She was the funniest mother in America and, quite possibly, the most insightful. For over 30 years Erma Bombeck made us laugh; she also made us think.
"I never ironed my husband’s pajamas.
And if I raised my hand to wipe the hair out of my children’s eyes, they’d
flinch and call their attorney."
" I love my mother for all the times
she said absolutely nothing."
She was the funniest mother in America and, quite possibly, the most insightful. For over 30 years Erma Bombeck made us laugh; she also made us think. On this Mothers’ Day, I want to pay tribute to my favorite columnist who died two years ago last month at a much-too-young 69. And what better way to honor Bombeck than to share her own words on her own favorite subject, motherhood.
What kind of mother would . . . ?
Quoting the words of one such pharisee, Bombeck wrote, "Did you see the story in the paper about the woman who forgot one of her children in a laundromat restroom? She dares call herself a mother! How disgusting! What kind of mother would . . .?"
"What kind of mother would," retorted Bombeck. "It was a familiar phrase. Ten years and three children earlier, I had used it myself with just the right blend of shock and disapproval. Now I personally knew seven mothers who had tried the same thing."
Not quite ready for prime time
Bombeck called them the prime-time mothers. "They looked better cleaning their houses than most of us looked at our wedding. They never lost their temper, gained weight, spent more money than their husbands made, or gave viewers any reason not to believe they were living out their lives in celibacy."
Bombeck’s reaction to such perfectionism was to admit her own failure to achieve it. "I was one of the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time mothers. I never wore hose around the house all day, nor did I know anyone personally who did. My kids were the ones the prime-time mothers forbade their kids to play with or else they could get into trouble."
"I never ironed my husband’s pajamas. And if I raised my hand to wipe
the hair out of my children’s eyes, they’d flinch and call their attorney."
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A mother’s silence
Bombeck explained by telling about her mother’s silence during the times "I fell flat on my face, made a lousy judgment, and took a stand that I had to pay dearly for . . . I thank her for all her virtues, but mostly for never once having said, ‘I told you so.’"
America’s funniest mother helped us laugh at motherhood, and in so doing, Erma Bombeck helped us understand and honor our own mothers with a refreshing sense of candor. We will miss her.
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