"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?"
The writer was Erma Bombeck, another wife, housewife, and mother (of three), who understood my life and that of thirty million other readers of her columns in nine hundred newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. We could laugh, cry, and feel the love across two countries!
Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) was born to a working class family. She worked her way through the University of Dayton (where she majored in English) doing various jobs: typist, stenographer, PR person at the YMCA, termite control accountant. But she had always dabbled in writing, writing for various small newspapers, and an English Professor at Dayton affirmed her gift, telling her she had a real talent for writing.
She married and was told she could not have children, so her husband and she adopted a girl. Later they did have two boys. Bombeck, treasuring the gift of motherhood, decided to be a full-time homemaker for ten years before she began a full-time career in journalism. By this time, she had ten years worth of faith, love, and humor to draw upon to write a column that ran from the mid-1960's to the late 1990's and touched every mother's heart and funny-bone.
She combined her Catholic faith, love, and humor in "When God Created Mothers;" here's an excerpt:
"When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel approached and said: 'You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.'
And God said. 'Have you read the specs on this one? She has to be completely washable but not plastic. Have 180 movable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and left-overs. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure everything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."
Erma was every mother's Bible; you could page through one of the many anthologies of her columns or any of her fifteen books and find a few pithy lines of condolences or advice for every occasion:
- When you were agonizing over not being able to get back to pre-baby weight and had a hellish shopping trip: "Sometimes I can't figure designers out. It's as if they flunked human anatomy."
- When you needed an excuse to go off your constant diet: "Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart."
- When your husband was being particularly hard to understand: "If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead."
- When your hair was going gray through the trauma of having a teenager: "Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth."
Even older mothers could bask in the glow of her understanding: "A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Hallowe'en."
Best of all, Erma Bombeck taught us how to live in the moment, how to treasure and reverence the life we'd been given in all the splendor of its ordinariness. Here she says this eloquently:
"Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over, would I change anything.
"My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
"Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I'd have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
"I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
"I would have taken the time to let my grandfather ramble about his youth.
"I would have sat cross-legged on the grass with my children and never worried about grass stains.
"I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.
"There would have been more I love yous...more I'm sorry...more I'm listenings...but mostly, if given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it...look at it and really see it...try it on...live it...exhaust it...and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it." (Excerpted from "Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream: Thoughts on Life.")
Erma wrote over four thousand columns. She became so famous and well-loved that she did gag segments and interviews for ABC's "Good Morning America" from 1975-1986. Who wouldn't want to listen to a woman who titled one of her books "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession"?
Knowing how hard she worked to keenly, humorously, and tenderly observe life, how humbly she laughed at herself, how consistently she labored to share her unique vision of faith, love, and humor, I imagine God welcomed her to Himself with tremendous love. She herself pictured that moment in this inspiring way:
"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say 'I used everything You gave me.'"
I pray we all may say the same!