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I want to be Erma Bombeck When I Grow Up

Is there an etiquette when one has a serious disillusion of just how life should be? Today, I summon the spirit of Erma Bombeck and wonder What Erma Would Do – WEWD for short. Life ain’t no bowl of cherries when you have a teenagers, Erma. I’d say it’s mostly pits! But I’m trying to skip the pits and enjoy the cherries.

As a teen, I would pick up the books my mom was reading and laughing with … Erma Bombeck… full belly laughs that I just wanted to be a part of.

I didn’t really get it. Why was she so funny? Most of the time I’d roll my eyes, toss the book and chalk it up to “my-mom-is-crackers.”

Eventually, I moved away to college and after graduation, I got married and began to have kids of my own. I now have one kid about to be married with all the emotional rollercoaster that goes with wedding prep (I’m almost nauseated and ready to get off that ride), and 3 moody, willful teens (I especially want to get off the ride when they start in) and one precocious 7 year old.

Now I get it.

Now… I SO can relate to her! I wouldn’t say I grew up stuck in the middle of the Feminist Revolution, trying to fit into both worlds and not like much of the writing I read as a teen. I grew up in a “typical” Mormon home, with a stay-at-home mom who made perfect bread, sewed our clothes, read us stories, yet wasn’t afraid to weld a chainsaw and help with the building of our log home. She made us forget that we were the poorest people on the planet with her service and sense of humor.

Actually, looking back, maybe my mom was Erma Bombeck and someone else got rich writing about her. Now with teens, I’m living my mom’s life all over again. Doesn’t God know that the “re-makes” are never as good as the originals? Even with better special effects? Hello. Star Wars. The first one is definitely the best one! I regress.

But seriously, Erma was right. The family is the bond that gags. LOL.

This afternoon, I had a “parental-unit-misunderstanding” with my husband regarding the discipline of our son. Sometimes I just don’t understand men!

Thankfully, I can gain a little more understanding from Erma’s version of Conversation with God was the best about the subject of “men.” She asked, “Why did men have big feet?” So their kids could walk in their footprints in the snow. Big hands – better to cup small faces and wipe away the tears. So what if men couldn’t tie a hair ribbon or push a button through a small hole. They were designed to protect their children.

I just need to remember that and maybe I won’t wish to strangle him.

Seriously. There are days I wish I were Erma Bombeck. I want to be able to make any situation look like it’s a roll-on-the-floor funny event like my friend Shar Wight does. The thing is… I seems to be able to keep people laughing and on their toes in person, but when I write it down it comes across as some Greek tragedy. AGR!

This year one of my goals is to channel my inner Erma Bombeck; to look at life with the kind of sense of humor that brings people to tears, but in a good way.

Erma wasn't perfect; she wasn't sitting in judgment; she was just trying to do the radical thing of saying what other people were afraid to say, because they were afraid it was only them, and that others would judge them. I want to be that.

I admire people who speak to an audience so that all can understand. I admire people who are great artists with a brush, a keyboard or a voice… or a pen. I aspire (and don't really expect to ever achieve but a person has got to try), however, to be Erma Bombeck, surrounded by people who look up from their mundane lives and say "oh, me too!"

That moment, that "me too" moment in which people say "I'm afraid for the future too." Or "I want to make a change too" or "I never knew anyone else felt that way" is a tremendously powerful moment. Breaking down the strangeness between us - reducing the sense that we're alone in our heads and our worlds and that our battles to use less and make things better don't really count - is tremendously important. We are all in this together and we are more alike than we are different.

I'm not Erma. I'm not as funny as she is. Plus, there were things she was really wrong on - disposable diapers for example. But I can do better at finding the LIGHTER side of life.

A column she wrote when she was in her 50s – years before she found out she was dying. It talked about, if given a second chance, all of things she would have done. This article has had the most profound impact on me. As any good mom does, I’ve put my life on hold while my children grow up. At the same time, I’ve quit saving things for “special occasions” or for later. There may never be a later. I’m getting back to my love for the theater. I’m trying my best to devote some time to better personal health.

Erma has taught me “Life is a gift.” To leave my mark each day so that my girls will have a path to follow and not to wait for a special occasion. I hope it’s not too late for them to see that I want to make that change. It’s more important to create the special occasion or memory than to wait for life to happen. I want them to see that it’s ok to “re-make” and “one-up” the original. In a way it’s a compliment.

The reality is that change is in the wind. It is best to embrace it. It is best to laugh my butt off. It may be the only way it’s coming off.

And one more thing. Erma died on Earth Day – April 22, 1996. May she be blessed for making the world a much better place by helping to bridge the hearts and minds of women all around the world.


  1. WELL SAID. I've never read her, . . . now I'm going to. But if your mom was Erma Bombeck then I love her.


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