FYI for those with an alternate calendar of the saints: Erma Bombeck died 19 years ago this week (April 22nd).
Dear St. Erma,
Any time I’m asked what it is that I do my mind goes blank. I have no idea. Perhaps I do nothing? I wrote a list to prove it isn’t nothing.
I made space for my children’s novel by not cleaning my house for almost two weeks.
I have had no wasted leftovers for weeks or possibly months. Family survives because I eat everything they hate at lunch or repackage it so they don’t see it coming.
For the second year running I have convinced my husband to help me clean up the part of the pasture where the animals eat hay all winter. He finds the idea of tidying a pasture irritating and ridiculous. It’s one of those things he wouldn’t want his friends to know. And yet, I have prevailed.
I did not swear where anyone could hear me when I saw the state of the garage/storage space.
I took the emergency brake off a trailer transport then rushed out and laid down in front of the tires. With the truck snugly on top of me, I was able to hold down my fears of bad-people-disasters and allow my 11 year old to bike to school from his grandparents’ house. He is angling for a weekly event. I am costing out the tractor trailer rental from now until June.
I have given up gray. I’ve developed an allergy to nuance so am going back to black and white. All questions will have a yes or no answer. Having dispense with gray, I stepped on a scale to see if I was as light as I felt. The scale didn’t respond appropriately so I threw it out. I thought you would approve.
If you have time to pass this on to my mother, here are two things I’m actually proud of:
1. I’ve learned to love some of the kids who made me crazy when I first started doing the PE classes.
2. My relationship with one of my kids – the one who has caused me the most head scratching about how exactly they got from their odd little planet into my stomach in time for delivery – has blossomed this year. In trying to make things better for them at school (and not finding answers anywhere else) I figured out how to help because I had to. It has made all the difference. The relationship I used to feel guilty about not knowing how to improve has become a source of great joy for both of us. The common interests I thought we might never find are many and lovely.
I’m re-reading some of your best quotes. This one is my meditation for the day:
“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.” (Erma Bombeck)
St. Erma of the Bombeck, pray for us from your spot at the everlasting dessert bar.
When I was a teacher, a lot of my life was laid out for me. School starts here. Teach this. Report back. Go home. I struggle sometimes now from acute not-spelled-out-itis. (People who think this is not a real disease are suffering from a different one, but there isn’t space to get into that now.) To deal with my condition, I talk, think, pray, and yes, I read. Last summer I somehow ended up reading two biographies concurrently. Deitrich Bonhoeffer and Erma Bombeck. A single, male, German, Lutheran, theologian, killed by Nazis at age 39, and a married, female, American, Catholic, mother and humor columnist, who died from kidney disease and surgery at 69. Their stories have stuck with me this past year. They were very different people, but in my mind, they go together at least as well as the different parts of me do. Between them, they cover a lot of things I care about: love, justice, humor, faith, family, and how to handle perceived failure.
From Erma Bombeck:
*If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.
*Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.
*There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.
*My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.
And from Deitrich Bonhoeffer:
*Absolute seriousness is never without a dash of humor.
*The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to it’s children.
*We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.
*Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.
*It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.
*God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.
I’m not saying they are the same. There’s a lot more meat to be had in a study of Bonhoeffer’s life and words, but I’m a simple person. There are days I can only admire Dietrich, I can’t relate to him. That’s where Erma comes in.
I like learning about other people. I find it inspiring and thought provoking to remember that other people struggled and failed and wanted to give up. Remembering other people’s mountains make my own seem more climbable. And I’m always a sucker for quotes. A few with particular meaning to me right now:
There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler. D.B.
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. D.B.
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’. E.B