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Her pointed housewife humor made Erma the nation’s favorite mom and a nationally known media personality. Time magazine even put her (and three of her clever quips about housework, cooking, and guilt) on its cover in 1984. “Erma wrote about the ordinary in an extraordinary way,” says Teri Rizvi, founder of the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. “She told a story in 450 words that had people across the country laughing over their morning coffee.”

Erma says: “Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” While her print column paved the way for today’s digital mommy-blogs, Erma’s stories were selfdeprecating instead of self-centered. She turned everyday incidents into allegories, and her columns were free of angst, petty complaints, and the names of her three children. “She was skillful at keeping us generic enough that people were able to read about us and still think, ‘That’s my kid,’” says Matthew Bombeck, a California writer and Erma’s youngest offspring. Erma realized that both laughter and families are universal, and because she never made her column overtly personal, women particularly identified with her honest and unpretentious writing style. “She gave a voice to

women, and especially to moms,” notes Bombeck. “She said that there was dignity and humanity in raising children and that it was important.” Though she never sugar-coated the challenges of domesticity, Erma valued her role as a parent more than her career. “I never remember her not being there for the things happening in our lives,” says Bombeck. “She wasn’t just home for dinner; she made dinner.” Indeed, as a youngster, Bombeck was so oblivious to the success of Erma’s column that he told someone his mother was a syndicated communist. “We really had no idea what she did,” says Bombeck. “To us, she was Mom.” Erma, however, was a mom who was serious about writing humor. “Because she had a journalism background and three deadlines a week, my mother was very disciplined and hard-working,” says Bombeck. Rather than wait for the literary muse to strike, Erma carried a legal pad with her, and whenever things happened that gave her ideas for her column, she jotted them down. Erma religiously blocked out writing time while her children were at school, and if she closed the door to her “inner sanctum,” they understood that Mom wanted to focus. “If we needed something,” Bombeck recalls, “we’d slip a note under the door. We knew not to disturb her work time.”

Erma says: “Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.” Continued on Page 37



Ohio Cooperative Living - January 2018 - Holmes-Wayne  
Ohio Cooperative Living - January 2018 - Holmes-Wayne