Beezus and Ramona
When Beezus came home from school on the afternoon of her tenth birthday, she felt that so far the day had been perfect -- packages by her plate at breakfast, a new dress to wear to school, the whole class singing "Happy Birthday" just for her. But the best part was still to come. Aunt Beatrice was coming to dinner.
Beezus could hardly wait to tell her aunt about acting the part of Sacajawea leading Lewis and Clark across the plains to Oregon at a P.T.A. meeting. And of course Aunt Beatrice would bring more presents -- very special presents, because she was Aunt Beatrice's namesake. And at dinner there would be a beautiful cake with ten cnadles. Mother had probably worked all afternoon baking and decorating the cake and now had it hidden away in the cupboard.
When Mother kissed Beezus she had said, "I'm sorry, Beezus, but I'll have to ask you to keep Ramona out of the kitchen for a while."
"Why?" asked Beezus, thinking her mother was planning a surprise.
"So I can bake your birthday cake," Mother explained.
"Isn't it baked yet?" exclaimed Beezus. "Oh, Mother."
"This has been one of those days when I couldn't seem to get anything done," said Mother. "It was my morning for the nursery-school car pool. After I picked up all the children and drove them to nursery school and came home and did the breafast dishes and made the beds, it was time to pick up the children and take them all home again. And after lunch I started the cake and had just creamed the sugar and butter in the electric mixer when I was called to the telephone. When I came back, what do you think had happened?"
"What?" asked Beezus, pretty sure Ramona had something to do with it.
"Ramona had dropped all the eggs in the house into the batter and had started the mixer," said Mother.
"Shells and all?" asked Beezus, horrified.
"Shells and all," repeated Mother wearily. "And so I had to get out the car again and drive to market and buy more eggs."
"Ramona, what did you have to go and do a thing like that for?" Beezus demanded of her little sister, who was playing with her doll Bendix.
"To see what would happen," answered Ramona.
She doesn't look a bit sorry, thought Beezus crossly. Spoiling my birthday cake like that!
"Don't worry, dear. There's still pleanty of time to bake another," said Mother. "If you'll just keep Ramona out of the kitchen, I can get it into the oven in no time at all."
That made Beezus feel better. At least she would have a birthday cake, even if it did mean looking after Ramona for a while.
"Read to me," Ramona demanded. "Read about Big Steve."
"I'll read to you, but I won't read that book," said Beezus, going to the bookcase. She really wanted to read one of her birthday books, called 202 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon, but she knew Ramona would insist on a story. "How about Hänsel and Gretel?" she asked. Next to stories with lots of noise, Ramona liked stories about witches, goblins, or ogres.
"Yes, I like Hänsel and Gretel," agreed Ramona, as she climbed on the davenport and sat Bendix beside her. "O.K., I'm ready. Now you can begin."
Beezus curled up at the other end of the davenport with Grimm's Fairy Tales. "Once upon a time . . ." she began, and Ramona listened contentedly. When she did not have to make noises like machinery Beezus enjoyed reading to Ramona, and this afternoon reading aloud was particularly pleasant, with Mother in the kitchen baking a birthday cake. As Beezus read she listened to the whir of the mixer and the sound of eggs being cracked against a bowl.
Beezus read about Hänsel's leaving a trail of crumbs behind him as he and Gretel went into the woods. She read the part Ramona liked best, about the witch's trying to fatten Hänsel. Ramona listened wide-eyed until Beezus came to the end of the story, where Gretel pushed the witch into the oven and escaped through the woods with her brother.
"That's a good story," said Ramona, as she jumped down from the davenport.
Surprised that Ramona didn't demand another story, Beezus picked up 202 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon and began to read. She was learning how to make a necklace out of beans and pumpkin seeds painted with fingernail polish when a lovely sweet vanilla fragrance began to fill the house, and Beezus knew her birthday cake was safely in the oven at last.
Ramona's unusual silence made Beezus glance up from her book. "Ramona!" she cried, when she saw what her little sister was doing. "Stop that right away!"
Ramona was busy pulling graham-cracker crumbs out of the picket of her overalls and sprinkling them across the rug. "I'm Hänsel leaving a trail of crumbs through the woods," she said, digging more crumbs out of her pocket. "My father is a poor woodcutter."
"Oh, Ramona," said Beezus, but she had to giggle at the picture of Father as a poor woodcutter.
Ramona sprinkled more crumbs on the rug, and Beezus knew she had to do something about it. "Why don't you pretend you're Gretel?" she suggested, because Gretel would not leave crumbs on the rug.
