This is my first tribute to a woman for this month. Lots of famous women were born during February, but this one holds a special place in my heart. Born on this day in 1921 in Bellbrook, Ohio, to a working class family, this lady grew up in Dayton, Ohio and became one of the leading female columnists of her time. She became Erma Bombeck when she married Bill, a college classmate. They were told that children would be an unlikely result of the marriage so adopted their first child – a daughter. 1953 she would give birth to a son and another one came along three years later.
I grew attached to Erma when I was raising my own family in the 1960s and 1970s. She brought some real comic relief to parenting with her humorous articles and several books that she wrote during that time. Always including a nugget of truth, she would stir the imagination about the most common things. For example, she once said,
“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go. ”
It was things like that which made you stop and think, “how true.” I think I have accumulated more spices in my lifetime and most of them are similar in nature. For example, I have about three containers of Cream of Tartar, because I never remember for sure if I have it in my kitchen. When I was selling Tupperware, I sold the most spice containers ever, because of the fact that I talked about how spices can become infested with bugs if not contained properly. I was a pretty good Tupperware salesperson.
She once said, “You show me a boy who brings a snake home to his mother and I’ll show you an orphan.” I totally related, because my seven year old son did that one day. He rang the doorbell, because his hands were full of snake. When I opened the door he assured me that the snake was dead. The moving fangs indicated otherwise. After peeling me off the ceiling, his father told our son that the snake was merely digesting his food and suggested that he return it to the wild.
Erma could make the most devastating parenting situations funny, which is precisely what young parents experience with their first go at it. Humor is the only way to survive raising children. When my first two were little, we made a great investment. We bought a playpen which would occupy their time and give me a little respite to do my household chores. Erma had something to say about playpens too.
“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.”
Erma had a successful career as a writer. She started out as a columnist for the Dayton Shopping News and eventually her articles appeared in national syndication. She continued to write a weekly column and added several books to her list of credentials
She was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at the age of 20 and had to endure dialysis. Eventually one of her kidneys no longer functioned and had to be removed. The other kidney caused her to receive a transplant in April of 1996. She died only 19 days after the surgery from complications. She was only 69 years old.
She shared a legacy of humor which will last forever. Another one of her quotes sums up what life is really all about.
“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.'”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERMA BOMBECK!