Today is the birthday of humorist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996). If I had to pick one author whose words had real impact and meaning in my life, she’s my girl.
To me, she’s the Mark Twain of mothers, a precursor to Tina Fey, but she’s also a woman who knows what it’s like to change countless poopy diapers and to scrub in vain at dried toothpaste in the bathroom sink. Her writing is like having a nice, chatty aunt encouraging you to keep at it when you’re absolutely sure that your three-year-old is destined to be the only high schooler who never got the hang of potty training.
“All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.” – Erma Bombeck
At a time when mothers were expected to keep a spotless house, raise mannerly children, and endure it all with a silent smile, she wrote the unvarnished truth about motherhood — how hard it really is, how utterly stressful, and how rewarding. She chronicled the inanity of housework and the bewildering, exhausting chaos of child-rearing. And she did it with humor, insight and the understanding of one who had been in the trenches too.
“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?” – Erma Bombeck
My mom once saw Erma in person, giving a talk at a local church. She almost didn’t go because she had given birth to my older brother a few weeks before and was wrapped in that dead-tired haze only new mothers have. But a friend insisted that she not miss seeing this funny lady speak. Mom said that Erma was quick-witted and honest, reading snippets from her columns and then chatting and laughing with the audience like they were old friends.
“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” - Erma Bombeck
When I was growing up, we had Erma’s books in our house, and I was fascinated by their titles, like If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? and The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. When I was a kid, I thought they were funny; as a mom, I think they’re prophetic.
“When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he’s doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911. ” – Erma Bombeck
I just checked out several of her books from the library, and I’m planning to reread them in the next few months. I need a little of Erma’s humor to get through our seemingly endless Jenga schedule, and I’m willing to sacrifice sleep to do so.
“There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, ‘Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course I’ve got dreams.’ Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they’re still there. These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, ‘How good or how bad am I?’ That’s where courage comes in.” – Erma Bombeck
Happy Birthday, Erma. Thanks for the encouragement and understanding.