Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Passing the Purple Hat

A friend sent me an email, one of those chain mails, titled "Passing the purple hat." I don't know how to describe it, so let me just paste it here:

"In honor of women's history month and in memory of Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with polycystic kidney disease after undergoing a kidney transplant at the age of 69. Here is an angel sent to watch over you."

I was shocked. Erma Bombeck is one of my favourite authors. I never knew she was dead; I just assumed she would be still alive somewhere and would be a funny old lady. She'd died in 1996, much before I'd ever heard of her. I obviously didn't do my homework and looked her up.

"Erma Louise Bombeck (February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996), was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life humorously from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. Bombeck also published 15 books, most of which became best-sellers." - Wikipedia.

I was introduced to Erma when I read an article of hers in Reader's Digest; I think it was around 2002-03. The article was short, but funny, and could be about any family anywhere in the world. As was most of her books. She wrote about family life, mostly her family. She had two sons and a daughter, and like any family they had their arguments, fights, eccentricities and funny moments. It was written from a housewife's point of view, but besides being funny her books always have a good message at the end, like how much she loved her family no matter what happened, how lucky she was to be blessed with three beautiful children etc etc.

Any mother reading Erma Bombeck’s books would instantly identify with her, in fact all of us could in some way or the other identify with some character or the other in her books. After all, we were all teenagers once, and most of us would have grown up with a couple of siblings and would know a thing or two about sibling rivalry and the usual petty fights. Socks that don't match, children fighting at the dinner table, children fighting to see who would get the window seat in the car while travelling, the joys and travails of having a dog / any other pet, children doing homework at the very last minute, children avoiding household chores, couples fighting, exercising, varicose veins, advice from mothers, and other thousand everyday situations could be found in her books. I simply love the way she writes, for example –

Ever since I can remember, our home has harbored a fourth child - I.Dunno. Everyone sees him but me. All I know is, he’s rotten.
“Who left the front door open”?
“Who let the soap melt down the drain?”
“Who ate the banana I was saving for the cake?”
Frankly, I.Dunno is driving me nuts.

See? How can you not love her? How can you not identify with her or with the situation? So go to your nearest bookstore and pick up all the Erma Bombeck books you can lay your hands on. Satisfaction guaranteed. She also has a lot of funny quotes, look them up, I assure you they will leave a smile on your lips.

Coming back to the email I received – it went on like this –


I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you's." More "I'm sorry's."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it, live it and never give it back. Stop sweating the small stuff.

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.

Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Let's think about what God HAS blessed us with. And what we are doing each day to promote ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally. I hope you all have a blessed day.


  1. Nice read. That's the thing about us guys with long hair. We explore the feminine side of ours and able to relate to girlie stuff such as your post.Short haired 'skin heads' would just not look at your post and read other macho stuff,like 'How to beat up your wife and get away with it'LOLZ.

  2. Ooo! i too never knew she was dead. Yeah, i remember reading & enjoying some of her stuff, the last one being the book 'The ties that bind and gag'. So sad she's gone.

  3. I did read one of her articles, struck me as exceedingly funny then, but never bothered to look up her other works. I should take a few pointers from 'If I had my life to live over'.

  4. dr_feelgood - I didn't know there was a thing about being a guy with long hair, I simply thought long haired dudes were equally crude as the short haired members of their gender. Nice to know there still exist males who aren't afraid to show their feminine side (apart from the long hair) and are proud of it. Attaboy!

    mesjay - I have most of her books but lost half of them to people who borrow books and never return them. You can laugh just by reading the titles - "If Life is a bowl of cherries what am I doing in the pits?" "Just wait till you have children of your own." "I lost everything in the post-natal depression." "The grass is always greener on the other side of the septic tank" etc etc.

    diary - Yeah I guess we could all take pointers from her, about how to live and how to love, about cherishing the people who are in our lives.

  5. lolz @ dr feelgood. I hope your comment was not directed at me!!! :D

    Hey Adz, I love her writing too (I mean, the extract that you posted here. Didnt know her before coming here). I.Dunno was hilarious. And I totally understand how you feel. I was in deep depression when Robert Ludlum passed away :( Of course their styles of writing are different, but I guess to each, his (her) own.

    I know how badly we miss great writers. It feels like one of the flames that keep us warm no longer burns. Seriously.

  6. Kima - The death of a favourite author is indeed a sad event. You feel so deprived all of a sudden, like something very important is suddenly taken away from you and there is nothing you can do about it.

    Try reading more Erma Bombeck, you will be amazed to see many similarities with your own childhood, and with your own family.

  7. Ka la chhiar lo pek. I han sawi atang hian a ziah thiam hmel hle mai. Ka nau hian thil ziah/sawi chhawn a thiam a ti tlat

  8. is one of those authors i keep telling myself i should read but have never got down to. this is my new year (bit early) resolution then!

  9. vana - Ziak thiam tak ani,nuihzatthlak bawk si dik bawk si a taka thleng thei vek bawk si... chhiar ve lo tum rawh.

    feddabonn - Maybe you should call it year end resolution heheh.. I think making a resolution is a very brave thing to do. And do go and buy her books, you won't regret it.

  10. I like the quotes....I am thinking how you manage to discover such great people...

  11. Kym - I love reading stuff that makes me laugh, and Erma's writing is one of the best. I am so glad that I discovered her, thanks to Reader's Digest.

  12. ...and I am glad I came here and discover a whole new world...

  13. Great read, as always. Am embarrassed to report that I haven't read any full-length work of hers, but I will make sure to try to get my hands on some of her work after that glowing review :)

  14. Thank you, Kym.

    ddb - Thank you. Yes be sure to get some of her books, it's worth the investment.