on a chair, made her lean over the kitchen sink, and went to work. Ramona howled, as she always did when her hair was washed. When Mother finished she rubbed Ramona's hair with a bath towel, turned up the furnace thermostat so the house would be extra-warm, and gave Ramona two graham crackers to make up for the indignity of having her hair washed.
Then Beezus stepped onto the stool and bent over the sink for her turn. After Mother had washed her own hair and before she went into the bathroom to put it up in pin curls, she said to Beezus, "Would you mind getting out the vacuum cleaner and picking up those grahm-cracker crumbs Ramona spilled on the rug?"
Beezus did not mind. She rather liked running the vacuum cleaner if her mother didn't make a regular chore of it.
"I'm going to have a par-tee," sang Ramona above the roar of the vacuum cleaner. Then she changed her song. "Here comes my par-tee!" she chanted.
Beezus glanced out the window and quickly switched off the vacuum cleaner. Four small children were coming up the front walk through the rain. A car stopped in front of the house and three children climbed out. Two more were splashing across the street.
"Mother!" cried Beezus. "Come her, quick. Ramona wasn't pretending!"
Mother appeared in the living room just as the doorbell rang. One side of her hair was up in pin curls and the other side hung wet and dripping on the towel around her neck. "Oh, my goodness!" she exclaimed when she understood the situation. "That explains Mrs. Kemp's phone call. Ramona, how could you?"
"I wanted to have a party," explained Ramona. "I invited everybody yesterday."
The doorbell rang again, this time long and hard. There was the sound of many rubber boots jumping up and down on the porch.
"Mother, we just can't have a party with our hair wet," wailed Beezus.
"What else can we do?" Mother sounded desperate. "They're here and we can't very well send them home. Their mothers have probably planned to shop or something while we look after them."
Ramona struggled with the doorknob and managed to open the heavy front door. Mrs. Kemp stopped her car in front of the Quimbys', and Howie and Willa Jean hopped out. "I'll pick them up at four," she called gaily. "I'm so glad to have a chance to get out and do some shopping."
Mother smiled weakly and looked at all the children on the porch.
"Where do you suppose she found them all?" whispered Beezus. "I don't even know some of them."
"All right, children." Mother spoke firmly. "Leave your wet boots and raincoats on the porch."
"I've got a par-tee," sang Ramona happily.
Beezus, who had had plenty of experience with Ramona and her boots, knew where she was needed. She started pulling off boots and unbuttoning raincoats.
"What on earth shall we do with them on a day like this?" whispered Mother.
Beezus grabbed a muddy boot. "Hold still," she said firmly to its owner. "They'll expect refreshments," she said..
"I know," sighed Mother. "You'll have to put on your coat and run down to the market -- Oh, no, you can't go out in this rain with your hair wet." Mother tugged at another boot. "I'll have to see what I can find in the kitchen."
Beezus and her mother herded the wiggling, squealing crowd into the front bedroom and went to work removing sweaters, jackets, caps, and mittens. In between Beezus pulled three children out of the closet, dragged one out from under the bed, and snatched her mother's bottle of best perfume from another.
"All right, everybody out of here," Beezus ordered, when the last mitten was removed and her mother had hurried into the kitchen. "We'll go into the living room and . . . and do something," she finished lamely. "Ramona, bring some of your toys out of your room."
"Bingle-bongle-by!" shouted Howie, just to make some noise.
"Bingle-bongle-by!" The others joined in with great delight. It was such a nice noisey thing to yell. "Bingle-bongle-by," they screamed at the tops of their voices as they scampered into the living room. "Bingle-bongle-by."
Howie grabbed the vacuum cleaner, turned on the switch, and charged across the room. "I'll suck you up!" he shouted. "I'll suck everybody up in the vacuum cleaner!"
"Bingle-bongle-by!" shouted the others above the roar of the vacuum cleaner.
One little girl began to cry. "I don't want to be sucked up in the vacuum cleaner," she sobbed. Willa Jean, looking bulgy becayse of the diapers and plastic pants under her overalls, clung to a chair and wept.
