Thursday, February 28, 2002
For fans of Erma Bombeck
Although Erma Bombeck had about 31 million readers, she seemed to speak to each of us separately. She was funny. Consistently, reliably funny for 30 years. Even better, she gave us permission to be imperfect. Seize the moment, she wrote. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.
I miss Erma.
Now, we have people who want to crunch our abs and give us buns of steel. Martha Stewart terrorizes us with glue guns and dried weeds, making us feel like slackers if we don't make our own toothpaste. My second favorite household chore is ironing, Erma told us. My first is hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.
Because she did not tackle serious subjects, such as politics and major league sports, it took a while maybe as much as a whole generation to notice that she wrote about everything that really matters.
A lot of columnists write to end up in the Congressional Record or at the Pulitzer committee's door, writes columnist Ellen Goodman. Erma Bombeck went us all one better. Her words won her the permanent place of honor in American life: the refrigerator door.
A generation's voice
She didn't write about politicians, although they were among her most ardent fans. She wrote about her kids and her husband. In general, Erma confided to readers in about 900 newspapers, my children refused to eat anything that hadn't danced on TV. Her book, The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, captured middle-class flight to the suburbs as authentically as The Great Gatsby portrayed spoiled rich people.
After Erma's death in 1996, her family donated photos, original book manuscripts and 4,300 original columns things around Erma's desk, said her husband, Bill to the University of Dayton, her alma mater. And the university has made a gift of these things to us. In honor of what would have been her 75th birthday, this month the Erma Bombeck Online Museum opened.
It is a remarkable debut. At www.ErmaMuseum.org, you can hear her voice, you can see 45 photographs, including wedding pictures, a shopping trip on Rodeo Drive with Phyllis Diller and an audience with Pope John Paul II. Erma's biography by Lynn Hutner Colwell is generously excerpted.
Clinging to typewriter
And the plan is eventually to add an archive of Erma's columns and her own voice from her Good Morning, America commentaries. We are trying very hard to include not just her writings, but Erma herself, says UD's Tim Bete.
Erma herself who was 37 when she wrote her first column probably wouldn't have been able to navigate the site. She clung determinedly to her IBM Selectric typewriter. But a new computerized generation might just stumble into this museum.
I used to describe humorists as a band of pied pipers dancing and singing down the Yellow Brick Road ignoring all the human misery about them, she told a UD class in 1982. That's not really true. We don't ignore human misery. On some days it becomes unbearable. We don't ignore it. We just rise above it and try to put it in some perspective.
I miss Erma.
E-mail Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 768-8393.
Union will abide by boycott of Cincinnati
Text of letter
Schools gear up for state test time
Questions, answers about Ohio proficiency tests
Commission dudes pony up for skateboard fest
Navy mom beckons other parents
City cops, ATF work to get federal drug and gun charges
Contest lets fans leave their mark on ballpark
Councilmen address life quality
Home addition faces razing
Murder defendant faces decision on plea bargain
Norwood schools to buy Shea
Peter Max enters bid for escaped cow
Recents busts yield cocaine worth $4M
Response to reforms criticized
Sierra Club files suit against Hamilton Co.
Tristate A.M. Report
Witness says he saw fatal shots
PULFER: Cyber museum
HOWARD: Some Good News
RADEL: Unity Week
Business projects on ballot
Butler pols chew the fat on tax hike
County leaders back hospital
Hamilton man guilty of smut charges
Hamilton's new football coach praised
Lakota ponders adding office
Landfill cleanup questioned
Man who crossed median not guilty in fatal crash
OxyContin suit status argued
Agreement could drum up support for permanent college tuition cap
Tobacco farmers' fund eyed for budget
Bill on historic documents stays put
House votes for Sweet 16 review
Kentucky News Briefs
You still pay ... just not a cashier