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ERMA BOMBECK--A Tribute To Her And Other Mothers

Updated on July 11, 2015

The truth in humor

Erma Bombeck wrote her first syndicated column in January 1965, and her last column ran on April 17th 1996. She would die on April 22nd after complications from a kidney transplant.

With the passing of Einstein the world will always be a little less intelligent. With the passing of Grace Kelly the world will always be little less beautiful-- and with the loss of Erma-- it will always be a little less funny.

To many the name Erma Bombeck is nothing more than a columnist who wrote about the adventures of being a suburban housewife and mother in an off the cuff manner—yet she was so much more.

Not only in her accomplishments--which were many-- but she had the most extraordinary view of life. She seemed to be aware of every emotion she ever felt, and had the talent to not only put her average suburban life on a page, but to do so with such brilliant humor and poignancy she is beyond compare-- especially when she wrote about being a mother.

What often makes her writing so funny is the truth behind it all. She wrote this incredibly humorous article simply entitled Spit . In ran in March 1990, and it talks about how "mothers need all the spit they can get. " In quotes are Erma's own words the rest is paraphrased, and the source is from the book Forever Erma. She writes, it seems, "mothers are endowed with a spit supply which develops during pregnancy much like milk glands ." Otherwise, "How else do you remove a milk stain from a bib? Lipstick kisses from a cheek? Chocolate from lips? Bird doo and mud from shoes? Ice cream from noses? " Or, "…tame flyaway hair and cowlicks, remove mustard from car seats… condition swim goggles ." She then goes on to write about how mothers do other gross things and no longer care. "…And what is the first thing you do when a child wants to get rid of his gum? You stick out your hand and say, 'spit it out here. '"

For those who are a mother, or for those who are simply a daughter or son of a wonderful mother—truer words have not been written.

She also wrote with great sentimentality about her children growing up, and the empty nest. In January 1969 she wrote a column entitled No More Oatmeal Kisses. It was in response to a letter from a frustrated young mother. She wrote, "One of these days, you'll shout, 'Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!' And they will. …You'll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death, and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, 'Now, there's a meal for company.' And, you'll eat alone. …No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti… No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps… No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand on the sheets… rubber bands for ponytails… or wet knotted shoestrings. …Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No giggles in the dark. No knees to heal… Only a voice crying, 'Why don't you grow up?' and the silence echoing, 'I did.' "

She also wrote with loving appreciation an article about the beauty of her own mother's hands, about how hard they had been worked. "..and have been dunked, dipped, shook, patted, wrung, caught in doors, splintered, dyed, bitten and blistered.. ." and how her mother had earned every wrinkle-- and had never looked more beautiful.

The amazement of Erma Bombeck is often unappreciated by those who think she was simply a humorist, though she was an incredibly funny woman and I have no doubt she would love to be remembered as such.

Here are a few more great quotes from her long list of many: "My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first one being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint."

"The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again."

"If you can laugh at it, you can live with it ."

"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. "

It is documented dear Erma kept her wonderful "don't take it seriously" view of life all the way till the end --for it is rumored she requested, "I told you I was sick " to be her epitaph.


I miss you Erma-- and thank you.

© 2012 Gina Baxter


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      6 years ago

      Hi Gina that typewriter in the picture has taken me back to the 60's when I started work as an audio typist - my typewriter was so old fashioned (even for those days). I remember sitting staring at it and thinking, 'Am I supposed to type with this thing.' Oddly, it did the job!


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      Lisa Wilker 

      6 years ago

      She left too soon. One my most favorite quotes of hers "Carpe Diem; remember all those ladies on the Titanic who waved off the desert cart". She was as witty and insightful a Dorothy Parker in my mind. Thank you for this great piece Gina.

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      6 years ago

      Absolutely wonderful. I love the 'spit' how right Erma was! This is so brilliantly written I read it twice!

      This lady must have been extremely popular. You do not come across writers like this very often, thanks for sharing this.



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