Posted Monday, May 28, 2018.
Way back in 1968, Beverly Cleary predicted the course of my life over the last thirty years in her wonderful book “Ramona the Pest”. I didn’t read “Ramona” when it came out. I was too caught up in the Hardy Boys. But Mrs M did and loved it, and I’ve often wondered if it put ideas in her head:
Ramona came to a halt at the intersection guarded by Henry Huggins in his yellow slicker…”Look at all the nice mud,” she said [to her friend Howie], pointing to the area that was to be the parking lot for the new market. It was such nice mud, rich and brown with puddles and little rivers in the tire tracks left by the construction trucks. It was the best mud, the most tempting mud Ramona had ever seen. Best of all, the day was so rainy there were no construction workers around to tell anyone to say out of the mud.
“Come on, Howie” said Romana. “I’m going to see how my boots work in the mud.” Of course she would get her shiny boots muddy, but then she could have the fun of turning the hose on them that afternoon after kindergarten…
“Ramona, you come back here!” yelled Henry. “You’re going to get into trouble.”
“Traffic boys aren’t supposed to talk on duty,” Ramona reminded him, and marched straight into the mud…
“You’re going to get stuck!” [Henry] yelled.
“No, I’m not!” insisted Ramona, and discovered she was unable to raise her right boot. She tried to raise her left boot, but it was stuck fast…
Ramona’s chin began to quiver.
“Look at Ramona! Look at Ramona!” shrieked the kindergarten, as [their teacher] Miss Binney, in a raincoat and with a plastic hood over her hair, appeared on the playground.
“Oh dear!” Ramona heard Miss Binney say…
The second bell rang. Miss Binney was not looking at Ramona. She was looking thoughtfully at Henry Huggins, who seemed to be staring at something way off in the distance…
“Boy!” Miss Binney called out. “Traffic boy!”
“Who? Me?” asked Henry, even though he was the only traffic boys stationed at that intersection.
“That’s Henry Huggins,” said helpful Ramona.
“Henry, come here, please,” said Miss Binney.
“I’m supposed to go in when the whistle blows,” said Henry, as he glanced up at the boys and girls who were watching from the big brick [school] building.
“But this is an emergency,” Miss Binney pointed out. “You have boots on, and I need your help in getting this little girl out of the mud. I’ll explain to the principal.”
Henry did not seem very enthusiastic as he splashed across the street, and when he came to the mud he heaved a big sigh before he stepped into it. Carefully he picked his way through the muck and puddles to Ramona. “Now see what you got me into,” he said crossly. “I told you to keep out of here.”
For once Ramona had nothing to say. Henry was right.
“I guess I’ll have to carry you,” he said and his tone was grudging. “Hang on.” He stopped and grasped Ramona around the waist, and she obediently put her arms around the wet collar of his raincoat…
Henry lurched and skidded through the mud to the sidewalk, where he set his burden down in front of Miss Binney.
“Thank you, Henry,” said Miss Binney with real gratitude, as Henry tried to scrape the mud from his boots on the edge of the curb. “What do you say, Ramona?”
“Thank you, Henry,” Ramona called after him [as he started across the street to school]. There was something very special about being rescued by a big, strong traffic boy in a yellow slicker…
Then something on the sidewalk caught Ramona’s eye. It was a pink worm that still had some wiggle left in it. She picked it up and wound it around her finger as she looked toward Henry. “I’m going to marry you, Henry Huggins!” she called out.
Even though traffic boys were supposed to stand up straight, Henry seemed to hunch down inside his raincoat as if he were trying to disappear.
“I’ve got an engagement ring, and I’m going to marry you!” yelled Ramona after Henry, as the morning kindergarten laughed and cheered.
I had to edit this episode quite a bit for length, but if you know the book you know that when Henry plucks Ramona out of the mud he lifts her right out of her boots which get left behind as he carries her to dry land. To stop her crying, he plods back in and rescues the boots. That’s been me. That’s been us. Thirty years of me grumpily chasing after my Ramona and picking up the boots she’s run right out of as she’s marched cheerfully and bravely into the mud. The difference between me and Henry Huggins has been that I’ve always found that there’s something interesting and exciting Mrs M has led me to as she’s marched confidently onward.
Mrs M the Pest on our honeymoon in May 1988 somewhere on the trail on Cape Cod in the middle of a bike ride she organized and which for some dumb reason I initially resisted going on. At the end of the trail, following directions Mrs M got from a park ranger she made fast friends with in a five minute conversation, we had our first lunch at what was to become one of our favorite seafood shacks on the Cape. I should have learned right then but it took me thirty years to realize it: Following Mrs M into the mud always leads to fun and adventure.