If I could find that darn genie with that magic lantern, I’d ask the genie to make Erma Bombeck my neighbor. For years, I’d read her columns, bought her books, watched her on the Phil Donahue Show and just loved her from afar. She would have been a perfect neighbor for me.
I envisioned her popping over early in the morning, her hair in rollers, wearing a fuzzy robe and asking to borrow a few eggs. I looked exactly the same in my 1960 kitchen. Her kids were starving and they needed a protein packed breakfast. I like to think she shopped just like I did. I had the word EGGS on my grocery list and came home with waffles instead. I sent her home with a box of waffles, instead of eggs, to feed the little ones. Eggs were on the ingredient list, so it was basically the same thing. That’s what good neighbors do.
Our style of parenting would also be a conversation over coffee after the little ones were off to school.
“Oh Erma, I don’t know what to do with my Tommy. He is so lazy with his homework,” I’d complain.
“Anne, he’s probably not getting enough sugar. Give him a Twinkie for dinner.”
“That is genius! You should write a parenting column, Erma,” I reply , amazed at her genius.
I’d also counsel her with her troubles.
“Anne, Andy and Matt are constantly refusing to share toys with Betsy. What am I going to do?”
“Well Erma, what I found best is to put masking tape on the boy’s hands, like mittens. Then, Betsy has a chance to play with the toys she likes. Just don’t forget to take it off, like I did.”
I’d learn so much from her. You can see by her quotes below why she’s my favorite, imaginary, neighbor.
“The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.”
“For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times at parties that it’s time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward.”
When she got sick, I’d make her family meals and sit with her. She wouldn’t even have to speak. I’d just be there for her. We’d reminisce and laugh and cry. Then we’d do it again. I’d hug her really tight and tell her she was my best neighbor ever.
Years later, I’d fly to Dayton to be part of her writer’s conference. I’d make new friends, learn new ideas, and be so proud to be part of my best, imaginary, neighbor’s legacy.
I really miss her.