Authors: Erma Bombeck
It’s laughter, being with people you like, and at some time falling to your knees and saying, “Thank you for coming to my birthday party.”
How sad indeed to awake on Christmas and not be a child.
Time, self-pity, apathy, bitterness, and exhaustion can
take the Christmas out of the child, but you cannot take the child out of Christmas.
Bigots may be all right in their places, but would you want your daughter to marry one?
Edith Bunker did the day she said, “I do, I will, and I’ll keep doing it until I get it right” to Archie Bunker, the Irish Godfather of TV’s “All in the Family.”
Personally, I love Edith Bunker. She hasn’t read anything current since a cereal box offered an African violet to people with irregularities. She regards the six o’clock news as a filler between “As the World Turns” and “Roller Derby.” She fills up her husband’s plate at picnics and apologizes because the baked beans oozed over his chicken. If Gloria Steinem asked her to make a contribution to her sex she’d say, “Honey, Archie gives at the plant.”
What’s to envy about Edith? She’s a giver and God knows there are few of them left in the world. Edith is at the end of every line, whether it be at the bank, the check-out, or the clinic. She would drive Archie to the hospital for a paper cut. But she would refuse anesthetic for her own surgery if it cost extra. She would hang a picture over her living room sofa that the milkman’s wife painted by number.
She would lend you her new Christmas sweater and wouldn’t complain if you sweat in it. She is one of the last of the vanishing breed of listeners—remember them? They are people who sit quietly and look at you in the face when you talk and when you’re finished there is a silence. They haven’t been thinking of a story they could tell.
Edith has a tolerance toward humanity and unconsciously
looks for the bright side. She would find humor in Jane Fonda’s acceptance speech for the Oscar.
Actually, Edith is not too complex. What you see is what she is. Edith has never learned about the plastic veneer or sophistication that people cover themselves with. If it were suggested to her that she not refer to Phase II as a bar of soap, she’d say, “Am I pronouncing it wrong?”
It is a sad commentary on my life, but I don’t know many Edith Bunkers. The people I know still wear dark glasses indoors even though they fall over things. They refuse to have people in for dinner until all their dishes match. They are bored, miserable, depressed, and unfulfilled because in 1965 Betty Friedan told them they were. (Would Betty lie?)
I have a theory if anything is ever to be resolved with mankind it won’t be the Archie Bunkers with the wall-to-wall mouth who will do it. And it probably won’t be Meathead and his wife Gloria (who put the IN in “All in the Family”). It will be the Edith Bunkers. Their unselfishness, their regard for human feelings, their patience, their caring, and their love of everyone will bring it about.
On television the other week a group of students were talking about their confrontation with New York construction workers. “We made a mistake,” said one of the students. “We attacked their symbol—their flag. We shouldn’t have done that. It’s important to them.”
The phrase stuck in my mind. “
symbol.” I thought it was theirs too. Or is it? As a parent, I guess I always thought respect for the flag was congenital. Is it possible I was so busy teaching the basics, I never took the time to teach “flag.”
“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light.…”
(Don’t slouch. Pick up your feet. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Stop squinting. Turn that radio down. Get off the phone. Tie that shoestring before you trip on it.”)
“Shoot if you must this old gray head but spare your country’s flag.…”
(“Don’t snap your gum. Stop eating all that junk before dinner. Sit up straight. Look at me when I talk to you. Your eyes are going to stay crossed someday. Get your homework done. Wear boots.”)
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.…”
(“Shut that door behind you. Get the mud off your shoes. Quit rustling that bag. Go to sleep. Don’t slam the door. Leave your sweater on. Get a haircut.”)
“If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.”
(“Stop fidgeting. Keep your feet on the floor where they belong. Don’t talk back. What do you say to the nice lady? Wash your hands. You’re letting in flies. Pick up that mess.”)
“We came in peace for all mankind.”
(“You’re going to be late. Eat something. Bring me the change. Hang that up. Brush your teeth. Apologize. Get your elbows off that table. Got a clean handkerchief? Tuck your shirt in. Be home early.”)
Did I forget to tell them it was their flag they hoisted over Mount Suribachi? Their flag that flies over champions at the Olympics? Their flag that draped the coffin of John F. Kennedy? Their flag that was planted in the windless atmosphere of the moon? It’s pride. It’s love. It’s goose bumps. It’s tears. It’s determination. It’s a torch that is passed from one generation to another.
I defy you to look at it and tell me you feel nothing.
I got some flack on a column I once did on horror movies. Some readers felt I was condoning violence and bad taste for letting my youngsters see them.
There was a time when I probably would have agreed with them. That’s when the world had a GP rating and horror movies were rated X.
Maybe it’s time we stopped flapping about the world of make-believe (“Did Tarzan marry the girl or not? And was the chimp illegitimate?”) and zero in on the big problem: reality.
We are shocked when our children see rats, snakes, and frogs devouring humans. We can turn our backs when they are live-ins in most slums around the country.
We scream censorship when there is murder committed before our children’s eyes on the tube. We can endure it when it appears on the six o’clock news with a dateline: Vietnam.
My children in their short span on earth have seen Watts in flames, mothers with clubs and rocks protesting schools, college students slain by national guardsmen, mass slaughter in California, and political conventions that defy anything they have seen on a movie screen.
They have heard language from congressmen that curls their hair. They have seen animals slain to extinction by humans with clubs and shot at from moving cars. They have flinched from gunshots that fell leaders of countries because they hold views that are different from those who slew them.
I challenge you to protect a generation from violence that has seen the horrors of Kent, Dallas, and Attica.
If it doesn’t, it should bother someone that our children are short on laughter. We are giving birth to the most educated, bright, intelligent, serious, dedicated group of
adults who ever sat in a playpen. Where is the little mouse who used to outsmart the cat in the cartoons? Where is the newspaperman who used to dress in a phone booth and wear wrinkled underwear with a cape? Where indeed?
Bonnie and Clyde
was a joke to young movie-goers … a gas. So was
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
. So was
. To them, the violence was exaggerated, absurd, unreal.
It’s the reality that frightens them and gives them nightmares. God help us. It does me too.