Thursday, June 30, 2011

No More Oatmeal Kisses

Anybody who knows me knows what a huge Erma Bombeck fan I am. I believe I have read everything she ever wrote. My mom had a couple of her books and my grandma had them all, I think. I spent many, many hours as a child reading those books and not understanding everything I read. But I knew loved the honest way that Erma spoke. I think, more than any other writer, she influenced my own writing style - which tends to be transparent.

As a mom, I've checked out many Erma books from the library and read them repeatedly. I understand them a lot better now! Recently, I made the decision to start collecting them. Every pay day that we can squeeze out a few extra dollars, I'm going to order an Erma book from Amazon. "At Wit's End" should be arriving any day now. I'm going to have a special bookshelf, just for my Erma books.

Mostly, Erma made her readers nod their heads and laugh. Nearly everybody could empathize with her realistic portrayals of marriage and motherhood, especially in the quickly changing days in which Erma wrote. But sometimes she made her readers cry. I don't care how many times I read this particular piece of hers -- I can't get to the end without the tears welling up. Recently, I typed it up and framed it and stuck it on the wall in my office. Now I can't go into the bathroom, which is right beside the wall where I hung it, without crying. I suppose that's ok. Bathrooms are a good place to cry.

No More Oatmeal Kisses

A young mother writes: “I know you’ve written before about the empty-nest syndrome, that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now I’m up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?”

OK. One of these days, you’ll shout, “Why don’t you kids grow up and act your age!” And they will. Or, “You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do . . . and don’t slam the door!” And they won’t.

You’ll straighten up the boys’ bedroom neat and tidy: bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you’ll say out loud, “Now I want it to stay this way.” And it will.

You’ll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn’t been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you’ll say, “Now, there’s a meal for company.” And you’ll eat it alone.

You’ll say, “I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?” And you’ll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti. No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms. No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps. No more clothespins under the sofa. No more playpens to arrange a room around.

No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathroom. No more iron-on patches, rubber bands for ponytails, tight boots or wet knotted shoestrings.

Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby-sitter for New Year’s Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn’t ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.
No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11 o’clock at night. Having your own roll of Scotch tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No giggles in the dark. No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, “Why don’t you grow up?” and the silence echoing, “I did.”


  1. I went through a PANIC last weekend when I had 3 hours all to myself-all I did was clean. Suddenly I realized someday this might be my life cleaning in a quite house. I kept busy until Frank & Cannon got home @9pm then ran to them velcroing myself to them. Frank thought something awful had happened. Nope,but my slap in face realization that I am not appreciating these days like I should had reset my tolerance for noise and sticky counters. WRITE on dear Sarah! Our world desperately needs a new Erma, I nominate you.

  2. Jewel is with my family-she didn't evaporate:)