Last week, one of the morning TV shows had the authors of a book about confessions of bad moms. You know, the kind who admit they buy cupcakes at Wal*mart, then send them to school in a different box like they actually baked them? Some of the stories they told about made me laugh, but there were also a lot of the stories that left me saying, “What’s funny about that? I did it all the time!”
Any of you who are mothers know that the goal of raising kids is to survive. If you actually turn them into productive, happy citizens, that’s just icing on the…uh, cupcake. One of my favorite authors was Erma Bombeck. Even before I was a mother, her articles used to leave me rolling in the floor. In the days of Donna Reed with her neatly ironed apron and pearls, Erma was labelling the cobwebs in her children’s rooms as “Science Fair projects.” When Beaver’s mom was turning out perfect meals like a Stepford wife, Erma was painting a bulls-eye in the bowl of her toilet so her boys wouldn’t pee all over the bathroom.
The great thing about her writing is that it wasn’t about the ideal suburban household, but rather the chaotic, realistic, carnival fun house most families live in. And she showed how everything comes out when you added plenty of love, laughter, and old-fashioned cynicism. Even when she was dying of cancer, she shared her adventures through it with gentle humor and gallantry .
The main reason I mention her is that Erma is one of my all-time writing models. She didn’t write fiction, but her imagination combined with love of her family evoked the greatest emotions. With a simple, spare style of writing, in just a few words she could brag on her kids, poke fun at society’s foibles, and focus the spotlight on injustices in America. When she died, we lost a great writer…maybe not one like Steinbeck or Hemmingway, but a writer who will remain in my heart a longer time than those two gentlemen.
Yes,and maybe if I’m patient, I’ll someday grow up to be just like Erma Bombeck. A writer with heart and joy.