As I See It ~ My View From the Zoo
I have always had a fond appreciation for the work of the late Erma Bombeck. Along with many avid fans, I mourned the loss of a legend when she died after complications following her kidney transplant in 1996.
Anybody that can find humor in the trials and tribulations of a regular household of busy family life and share them in a way that can make others look at themselves and laugh a little bit has shared an incredible gift.
Erma had a real knack for making her reader feel as though they knew her. It was much like sharing a coffee chat with a friend, more than simply reading a novel. She had a knack for finding the amusement in the most mundane moments in family life. I was often caught giggling out loud while riding on public transit. Somehow sad to me that this was often met with a sideward glare as though I’d broken some kind of unwritten rule of awkward silence while in a public place.
Inevitably things break, relationships get bumpy and life is rarely the vision of the fictional “Brady Bunch,” that we grew up watching. If you take a look back through your life I’m sure we can all find stories that were not at ALL amusing at the time but can now be reflected on in a different light. Some stories will be retold for years to come at family gatherings, while others will be enjoyed only in the solace of your memory as you sit in your darkened bedroom at night and giggle in amusement to yourself.
Surely it’s Murphy’s Law that decides that the day you’ve invited your whole family over for a large dinner, that this would be the time your stove element would give out. Your car will choose to have its breakdown coincide with your family vacation. As you are working away on year end reports, or a critical assignment is when you toddler will choose to say, “Daddy, what does this button do?” as all of your unsaved work falls into the bit bucket.
There will be days when things will happen that make you wish that the floor would just open up and swallow you, and there will be days that you’re almost certain that that is exactly what has happened to you.
I came to find Erma Bombeck when I was in my early 20’s. I’d seen a copy of “Family – The Ties that Bind and Gag” and I just had to take a look at that. It had certainly gotten my attention. From there, I was hooked! I remember picking up every title that I could find – I couldn’t get enough of them. With such wisdoms as “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?” and “When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home”. How could you not be intrigued?
Having come survived my parents’ divorce at a young age and life with a single Dad; I learned early that just because you come from a huge family doesn’t mean that you’re the Waltons. It’s something I’ve always pondered, the way we make so many unilateral assumptions about everything.
I wasn’t one of the popular kids growing up, and in many ways I was still struggling to find the place that I fit in to this world when medical issues came in and swept me over in my mid 20’s. Well-meaning people often comment on how hard it must have been, or how awful but in reality it’s only awful if you have something better to compare it to. We all have a mindset of what is normal, and that doesn’t get challenged until we have something else to hold up beside it to question if something is truly wrong. While it is true that things were never easy, I’ve come to realize that anything worth having rarely is.
As kids we couldn’t wait to get older, and as adults we sometimes pine for those long forgotten days before husbands and kids, mortgage payments and family commitments. I suppose it is human nature to always want to be something or somewhere other than we are. We weren’t made to remain still, however the trick is finding a balance between where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going and where you hope to end up.
Of course there are some stories that do not lend themselves to humor of any fashion but even though life does have its joys and struggles; sometimes the only way that we get through it is finding something positive --something to laugh about -- even when we feel like crying. Erma Bombeck got that side of life. Her work has been a long-time inspiration to me and I find myself reflecting on some of her humorous quotes from time to time.
Just as there are days when everything is sunshine and roses, there will be days when as you step off the bus that its big doors clamor shut and it drives away with your wig in tow. I will never forget the way it felt to have all of those commuters staring at my chemo-induced bald head as my hair began to pull away without me. Thankfully someone at the front noticed the exchange and the bus driver stopped. I have no idea what possessed me at the time, but as the door opened I grabbed my hair and plopped it back on my head – addressed the crowd with “Damn! I hate it when that happens!” and turned to walk away. I was beyond mortified, and several blocks later I remember looking back to see people still watching after me. Today I can remember that day and smile wondering what those people thought about this bald woman standing there watching her hair as it pulled away and laugh – but at the time I was vibrating from head to toe and sporting what I’m sure what the brightest shade of red that Burnaby BC had ever seen. Life’s like that sometimes.
The long and short of it is that one thing is clear. Life is fatal – we are only here for a short time and we need to make the most of it. We can laugh at our foibles and mistakes and move on, or we can cry about them and wallow in it. I’ll take laughter any day. Thanks Erma Bombeck for being a woman who has inspired me greatly over the years.