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Tag Archive: Erma Bombeck

Jul 01

Fourth of July memories– it’s really the patriotism we love, not the potato salad

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”–Erma Bombeck.

Ah yes, I remember that “iffy” potato salad and the flies, too, at many a Fourth of July celebration of my youth.

The Fourth of July is a happy holiday bringing back delightful memories, but maybe it is more than the family picnics and fireworks that I remember and love.

Maybe it is the patriotism, 1950s style, not the potato salad, that makes it such a happy holiday.

For instance, one of the things I remember most about past Fourth of July celebrations is a television monologue given by the late great comedian Red Skelton in honor of Independence Day.

For younger generations who may not know this, Skelton was a comedian who rose to stardom between the 50s and 70s delighting audiences coast-to-coast with his weekly comedy television show.

After all these years, turns out I remembered very few details about Red Skelton’s then famous “Pledge of Allegiance” monologue. However, I do recall how much I loved his performance at the time.

If you search the Internet, you will find it easily, the YouTube video of Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance, 1950 style.

Skelton tells a story about how his teacher Mr. Laswell of Harrison School in Vincennes, Indiana, felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite, something monotonous.

Mr. Laswell remarked to the students, “If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?” He continued.

“I—meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge—dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance—my love and my devotion.

To the flag—our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job!

The United—that means we have all come together.

States of America—individual communities that have united into 48 (now 50) great states; individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the republic—a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it is from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.”

Red Skelton’s entire rendition of Mr. Laswell’s speech is too long for this column.

However, I will share with you here his final admonition to his students, “We are one nation so blessed by God that we are incapable of being divided, which means, boys and girls, it is as much your country as it is mine.”

Yes indeed, it is this kind of patriotism that I love and remember, but not so much the “iffy” potato salad.

Happy Fourth! May it be patriotic and memorable, even if you can’t keep those pesky flies off the potato salad.

Dec 24

The perfect gift is hard to find

“Christmas Shopping: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find one gift that you didn’t have to dust, that had to be used right away, that was practical, fit everyone, was personal and would be remembered for a long time? I penciled in “Gift certificate for a flu shot.” ?– Erma Bombeck

How prophetic, Erma Bombeck’s suggestion that she wanted a flu shot for Christmas, and to think the famed author and columnist wrote that in the 60s.

Needless to say she was ahead of her time, but I know exactly what she meant about finding the perfect gift. It is hard to do. After all, Christmas shopping is a race to see which gives out first, one’s money or one’s feet. It’s a difficult proposition.

And this year, I had an additional problem–finding the time to search for the perfect gift because I am slightly “slammed” (current trendy vernacular for overloaded, busy, frantic).

Simply put, time got away from me this year, so I had to rely on my intuition and spur-of-the-moment gift ideas for friends and family.

I hope they like them. Here’s my list:

For my husband–I never thought of a flu shot as a gift before, but now that I think about it, I wonder if he would like one. Erma Bombeck has a great idea going there, and a flu shot is free at some places. I’ll pencil that on my list for now, but are there gift certificates for flu shots? Maybe, I better stick with a tie, again.

For my friend Beth who loves music–a downloaded ringtone of Barry Manilow’s version of “Christmas Is Just Around the Corner.” Perfect, and it can be sent straight to her Blackberry. How high-tech nifty is that!

Each time Beth’s phone rings, it will be Barry crooning, “Christmas—you feel it in the air… Better write all your letters to Santa. There’s shopping and wrapping to do. I bet you’ll never believe it when you see what I got you (a sentimental ringtone, ha ha)…Christmas is just around the corner!”

She’s gonna love it.

For Ann, my hairdresser, a copy of “You’re Only Old Once” by Dr. Seuss. After all we both complained loudly just the other day about the “joys” of aging and the subsequent medical procedures that seem to go with the territory.

Dr. Seuss knows that laughter is always the best medicine when he writes, “you will wish you were not in this (doctor’s) chair…in the Golden Years Clinic on Century Square for Spleen Readjustment and Muffler Repair.”

“Just why are you hear? You’re not feeling your best…You’ve come in for an Eyesight and Solvency Test…And the next thing you know, when you’ve finished that test, is somehow you’ve lost both your necktie and vest and an Ogler is ogling your stomach and chest.”

I don’t think she’ll look cross-eyed when I give her this book; do you?

And for Larry who once gave me “bear-breathe” scented soap, I found the perfect retaliatory gift–a six-pack of “goat’s breath beer.” What goes around comes around.

For everyone else—socks, pajamas and fudge.

I’m done shopping now. “Twas the night before Christmas” is here, and I’m out of time.

But there is just enough time left to wish you, my dear readers, a Merry, Merry Christmas.

May you always wake up on Christmas morning with the wonder and delight of a child; yes, even if you get bathroom scales, lighted golf balls, or a coffee mug tree. Makes the socks and fudge look mighty good now, huh?

Oct 30

Cleaning out the basement closet is scary but illuminating

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”
– A.A. Milne

As in my scary basement closet.

Perhaps, it was the new moon this week that drew me to the large closet in our basement urging me to clean it.

Perhaps, it was that someone asked me to find something there.

My reply to that person, “You wonder if I have it. I wonder where it is. Everybody wonders how I find it.”

At least twice a year I try.

Whether it was the drive of the new moon or a need to find something, I began to search the closet we call “the cave”.

I braced myself for brave entry into this inner sanctum sanctorum deep within the bowls of this edifice of our home.

I told you it was a scary place.

When we originally built the house, we poured concrete walls and a concrete ceiling under the garage in the basement. The idea was to have a climate-controlled storage area and tornado shelter.

Now, that room is merely a disorganized and disorderly closet full of life memorabilia.

Taking a serious look at this most private and secret room bred the need to organize, discard, and donate. One cannot escape the powerful force calling one to sort, systematize, arrange, and classify when one finally tackles cleaning out the closet.

Mark Twain once said this about keeping things in closets, “Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not a piece of advice, it is merely a custom.”

Now, I see why climate-controlled storage lockers outside of one’s home are the rage.

Keep all your saved things somewhere other than in your own closet and home. That way you can hang onto them to your heart’s content without looking at the clutter and without venturing into scary basement closets.

Erma Bombeck, famed humorist and columnist of the 60’s, had a theory on housework that just has to apply as well to cleaning out closets.

Erma quipped, “My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?”

On second thought, maybe twice a year is too often to visit our scary closet in the basement. I am checking out climate-controlled storage lockers as we speak.

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