I have a five-year-old named Ramona. Her hair is cut short, to her chin, and it flies about her face because she hates to have it brushed. My Ramona is strong-willed, loves to argue and negotiate, loves being a big sister. She taught herself to read, wants to move to Hawaii (despite her fear of volcanos), and loves to hop in the pool to see how long she can hold her breath.
She is severe in her love and her dismissal. A little boy at school will offend her, and Ramona will not forgive him—no not ever. She has so many questions, and I can barely keep up with the answers.
We live in Portland, just like another Ramona so many years ago. Klickitat Street, a real street in northeast Portland, was the fictional home to Beverly Cleary’s beloved characters like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins. “I longed for funny stories about the sort of children who lived in my neighborhood,” Cleary, who turned 100 this month, wrote in her memoir.
Yet, the Portland she chronicles in her books—full of dreary rain and lovely elementary schools, dentist offices and dads who worked at grocery stores—is now on the verge of extinction. According to a recent study, Portland has become the most gentrified city of this century. With housing prices soaring out of reach, a flood of young professionals and creatives setting up coffee shops and ad agencies on every corner, high-end grocery stores and Montessori preschools everywhere you look—it is clear that lower to middle-class families are being pushed to the edges of the city and beyond.
Hundreds of blocks from Klickitat, we live in an apartment complex with some of the last affordable prices in the city. Like the Quimbys, we live among families, with children playing ...1
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