"O.K.," agreed Ramona.
That was easy, thought Beezus, and went on reading about making a compleat set of doll furniture out of old milk cartons. How good her birthday cake smelled! She hoped Mother would remember she had asked for pink frosting. She heard the oven door open and close. Mother must be peeking into the oven to see how my cake is coming along, she thought.
Beezus read on, absorbed in the directions for making a vase out of an old tomato-juice can. Something smells fully, she thought as she turned a page. Then she stopped and sniffed. The air was no longer filled with the lovely warm fragrance of a baking cake. It was filled with a horrid rubbery smell. That's funny, thought Beezus. I wonder what it can be. She sniffed again. Maybe somebody was burning trach outside and the smell was coming in through the window.
Mother came into the living room from the bedroom. "Beezus, do you smell something rubbery?" she asked anxiously.
"Yes, and it smells awful," said Beezus. Ramona held her nose.
Beezus went into the kitchen, where she found the smell so strong it made her cough. "It's worse in here, Mother," she called, as she looked to see if anything was burning on the stove. Then Beezus remembered the oven. "Mother," she said in a worried voice, "you don't suppose something has happened to my birthday cake again?"
"Of course not," said Mother, coming into the kitchen and opening the window. "What could happen to it?"
Just to be sure, Beezus cautiously opened the oven door. "Mother!" she cried, horrified at what she saw. "Look!" Ramona's rubber doll, Bendix, leaned over the edge of the cake pan, her head and arms buried in the batter. Her dress was scorched to a golden tan. "Oh, Mother!" repeated Beezus. Her birthday cake, her beautiful, fragrant birthday cake, was ruined.
"Is the witch done yet?" Ramona asked.
"Ramona-" began Mother and stopped. She couldn't think of anything to say. Silently she turned off hte oven and, with a pot holder, pulled out the doll and the remains of the cake.
"Ramona Geraldine Quimby!" said Beezus angrily. "You're just awful, that's what you are! Just plain awful. Spoiling your own sister's birthday cake!"
"You told me to pretend I was Gretel," protested Ramona. "And Gretel pushed the witch into the oven."
Beezus looked at the cake and burst into tears. Ramona promptly began to cry. This made Beezus even angrier. "You stop crying," she ordered Ramona furiously. "It was my birthday cake and I'm the one that's supposed to be crying."
"Girls!" said Mother in a tired voice. "Ramona, you have been very naughty. You know better than to put anything into the oven. Now go to your room and stay there until I say you can come out."
Sniffing, Ramona started toward the bedroom.
"And don't dare put your toys on my bed," said Beezus. "Mother, can you fix the cake?"
"I'm afraid not." Mother poked at the cake with her finger. "It's falen, and anyway it would probably taste like burnt rubber."
Beezus tried to brush the tears out of her eyes. "Ramona always spoils everything. Now I won't have any birthday cake, and Aunt Beatrice is coming and it won't be like a birthday at all."
"I know Ramona is a problem but we'll just have to be patient, because she's little," said Mother, as she scraped the cake into the garbage can. "And you will still have a cake. I'll phone your Aunt Beatrice and have her bring one from the bakery."
"Oh, Mother, will you?" asked Beezus.
"That's what I'll do," said Mother. "Now run along and wash your face and you'll feel better."
But as Beezus held her face cloth under the faucet she was not at all sure she would feel better. For Ramona to spoil one birthday cake was bad enough, but two . . . Probably nobody else in the whole world had a little sister who had spoiled two birthday cakes on the same day.
Beezus scrubbed away the tear stains, feeling more and more sorry for herself for having such a little sister. If Ramona were only bigger, things might be different; but since she was so much younger, she would always be . . . well, a pest. Then the terrible thought came to Beezus again -- the thought she had had the time Ramona bit into all the apples and the time she shoved the dog into the bathroom. She tried not to think the thought, but she couldn't help it. There were times when she did not love Ramona. This was one of them. Everyone knew sisters were supposed to love each other. Look how much Mother and Aunt Beatrice loved each other. Beezus felt very gloomy indeed as she dried her face. She was a terrible girl who did not love her little sister. Like a wicked sister in a fairy tale. And on her birthday, too, a day that was supposed to be happy.
When Beezus went into the living room, Mother switched off the vacuum cleaner, which had been sucking up the crumbs Ramona had sprinkled on the rug. "Aunt Beatrice said she would be delighted to bring you a cake. She knows a bakery that makes very special birthday cakes," she said, smiling at Beezus. "You mustn't let Ramona spoil your birthday."