Ramona appeared with her arms full of toys, but no one paid attention to them. The vacuum cleaner was much more fun.
"I want to push the vacuum cleaner," screamed Susan, who lived in the next block.
Ramona offered Susan her panda bear, but Susan did not want it. Ramona hit Susan with the panda. "You take my bear," she ordered. "This is my party and you're supposed to do what I say."
"I don't want your old bear," answered Susan.
Beezus tried to grab the vacuum cleaner, but Howie was too quick for her. The room was getting uncomfortably hot, so Beezus darted to the thermostat to turn down the heat. Then she dashed to the other side of the room and disconnected the vacuum cleaner at the wall. It died with a noisy groan. Suddenly everyone was quiet, waiting to see what would happen.
"Hey," protested Howie, "you can't do that."
Beezus frantically tried to think of some way to keep fifteen small children busy and out of mischief. At least, she thought there were fifteen. They didn't stand still long enough to be counted.
"Where's the party?" one little boy asked.
Ramona appeared with more toys, which she dumped on the floor. This time she brought a drum. Howie quickly lost interest in the vacuum cleaner and grabbed the drum. Beezus seized the vacuum cleaner and shoved it into the hall closet, while Howie began to beat the drum. "I'm leading a parade," he said.
"You are not," contradicted Ramona. "This is my party."
Susan snatched a pink plastic horn and tooted it. "I'm in the parade too," she said.
"I want to be in the parade! I want to be in the parade!" cried the others.
That was it! They could play parade! Beezus ran to the bedroom and found a whistle and a couple of horns left over from a Halloween party. What else could be used in a parade? Flags, of course! But what could she use for flags? Beezus thought fast. She gathered up two yardsticks and several rulars; then she ran to the front bedroom and snatched some of her father's handkerchiefs from a drawer. She had to move fast before the children grew tired of the idea.
"I want to be in the parade!" screamed the children."Mother, help me," cried Beezus.
Somehow Beezus and her mother got Father's handkerciefs tied to the sticks and distributed to the children who did not have noisemakers.
Howie banged the drum. "Follow me," he ordered, beginning to march. The others followed, blowing whistles, tooting horns, waving flags.
"No!" screamed Ramona, who wanted to boss her own party.
"You wanted a party," Mother reminded her. "If your guests want to play parade, you'd better join them."
Ramona scowled, but she took a flag and joined the parade rather than be left out entirely at her own party.
"Playing parade was a wonderful idea." Mother smiled at Beezus. "I hope it lasts."
"So do I," Beezus agreed.
"Bingle-bongle-by," yelled the flag wavers.
Howie led the paade, including a sulky Ramona, out of the living room, down the hall, through the kitchen and dining room, and back into the living room again. Willa Jean toddled along at the end of the procession. Beezus was afraid the parade might break up, but all the children appeared delighted with the game. Into the bedroom they marched and out again. Beezus opened the basement door. Down the steps Howie led the parade. Willa Jean had to go down the steps backwards on her hands and knees. Three times around the furnace marched the parade and up the steps again before Willa Jean was halfway down.
Beezus opened the door to the attic. Up the steps marched the parade. Stamp, stamp, stamp.
Beezus remembered something Ramona had enjoyed when she was still in diapers. She lugged Willa Jean up the basement steps, sat her in the middle of the kitchen floor, and handed her the egg beater. "There. Don't step on her," she said to her mother.
"Thank goodness," sighed Mother. "Maybe they'll play parade long enough for us to fix something for them to eat."
"What'll we give them?" Beezus asked.
Mother laughed. "This is a wonderful chance to get rid of all that applesauce. Let's hurry and get it ready before they get tired of their game. Get the colored paper napkins out of the cupboard and -- oh, dear, what shall we do for chairs?"
"They can sit on the floor," suggested Beezus, looking through the cupboard for napkins.
"I guess they'll have to." Mother took the applesauce out of the refrigerator. "If we put a couple of sheets down for them to sit on, maybe they won't get applesauce on the rug."
