During my lifetime I’ve known two women named Erma. Actually, one was named Erma and one was named Irma. The latter I knew in person; the former I knew by way of newspapers and books.
Now, I’m going to clue you in on something. I’m not a housewife and I have never been a housewife. But even as a youngish lad I enjoyed reading my grandmother’s books by Erma Bombeck. I knew nothing about puberty and sexually reproductive practices, so I had no idea what Erma Bombeck was writing about when she lost everything in The Post Natal Depression, but her style was humorous and friendly, and after seeing her segments on “Good Morning, America” (usually when I was home from school with the flu or something), it was easy to read her passages in her midwestern accented voice. Erma Bombeck wrote in a “wry” way but she always made me laugh, even if I didn’t know what I was laughing about. I had no relationship with cottage cheese, I knew very little about cleaning alabasters (I think it had something to do with a bird cage), but I did dream about travel and I could identify with the idea of Mom and Dad arguing in the front seat of the 1978 Chevy Impala.
Now the other Irma I knew in person. She lived on a farm that wasn’t too far from us. My dad’s cousin’s divorced wife and kids would hang out with my mom and their kids (prior to the divorce) were aged right around my sister and me, and we’d spend plenty of summer days together. Irma and her husband Sam owned a dairy farm and we’d go over there to visit. The drive was fun in that it was across hay and cornfields on a backroad called the Sheepskin Road. Irma drove a Chevy Malibu with bucket seats (I considered this quite fancy) and the downstairs bathroom had an early 1970s era front loading Westinghouse Washing Machine. Irma was always very nice, very grandmotherly, and like Erma Bombeck, Irma was always positive and would go out of her way to take care of the people around her. Once in a great while I’ll dream about Irma and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just a friendly way of waking up with a smile on my face.
I spent some downtime reading old columns by Erma Bombeck today. I still don’t know how to clean an alabaster (who knew a bird would get dirty?) and I don’t know anything about having a kid standing stark naked on top of the television set while I’m writing my latest blog entry, but like Irma, Erma makes me smile.
I hope the two of them have had the opportunity to share pleasantries on the other side.