Beezus felt a little better. She curled up on the davenport again with 202 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon and read about making Christmas tree ornaments out of cellophane straws, until she heard her aunt's car turn into the driveway. Then she flung her book aside and ran outside to greet her.
"Happy birthday, darling!" cried Aunt Beatrice, as she set the brake and opened the door of her yellow convertible.
Joyfully Beezus ran over to the car and kissed her aunt. "Did you bring the cake?" she asked.
"I certainly did," answered Aunt Beatrice. "The best birthday cake I could find. And that isn't all I brought. Here, help me carry these packages while I carry the cake. We mustn't let anything happen to this cake!"
And the way Aunt Beatrice laughed made Beezus laugh too. Her aunt gave her three packages, two large and one small, to carry.
"The little package is for Ramona," explained Aunt Beatrice. "So she won't feel left out."
Mother came out of the house and hugged her sister. "Hello, Bea," she said. "I'm so glad you could come. What would I ever do without you?"
"It's good to see you, Dorothy," answered Aunt Beatrice. "And what's an aunt for if she can't come to the rescue with a birthday cake once in a while?"
As Beezus watched her mother and her aunt, arm in arm, go into the house, she thought how different they were -- Mother so tall and comfortable-looking and Aunt Beatrice so small and gay -- and yet how happy they looked together. Smiling, Beezus carried the gifts into the house. Aunt Beatrice always brought such beautiful packages, wrapped in fancy paper and tied with big, fluffy bows.
Aunt Beatrice handed the cake box to Mother. "Be sure you put it in a safe place," she said, and laughed again.
"May I open the packages now?" Beezus asked eagerly, although she felt it was almost too bad to untie such beautiful bows.
"Of course you may," answered Aunt Beatrice. "Where's Ramona?"
A subdued Ramona came out of the bedroom to receive her present. She tore off the wrapping, but Beezus painstakingly untied the ribbon on one of her presents and removed the paper carefully so she wouldn't tear it. Her new book, 202 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon, suggested pasting pretty paper on a gallon ice-cream carton to make a wastebasket.
"Oh, Aunt Beatrice," exclaimed Beezus, as she opened her first package. It was a real grown-up sewing box. It had two scissors, a fat red pincushio that looked like a tomato, an emery bag that looked like a ripe strawberry, and a tape measure that pulled out of a shiny box. When Beezus pushed the button on the box, the tape measure snapped back inside. The box also had needles, pins, and a thimble. Beezus never wore a thimble, but she thought it would be nice to have one in case she ever wanted to use one. "Oh, Aunt Beatrice," she said, "it's the most wonderful sewing box in the whole world. I'll make you two pot holders for Christmas!" Then, as Aunt Beatrice laughed, Beezus clapped her hand over her mouth. The pot holder was supposed to be a surprise.
Ramona had unwrapped a little steam shovel made of red and yellow plastic, which she was now pushing happily around the rug.
Breathlessly Beezus lifted the lid of the second box. "Oh, Aunt Beatrice!" she exclaimed, as she lifted out a dress that was a lovely shade of blue.
"It's just the right shade of blue to match your eyes," explained Aunt Beatrice.
"Is it really?" asked Beezus, delighted that her pretty young aunt liked blue eyes. She was about to tell her about being Sacajawea for the P.T.A. when Father came home from work, and before long dinner was on the table. Mother lit the candels and turned off the dining-room light. How pretty everything looks, thought Beezus. I wish we had candles on the table every night.
After Father had served the chicken and mashed potatoes and peas and Mother had passed the hot rolls, Beezus decided the time had come to tell Aunt Beatrice about being Sacajawea. "Do you know what I did last week?" she began.
"I want some jelly," said Ramona.
"You mean, 'Please pass the jelly,' " corrected Mother, while Beezus waited patiently.
"No, what did you do last week?" asked Aunt Beatrice.
"Well, last week I-" Beezus began again.
"I like purple jelly better than red jelly," said Ramona.
"Ramona, stop interrupting your sister," said Father.
"Well, I do like purple jelly better than red jelly," insisted Ramona.
"Never mind," said Mother. "Go on, Beezus."
"Last week-" said Beezus, looking at her aunt, who smiled as if she understood.
"Excuse me, Beezus," Mother cut in. "Ramona, we do not put jelly on our mashed potatoes."
"I like jelly on my mashed potatoes." Ramona stirred potato and jelly around with her fork.
"Ramona, you heard what your mother said." Father looked stern.