The parade trumped down the attic stairs and through the kitchen. "But Mother," said Beezus, when the drum and horns had disappeared into the basement again, "the only napkins I can find are for St. Valentine's Day and Halloween. They won't do."
"They'll have to do," said Mother.
Beezus spread two sheets in the middle of the living-room floor. Then she went into the kitchen to help Mother, who was tearing open three boxes of fig Newtons. "It's a good thing I bought these at that sale last week," she remarked.
"Are we going to give them lemonade or anything to drink?" Beezus asked.
"Not on my living-room rug," Mother rapidly spooned applesauce into the dishes. "Applesauce and fig Newtons are bad enough."
"Maybe if we feed them right away some of them will thing the party is over and go home." Beezus piled fig Newtons on two plates.
"I hope so. This many small children in the house on a rainy day is too much." The parade stamped across the attic floor again, and Mother had to raise her voice to make herself heard. "It sounds as if they were coming through the ceiling."
"Let's catch them the next time they come through the kitchen and hand out the aplesauce," Beezus shouted back. "Then maybe we can get them to march into the living room."
It was not long before Howie led the parade into the kitchen again. He stopped so suddenly that the children bumped into one another. "When do we eat?" he demanded.
"Now." Beezus thrust a dish of applesauce and a spoon into his hands.
"I want some," cried the others.
Mother handed a second child some applesauce. "Forward march!" she ordered.
Beezus led Howie into the living room, and the rest of the parade followed with their applesauce. "You sit there," she said to Howie, pointing to a place on the sheet. She was relieved to see the others seat themselves around the edge of the sheet. Quickly she handed around paper napkins.
"I want one with witches on it," demanded a boy who had a Valentine napkin.
"I want one with hearts on it," wailed a girl who had a Halloween napkin.
Beezus hastily counted the napkins. Yes, there were enough of each kind to go around. Two napkins apiece would be safer anyway. She handed each child a second napkin and they all began to eat their applesauce, except one little girl who didn't like applesauce. Ramona was beaming, because refreshments were the most important part of any part and now at last her guests were behaving the way she wanted them to.
Mother came out of the kitchen with the plates of fig Newtons, which she handed to Beezus. "Here, pass these around," she said. "I think I'd better help Willa Jean." Willa Jean knew how to eat with a spoon. The trouble was, she had to pick up the food with her left hand and put it into the spoon, which she held in her right hand. Then, most of the time, she was able to get it into her mouth.
Ramona, her face shining with happiness, looked at her friends sharing applesauce. "Those cookies are filled with worms. Chopped-up worms!" she gleefully told everyone.
"Why, Ramona!" Beezus was shocked. "They aren't either. They're filled with ground-up figs. You know that."
Ramona did not answer. Her mouth was full of fig Newtons.
Beezus passed the plate to a boy named Joey. "I don't like worms," he said.
"I don't like worms," said the next little girl, who had applesauce all over her chin.
Beezus noticed that Ramona was beginning to scowl. When Howie refused a cooky, it was too much for Ramona. "You eat that!" she shouted.
"I won't," yelled Howie. "You can't make me."
Ramona jumped up, spilling her applesauce on the sheet. She thrust a nibbled fig Newton at Howie. "You eat that," she repeated as she stepped into the applesauce. "It's my party and I want you to eat it!"
Howie knocked the cooky out of her hand. Ramona grabbed a handful of fig Newtons and thrust them at Susan. "Eat these," she shouted.
Susan began to cry. "They're full of worms," she sobbed. "I don't like worms."
"They're pretend worms," yelled Ramona.
"No, they're not," cried Susan. "They're real!"
"You eat these," Ramona yelled, thrusting her handful of cookies at the children, who backed away. Ramona stamped her feet and screamed. Then she threw the fig Newtons at her guests as hard as she could.
"My mother won't let me eat worms!" shouted a little boy.
Ramona threw herself on the floor and kicked.
"Ramona, stop that!" Mother appeared from the kitchen with Willa Jean balanced on one hip. She grabbed Ramona by one arm and tried to drag her to her feet, but Ramona's legs were like rubber.
