By Carol Peszka
For those moms of a certain age, we fondly remember Erma Bombeck. Erma died April 22, 1996, and she is a treasure who remains in my memory to this day. To me she was Saint Erma, who touched millions with her columns for 31 years. We laughed and cried through all the experiences of family life. How could I not with four children? I felt like Erma was hiding in my home and watching through a security camera system.
Erma Bombeck was a housewife and mother who achieved great popularity when she wrote a newspaper column describing ordinary family life. Her initial forays into writing began in high school when she wrote a humor column. She proceeded to more serious columns but always added bits of humor. Ironically, her first work was obituaries and weather forecasts, but marriage and family life brought her true talents to the attention of two local newspapers in Ohio. It wasn’t long before she was in syndication in 36 major U.S. newspapers. The column was titled “At Wit’s End.” It wasn’t long before she was being published in Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, McCall’s and several other magazines. And then McGraw Hill came knocking. She published 15 books beginning with “At Wit’s End” and ending with “Forever Erma” over 29 years.
I didn’t know that Erma was a “Good Morning America” regular from 1975 to 1986. I was probably busy getting a husband and four children off to work and school. So maybe TV in the morning wasn’t on my to-do list but reading Erma’s columns was — usually in the bathroom.
I’m sure she knew how much she was loved and admired and gave us all a chuckle or a tear.
I have most of her books on my bookshelf and can pick out any one and smile and laugh at her humor and wisdom through all those years. There has been no one like her since.
With all due respect to Erma, I have penned the following when our four children became parents. I know they now understand how those years go by as quickly as a wink.
I’ve always loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage, the fulfillment of young love and promise of our infinity. You sustained us through the hamburger years, the first house furnished in early poverty, our first mode of transportation (1964 Chevy Malibu) and a black and white TV set. You were new, had unused grandparents and more clothes than a Barbie doll. You were the “original model” for unsure parents trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained peas, open diaper pins and three-hour naps.
I’ve always loved you best because you drew a tough spot in the family. Laurie was a tough act to follow, but it only made you more special. We could relax with you. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married, and you helped us understand that the world wouldn’t collapse if you went to bed with dirty feet. We found you liked foods that no normal child liked. With your angelic smile and love of baseball, fishing and music, you quickly became the favorite of both grandfathers.
I’ve always loved you best because you were the third. You were a sweet baby who came along after Laurie and Chris were in school, so I could spend some quality time with you. Sharing a bunk bed with your brother was probably not the best idea when you decided to jump on the mattress, and a trip to the emergency room quickly ensued. We found out head wounds bleed a lot. Also finger wounds, but I digress. Unlike Chris, your appetite was less hearty. Nothing green but maybe some corn on the cob. While Chris was a “husky,” you were a slim. There went the idea of passing down clothes. Some of my fondest memories are of you at the shore fishing.
I’ve always loved you best because endings are generally sad, and you are such a joy. You readily accepted the milk-stained bibs, hand-me-down toys, torn story books and a baby book that never seemed to get finished (until graduation). You are the link with a past that gives reason for tomorrow. You quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision and give us humor that security, maturity and endurance can’t give us. When your hair changes color from summer to winter and your child towers over you, you will still be the “baby.”
Carol and Frank Peszka, of Erdenheim, will soon celebrate 55 years of wedded bliss with four children, five grandchildren and four granddogs. You can reach Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org