Friday, August 5, 2011

Fiction Friday: Coloring Outside and Inside the Lines

I just rented "Ramona and Beezus" to watch with the girls I babysit/nanny for.  Needless to say, I was a hero in their eyes for that entire afternoon.  Little do they know I just wanted an excuse to rent it.  Redbox doesn't have it, and I only do Netflix vicariously through my roommate who has an account, so I had to go to an actual video store.  They still have one of those fairly close to my humble abode...but I gotta say I wouldn't be surprised if it went out of business.  At any rate, I paid like $4 for that video for a 5 day rental.  It was worth it.

I was an early reader.  I was probably reading Dr. Suess at age 3.  I don't remember exactly when I started reading "chapter books," but I'm guessing it was sometime around kindergarten or first grade.  I do remember getting really bored with some of the stupid reading stuff they made us do in early elementary school...which probably contributed greatly to the fact that I got in trouble a lot in early elementary school. 

...Which probably contributed greatly to the fact that I could relate very well to a character in one of my favorite chapter book series.  A lot of people say this, and I guess they're probably right on some level--but believe me.   I WAS Ramona Quimby.  My poor patient mother will confirm this.  If she had a google account and would actually subscribe to my blog (coughLOVEYOUMOMcough), then she would leave a comment to confirm this.  She could tell you all kinds of stories...but I digress.

Ramona was a middle child, a second born to a big sister who seemed to have it all together.  She had a wild imagination and little restraint over it.  She said (and usually did) whatever came to her mind without thinking things through.  She worried and dreamed and tried and messed things up and just generally gave a weird kid like me someone with whom I could relate.

I am also a middle child.  In fact, I remember being really mad that I didn't have a little sister like Ramona.  I doubt I was reading the Ramona books when my brother was actually born (I wasn't quite six yet), but somewhere in my consciousness, I remember being angry that I had a brother because that made me different from Ramona.  I didn't have a little sister named Roberta.  I had a little brother named Jimmy.  I did have a big sister--but her name wasn't Beezus.  She did think I was a pest.  Sometimes I was.  Sometimes I even meant to be, but usually my being a pest was just a byproduct of me living in my own little world.

But as an adult, I can see a lot better how Beezus must have felt.  As a kid, I always saw through Ramona's eyes.  My sister would come home from school and be angry with me, and I wouldn't understand.  She would accuse me of embarassing her, and I didn't know what she was talking about.  When I did things, I was not thinking about how other people would perceive them.  I just did whatever seemed like the thing to do.  And a lot of times, socially awkward me didn't understand that other people would find my actions weird.  Socially awkward me certainly wasn't thinking about how other people would think of me as weird and THEN go ask my big sister what n the world was wrong with her little sister.

I was probably in my mid twenties before I figured out what her problem was.  She was a teenager who came to the logical (at least from a teenager's perspective) conclusion that everything I did was to embarrass her.  And while that wasn't the case, it sometimes must have really sucked for her to be related to and publically identfied with someone like me. 

Anyway, I really like the movie "Ramona and Beezus."  I originally thought it was going to be an adaptation of one of the books, but I was pleased with how they combined several of the Ramona books to make one truly endearing (and G RATED---how many recent live action movies do you know that are G RATED these days?) film.  I have to admit that I have cried every time I've watched it (three times now).  It's that combination of old reading memories, that family bond (especially the sisterly bond between Beezus and Ramona), and that hopeful moment when Ramona realizes that she's not just a pest, but really something extraordinary, after all.  Those things get me every time. 

I think my favorite part of the whole film is when Beezus and Ramona are talking, and Beezus sweetly says, "You don't color inside the lines."  And after they talk a little, Ramona says, "Sometimes I color inside the lines.  It really depends on the picture."

It's been too long since I read those remarkable Beverly Cleary books, so I'm not sure if that's a line from a book, or if it's just something clever the filmmakers added, but I like it.  I like it because it really does define Ramona.  And it defines me. 

I know exactly what Ramona means when she says that.  She means that sometimes it's easier to conform than other times.  Sometimes, it's easy to be good and not create drama.  But Ramona was her own little person, and when something didn't seem right to her, she couldn't change in order to fit the situation.  It wasn't that she was rebellious; she just didn't know how to be something she wasn't.  She couldn't be something she wasn't.  And I'm the same way.  Ramona didn't mean to embarrass Beezus, and I never meant to embarrass my big sister.  Ramona didn't mean to cause  trouble (most of the time), and neither did I.  Ramona didn't mean to let her imagination run away with her...and let me tell you, I still struggle with that sometimes, but I really do TRY to stay in reality.  But Ramona really was extraordinary, and from time to time, I like to pretend that I'm extraordinary, too.  ...but maybe that's just what ALL the socially awkward people tell themselves....

What I do know is that sometimes it's just easy and right for me to color inside the lines--other times, it would be a tragedy if I tried to color inside the lines.  It really depends on the picture.

I'd kind of like to see a book about Ramona as a grown up.  I wonder if we'd be so similar now.  I'm guessing she'd still have many grown-up Ramona moments.  I know that I sure do...

I need to go reread those books!

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