It was one of the most joyous summers of my life. I can’t tell you what year it was, but I was somewhere in the middle of elementary school — when you’re old enough to do things on your own, but young enough to avoid the crushing insecurity of adolescence that threatens to ruin every happiness. Every morning during those two months, my mom would drive me to my friend Joanne’s house, where me and all my best friends would be babysat for the next nine hours or so. It was the best of times. There’s a warm glow that surrounds these memories, which mostly consist of playing make-believe games like restaurant, office, wedding, family — the works. Looking back, it was pretty standard kid stuff, and yet I remember always feeling so excited and happy. We hardly left the house, but our imaginary worlds were more than enough to satisfy our little hearts and minds. I was content.
Perhaps some of the more iconic parts of that summer (besides creating our own makeshift roller coaster) were the movies we watched. Joanne’s kid movie selection was relatively limited, but the movies themselves were quite good. Or maybe that’s just my own bias because that summer made them all iconic. We watched “We Bought a Zoo,” “Ramona and Beezus,” “Cool Runnings” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on a loop for the whole summer. “Ramona and Beezus” was particularly popular. My friends and I acted out nearly every scene, and we memorized about 80% of the script. To this day, the phrase “Mute button, I’m muting you” is part of our vernacular, and my best friend Naomi has the contacts “Uncle Hobart” and “Aunt Bea” saved to her phone. One day in middle school, my friend Sammy smashed a raw egg on her head just to see what it felt like, which was 100% inspired by Ramona’s picture day fiasco.
This film means a lot to me, and watching it again transports me right back to the good ol’ days. But it also really highlights how much things have changed, how much I’ve grown up since that beautiful summer. First off, I never realized how Joey King (“The Act”), who plays Ramona, is SO GOOD in this film. It baffles me that she wasted her talent on such a trashy film series like “The Kissing Booth.” But apart from that, I could see so much more this time around. Now that I’m older and understand the world a little better, I’ve noticed a lot of nuances and subtleties about the storyline and characters.
This time, I thought a lot more about Beezus (Selena Gomez, “Another Cinderella Story”) and how this period of her life is pretty rough as well. It’s not just Ramona who’s having a hard time. Beezus is anxious about her family’s financial situation, and she wants her longtime crush Henry (Hutch Dano, “Zeke and Luther”) to think well of her. When faced with the prospect of moving, Beezus reveals to Ramona that even though everyone at school likes her, none of them truly know her, except for Henry. As a fellow teenager, this struggle to be known and wanting to be liked hits a lot closer to home than it ever has before. I also realized that Beezus is a really good older sister. Apart from the occasional (and very much warranted) angry outburst, Beezus is patient and kind toward Ramona, teaching her about the world, curling her hair for picture day and helping her decorate her outfit for the peanut butter commercial audition. Beezus clearly loves her little sister, pest or not.
I also found myself sympathizing with Ramona a lot more. She tries so hard to do well and is so full of good intentions and an earnest desire to help. In fact, she’s quite a force to be reckoned with. Ramona is incredibly proactive and imaginative in the way she faces her problems. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she goes out and actively creates solutions with a resilience and optimism that I find incredibly admirable. Ramona’s also a beautiful picture of what it’s like to be a kid — to enjoy the world and be earnest and excited, ready to have fun and live life. It’s a reminder of the world we lived in before we started to worry about every little thing. And what a good world it was, and still is.
Now that I’m older, I’m able to see more, maybe because growing up is really just learning empathy. And as I empathize with Ramona, I also learn from her. Perhaps it’s time to turn back the clock and reclaim the carefree wonder that I used to have, that Ramona embodies. Maybe it’s time to wake up each day and see that the world is bursting with possibility and full of life, just as it was in Joanne’s living room all those years ago.
Daily Arts Contributor Pauline Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.