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Saturday, May 28, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Waxing nostalgic usually isn't my thing. If nothing else, when you're as old as I am, the past stretches back so far that details become a little muddled - so why bother? But when I saw this book on sale at Amazon, the memories really did come flooding back and I snapped it up. Besides getting a good deal, I needed a dose of comic relief from the psychological thrillers and grisly murder books that are my standard fare and figured this one would provide it. And I was right.

For those who don't know, humorist Erma Bombeck penned more than 4,000 syndicated "At Wit's End" newspaper columns from 1965 to 1996 - and I'm quite sure I read most of them as well as a couple of her books. Her primary intent was to make women laugh - often at themselves - and she pulled that off in fine fettle. And just for because it's meaningful to me, I'll note that she's a native of "my" state of Ohio, growing up and living for years in a town not far from my parents' small farm.

This book is an anthology of those columns. Are they dated? Absolutely; I doubt they would be nearly as funny to mothers of today. Then again, some things never change; my newfangled digital washing machine withholds socks just like the old one did (they tend to reappear, of course, just after I've given up waiting and throw away the mate I've been saving for months). 

For those who might  complain about female stereotypes, I hasten to emphasize that I was then, and still am, a staunch feminist. But I also had a husband, two kids and, after both were in school, a career. So no matter how many times I paraded in the street with sign proclaiming "Adam was a Rough Draft," it was into my hand, not my husband's, that my kids spit their chewing gum as we sat in church.

Besides making me laugh, Erma assuaged my "bad mom" twinges when I used TV - and a box of way-too sugary Fruit Loops - as a Saturday morning babysitter so I could have an hour or two of relative peace and quiet. She even made me feel less guilty on the days I threatened to take them both to a winery, stick them in kegs and come back to pull the plugs when they were 21.

So for me, a golden oldie who grew up in the '50s, these columns are a treasure trove. Browsing through this collection, I did exactly what I did back then: I smiled, giggled, chortled and hooted out loud. And yes, I teared up on occasion; her "Mike and the Grass" column in May 1973 tugged at the "Sunrise, Sunset" strings of my heart, and I sniffled my way through the words in her final column, written not long before she left this world. Love you forever, Erma, and I know without doubt that if there is a heaven, you're in it - telling the angels how it really is and making them laugh until they (well, you know).

Forever Erma: Best-Loved Writing From America's Favorite Humorist (Open Road Media, 1st edition, January 2013); 293 pp. 

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