"All right, Howie, forward march!" Beezus ordered, hoping to draw attention from Ramona. No one moved. It was much more fun to see what was going to happen to Ramona.
"This is my party! They're supposed to eat the refreshments!" Ramona howled, banging her heels on the floor.
"Ramona, you're acting like a two-year-old. You may go to your room and close the door until you can behave yourself," said Mother quietly.
Ramona kicked harder to show that she was not going to mind unless she felt like it.
"Ramona," said Mother even more quietly. "Don't make me count to ten."
Gasping with sobs, Ramona got up from the floor and ran into the bedroom, where she slammed the door as hard as she could.
"All right, parade," said Mother wearily. "Forward march."
Up and down, whistling, banging, tooting, marched the parade. Mother sat Willa Jean down and was just begining to gather up the dishes and sheets when a car stopped in front of the house and Mrs. Kemp got out. "At last," sighed Mother, hurrying to the door.
"I don't want to go home," protested Howie, when he saw his mother.
"The party must have been a success," Mrs. Kemp observed.
"It certainly was." Mother tried to push the uncurled side of her hair behind her ear and to smooth out her rumpled old dress.
"I like to play parade," said Howie, "but I didn't like what they had to eat."
"Why, Howie," scolded Mrs. Kemp. "We must remember our manners."
Ramona, her face streaked with tears, came out of her room and stood staring unhappily at her departing guests. When the last child had struggled into his boots, she looked tearfully at her mother. "I'm behaving myself now," she said meekly.
Mother dropped wearily into her chair. "Ramona, if you wanted a party, why didn't you ask me to have one?"
"Because when I ask you don't let me do things," explained Ramona, sniffing.
Beezus couldn't help feeling there was some truth in Ramona's remark. She had often felt that way herself, especially when she was younger. "Mother, did I do things like Ramona when I was four?" she asked.
"You did some of the things Ramona does now," said Mother thoughtfully, "but you were really very different. You were quieter, for one thing."
This pleased Beezus. One of the reasons she sometimes disliked Ramona was that she was never quiet when she could manage to be noisy.
"Of course there are some things that all four-year-olds do," Mother continued, "but even sisters are usually different. Just the way your Aunt Beatrice and I were different when we were girls. I was a bookworm and went to the library two or three times a week. She was the best hopscotch player and the fastest rope jumper in the neighborhood. And she was better at jacks than anybody in our whole school."
This surprised Beezus. She had never thought about her mother and aunt as children before. She tried to picture her schoolteacher aunt jumping rope and found to her surprise that it was not very hard to do. Of course Mother and Aunt Beatrice must have been very different when they were girls, because they were so different now that they were grown-up. And she was glad they were different. She loved them both.
"Did I have tantrums, too?" Beezus asked.
"Once in a while," said Mother. "I always dreaded cutting your fingernails, because you kicked and screamed."
Beezus could not help feeling silly. Imagine having a tantrum over a little thing like having her fingernails cut!
Then Ramona spoke up. "I don't cry when you cut my fingernails," she boasted.
"Yes, but you scream when you have your hair washed," Beezus could not help reminding her.
"Ramona," said Mother, "you were a very naughty girl this afternoon. What are we going to do with you?"
Ramona stopped sniffing and looked interested. "Lock me in a closet for a million years?" she suggested cheerfully.
Mother and Beezus exchanged glances. How quickly Ramona recovered!
"Make me sleep outdoors in the rain?" Obviously Ramona was enjoying herself. "Not let me have anything to eat but carrots?"
Mother laughed and looked at Beezus. "I'm afraid all we can do is wait for her to grow up," she said.
And when Mother said we like that, Beezus almost felt sorry for Ramona, because she would have to wait such a long time to be a grown-up.
If you notice any typos or spelling mistakes, or any errors at all, please e-mail me and let me know. I can't spot everything, and your help would be very much appreaciated. Thank you!
All characters and stories are copyright © 1955 by Beverly Cleary.