I visited my family last weekend. Over four days of the Columbus Day holiday, I traveled by plane, car and boat. I covered more than 1100 miles there and back. It was a lot of travelling all just to visit family.
I would do it again tomorrow if I could.
My sister Jennifer and her son Joe were in from New Mexico. Maeve, Hilde and I came down from Rhode Island. My parents, two sisters and a brother live in Richmond, VA and then my sister Jeanne and her son Clif and his two little girls came in from Maryland.
The gang was mostly there, all my siblings and parents and most grandchildren. We are a large group when we get together.
When I am around my family I think of the book entitled Family: The Ties that Bind and Gag That’s kind of how I feel when I survey my family tree. I love them but they make me crazy.
Erma Bombeck wrote this book. If you don’t know her, you should.
Erma Bombeck was kind of like the Roseanne Barr of her day, only nicer and funnier. (I do realize that to people under 30, even a reference to Roseanne Barr is outdated but I can't think of anyone in the news currently.)
She was a pioneer of the genre called Mom Lit; which is to say books written by mothers from a mother’s perspective. She was a mom, a humorist and a writer, in that order.
She is one of my heroes.
She managed to raise children and fit in writing. She looked at ordinary life and saw humor and beauty and sadness and through her writing, she made us see it too. She never took herself too seriously. She took ten years off to be "just a housewife." When the craziness of life outweighed the good, she wasn't afraid to quit.
I wish I could have met her.
She campaigned for women’s rights. She believed that women should be free to choose whatever career they wanted, even if this choice was to stay home and be a housewife. This made her unpopular with chauvinists and feminists alike, but beloved by the American People.
Erma was famous for her one-liners about kids and housework.
Here are a few of my favorites:
“A friend never defends a husband who gets his wife an electric skillet for her birthday”
“Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.”
“Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop offs at tedium and counter productivity.”
“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.”
“Children make your life important.”
“For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times at parties that it's time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward.”
“I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.”
“If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it.”
“In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn't danced in television.”
“My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”
“Who in their infinite wisdom decreed that Little League uniforms be white?
certainly not a mother.”
Here are my two favorites:
“It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”
“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".”
Erma died in 1997, but we could use more of her today. The country needs a laugh right now.
P.S. For some really good laughs, rent the movie version of Erma's The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. It stars Carol Burnett and Charles Grodin. It's hilarious.
P.P.S. I am writing this at the kitchen table, while my family is eating lunch and trying to talk to me. I think Erma would have known exactly how frustrating this is. :)