Monday, April 5, 2021

Beverly

 My husband and son and I were having dinner in California. We were uptight and anxious, because several thousand miles away my daughter's horse had developed a full-blown medical emergency that could well prove fatal; my daughter, and especially our friends Caroline and Bruce--especially you, Bruce, we won't forget it--were loading him into the trailer for a midnight haul to the veterinary school two hours away. (My daughter drives our truck and trailer well--after her horse recovered she picked him up by herself--but that late drive with the horse's life in danger was emotionally beyond her. Our friends stepped up large and got her through it when the rest of us were 3000 miles away.)

Anyhow, we were sitting outdoors, under a heat lamp, trying to have a lovely time at a real restaurant while our stomachs tied themselves in knots. I checked my phone, hoping for news from my daughter. "Oh, no!" I said. "Beverly Cleary died!"

"Oh, no," my husband said, softly. "I'm so sorry."

"What did she die of?" my son asked. 

I scanned the news item. "It doesn't say."

"How old was she?"

"A hundred and four."

Husband and son looked at me. Son began to grin. And okay, it wasn't a tragedy. One hundred and four--very nearly one hundred and five. And yet. For the next few days my internet feeds were filled with universal mourning. From Judy Blume to Victoria Jamieson to me, at least two generations of children's book authors were influenced by her work, and who knows how many children. Millions. My mom read Ramona The Pest to me when I was myself in kindergarten--I identified with every aspect of Ramona's perilous walk to school. Her pulling up that flowering beet--I loved her. 

The next day (the horse was better, survived the night without surgery, happier spirits all around. We love this horse, he's young and vibrant and quirky and smart, we can't bear the thought of losing him) I went with my husband and son while they played an old, beautiful, California golf course. One of the houses on the course had a Little Free Library near one of the teeboxes, so of course I went to have a look--and there, among the other books, was a copy of The Mouse and the Motorcycle, my favorite of all Beverly Cleary's books. 

I just looked it up. It was originally published in 1965. The edition in the LFL had been published in 2016. I read the first few pages--they're still good--and replaced the book for a child to find.

We all knew she wouldn't live forever, but there were many of us who loved knowing that Beverly Cleary was still in our world. We loved her for her quiet groundbreaking subversive ordinary characters. We loved her for her truth.

For awhile now my husband and I have been thinking of getting a second dog. Our young cavoodle, Cava, loves the company of other dogs. She sometimes finds my husband and I dull, well-loved but slightly insufficient as playmates. When she's around other dogs she lights up with joy.

And so this Saturday we acquired a schnoodle pup. Just as we hoped, Cava reacted with joy, and patience, and deep satisfaction. The puppy is all things puppy, affectionate and sweet.

My husband named her. He names most of our animals. He's very good at names.

I present to you: Beverly Cleary Bradley.