You were my favorite, you know. Always. Before I could read your adventures myself, my mother read about your follies aloud and oh, how we laughed. I was the little sister in my family too, and you, I believed, were my long lost soulmate — the one who would not laugh when I got into my own debacles.
How was I to know our newly paved street was still sticky warm with thick black tar when I walked over it? Or that the thick black tar would cling to my shoes and then later, up each carpeted white stair in our home? I was scolded for this, of course — the carpet would have to replaced after all — but I thought to myself as I cried into my pillow, Ramona would understand. Yes, you were the imaginary friend that lived on the pages of books that I devoured over and over again; until my own big brother would complain about this annoying habit and really, the sister that seemed to eat books as he read painstakingly slow.
I still adore you and have shared your tales with my three older children, who spilled peals of laughter at the cake baby doll in the oven and then rolled their eyes knowingly when you complained about being forced to be kind to Imogene. I still remember the connection I felt when you were to be in your aunt’s wedding. I longed to be included in such an affair, but the blond scraggly girl never got a chance — I was too old and too loud.
And so, I lived vicariously through you.
I longed to be with your family when they went out to dinner; I imagined with great detail how good the whopper burgers must have tasted, and then the feeling of surprise when a generous stranger payed the bill. I even willingly mimicked some of your antics: banana stickers on my forehead and drawing my foot; a sink full of toothpaste I wanted to see if the sink filled up as much as the illustration showed. (They didn’t.)
Throughout my own childhood, I ended up in many scrapes and always seemed to find trouble wherever I went. But I never once felt alone or ostracized, because you were like me, and I was like you. I had my own desk in the hall in the second grade and my teacher, tired of my endless disruptive chatter, would say, “Adrian, go on out in the hall.” I was not embarrassed over the punishment for my transgressions, but instead would smile as I sauntered out to my special seating arrangement. And do you know what I did when I got settled in my seat out there? I did not do the worksheets that had been sent with me. No, I had my own D.E.A.R (drop everything and read) session and you and I were together again.
Thank you, Ramona.
Thank you for never judging me, and for encouraging me to be myself — even if it meant I had to experience real consequences. I winced as I read about the burrs being removed from your tender scalp and felt sorry for you, as I too wanted to be a Queen, but ultimately realized that being myself was even better. I am a writer too and I realize now that you had much to do with the path I would follow.
I hope my scrappy, six-year-old daughter identifies with you as well when I am less forgiving of her than I maybe should be. I know your loyal friendship will extend to her — and to the next generation — in all the ways it was there for me.
Love Your Forever Friend,