"If I can put butter on my mashed potatoes, why can't I put jelly? I put butter and jelly on toast," said Ramona.
Father couldn't help laughing. "That's a hard question to answer."
"But Mother-" Beezus began.
"I like jelly on my mashed potatoes," interrupted Ramona, looking sulky.
"You can't have jelly on your mashed potatoes, because you aren't supposed to," said Beezus crossly, forgetting Sacajawea for the moment.
"That's as good an answer as any," agreed Father. "There are some things we don't do, because we aren't supposed to."
Ramona looked even more sulky.
"Where is my Merry Sunshine?" Mother asked.
Ramona scowled. "I am too a Merry Sunshine!" she shouted angrily.
"Ramona," said Mother quietly, "you may go to your room until you can behave yourself."
And serves you right, too, thought Beezus.
"I am too a Merry Sunshine," insisted Ramona, but she got down from the table and ran out of the room.
Everyone was silent for a moment. "Beezus, what was it you were trying to tell me?" Aunt Beatrice asked.
And finally Beezus got to tell about leading Lewis and Clark to Oregon, with a doll tied to Mother's breadboard for a papoose, and how her teacher told her what a clever girl she was to think of using a breadboard for a papoose board. Somehow she did not feel the same about telling the story after all Ramona's interruptions. Being Sacajawea for the P.T.A. did not seem very important now. No matter what she did, Ramona always managed to spoil it. Unhappily, Beezus went on eating her chicken and peas. It was another one of those terrible times when she did not love her little sister.
"You mustn't let Ramona get you down," whispered Mother.
Beezus did not answer. What a terrible girl she was not to love her little sister! How shocked and surprised Mother would be if she knew.
"Beezus, you look as if something is bothering you," remarked Aunt Beatrice.
Beezus looked down at her plate. How could she ever tell such an awful thing?
"Why don't you tell us what is wrong?" Aunt Beatrice suggested. "Perhaps we could help."
She sounded so interested and so understanding that Beezus discovered she really wanted to tell what was on her mind. "Sometimes I just don't love Ramona!" she blurted out, to get it over with. There! She had said it right out loud. And on her birthday, too. Now everyone would know what a terrible girl she was.
"My goodness, is that all that bothers you?" Mother sounded surprised.
Beezus nodded miserably.
"Why, there's no reason why you should love Ramona all the time," Mother went on. "After all, there are probably lots of times when she doesn't love you."
Now it was Beezus' turn to be surprised -- surprised and relieved at the same time. She wondered why she hadn't thought of it that way before.
Aunt Beatrice smiled. "Dorothy," she said to Mother, "do you remember the time I-" she began to laugh so hard she couldn't finish the sentance.
"You took my doll with the beautiful yellow curls and dyed her hair with black shoe dye," finished Mother, and the two grown-up sisters went into gales of laughter. "I didn't love you one bit that time," admitted Mother. "I was mad at you for days."
"And you were always so bossy, because you were older," said Aunt Beatrice. "I'm sure I didn't love you at all when you were supposed to take me to school and made me walk about six feet behind you, because you didn't want people to know you had to look after me."
"Mother!" exclaimed Beezus in shocked delight.
"Did I do that?" laughed Mother. "I had forgotten all about it."
"What else did Mother do?" Beezus asked eagerly.
"She was terribly fussy," said Aunt Beatrice. "We had to share a room and she used to get mad because I was so untidy. Once she threw all my paper dolls into the wastebasket because I had left them on her side of the dresser. That was another time we didn't love each other."
Fascinated, Beezus hoped this interesting conversation would continue. Imagine Mother and Aunt Beatrice quarreling!
"Oh, but the worst thing of all!" said Mother. "Remember-"
"I'll never forget!" exclaimed Aunt Beatrice, as if she knew what Mother was talking about. "Wasn't I awful?"
"Perfectly terrible," agreed Mother, wiping her eyes because she was laughing so hard.
"What happened?" begged Beezus, who could not wait to find out what dreadful thing Aunt Beatrice had done when she was a girl. "Mother, tell what happened."
"It all began when the girls began to take autograph albums to school," began Mother and then went off into another fit of laughter. "Oh, Beatrice, you tell it."
"Of course I wanted an autograph album too," continued Aunt Beatrice. Beezus nodded, because she, too, had an autograph album. "Well, your mother, who was always very sensible, saved her allowance and bought a beautiful album with a red cover stamped in gold. How I envied her!"
"As soon as your Aunt Beatrice got her allowance she always ran right over to the school store and spent it," added Mother.
"Yes, and on the most awful junk," agreed Aunt Beatrice. "Licorice whips, and pencils that were square instead of round, and I don't know what all."
"Yes, but what about the autograph album?" Beezus asked.
"Well, when I-oh, I'm almost ashamed to tell it," said Aunt Beatrice.
"Oh, go on," urged Mother. "It's priceless."
"Well, when I saw your mother with that brand-new autograph album that she bought, because she was so sensible, I was annoyed, because I wanted one too and I hadn't saved my allowance. And then she asked me if I'd like to sign my name in it."
"It was my night to set the table," added Mother. "I never should have left her alone with it."
"But what happened?" Beezus could hardly wait to find out.
"I sat down at the desk and picked up a pen, planning to write on the last page, 'By hook or by crook I'll be the last in your book,' " said Aunt Beatrice.
"Oh, did people write that in those days, too?" Beezus was surprised, because she had always thought this was something very new to write in an autograph album.
"But I didn't write it," continued Aunt Beatrice. "I just sat there wishing I had an autograph album, and then I took the pen and wrote my name on every single page in the book!"
"Aunt Beatrice! You didn't! Not in Mother's brand-new autograph album!" Beezus was horrified and delighted at the same time. What a terrible thing to do!
"She certainly did," said Mother, "and not just plain Beatrice Haswell, either. She wrote Beatrice Ann Haswell, Miss Bea Haswell, B.A. Haswell, Esquire, and everything she could think of. When she couldn't think of any more ways to write her name, she started all over again."
"Oh, Aunt Beatrice, how perfectly awful," exclaimed Beezus, with a touch of admiration in her voice.
"Yes, wasn't it?" agreed Aunt Beatrice. "I don't know what got into me."
"And what did Mother do?" inquired Beezus, eager for the whole story.
"We had a dreadful quarrel and I got spanked," said Aunt Beatrice. "Your mother didn't love me one little bit for a long, long time. And I wouldn't admit it, but I felt terrible because I had spoiled her autograph album. Fortunatly Christmas came along about that time and we were both given albums and that put an end to the whole thing."
Why, thought Beezus, Aunt Beatrice used to be every bit as awful as Ramona. And yet look how nice she is now. Beezus could scarcely believe it. And now Mother and Aunt Beatrice, who had quarreled when they were girls, loved each other and thought the things they had done were funny! They actually laughed about it. Well, maybe when she was grown-up she would think it was funny that Ramona had put eggshells in one birthday cake and baked her rubber doll with another. Maybe she wouldn't think Ramona was so exasperating, after all. Maybe that was just the way things were with sisters. A lovely feeling of relief came over Beezus. What if she didn't love Ramona all the time? It didn't matter at all. She was just like any other sister.
"Mother," whispered Beezus, happier than she had felt in a ling time, "I hope Ramona comes back before we have my birthday cake."
"Don't worry," Mother said, smiling. "I'm sure she wouldn't miss it for anything."
And sure enough, in a few minutes Ramona appeared from the bedroom and took her place at the table. "I can behave myself," she said.
"It's about time," observed Father.
Beezus watched Ramona eating her cold mashed potatoes and jelly and thought how much easier things would be now that she could look at her sisterwhen she was exasperating and thing, Ha-ha, Ramona, this is one of those times when I don't have to love you.
"Girls with birthdays don't have to help clear the table," said Mother, beginning to carry out the dishes.
Beezus waited expectantly for the most important moment of the day. She heard her mother take the cake out of its box and strike a match to light the candles. "Oh," she breathed happily, when Mother appeared in the doorway with the cake in her hands. It was the most beautiful cake she had ever seen -- pink with a wreath of white roses made of icing, and ten pink candles that threw a soft glowing light on Mother's face.
" 'Happy birthday to you,' " sang Mother and Father and Aunt Beatrice and Ramona. " 'Happy birthday, dear Beezus, happy birthday to you.' "
"Make a wish," said Father.
Beezus paused a minute. Then she closed her eyes and thought, I wish all my birthdays would turn out to be as wonderful as this one finally did. She opened her eyes and blew as hard as she could.
"Your wish is granted!" cried Aunt Beatrice, smiling across the ten smoking candles.
" 'Happy birthday, dear Beezus, happy birthday to you!' " sang Ramona at the top of her voice.
"All right, Ramona," said Mother with a touch of exasperation in her voice. "Once is enough."
But at that moment Beezus did not think her little sister was exasperating at all.
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.