Friday, February 19, 2016

Erma

     The columnists were my favorite, hands-down.
     I argued with Ann Landers, and my mother tried to explain to me the other point of view, the grown-up rules for life.
     She told me about Ann having a twin sister who wrote for other newspapers doing the same type of thing, which was about the coolest job I had ever heard of at the time.
     Erma Bombeck was head and shoulders above Ann, however, and probably that much better than her sister, too.
     She reigned supreme for being able to make sad things seem funny. Her column wasn't in there every day like, Ann's, and I missed her smile and words on the days I spent only with Ann.
     I never argued with Erma but laughed instead at the situations she described. It wasn't a fairy tale story, but I felt better at the end because of the way she laughed at herself.
     After I finished, my grandmother would take the paper to the back porch and spend the day reading every page, starting with the obituaries. Her rocking chair still has black on the wood from where ink rubbed off on her hands.
     It's in my living room.
     If she found a familiar name, I would hear all about that person's life and their connection to her and us. It wasn't as boring as it sounds, listening to her talk about whose cousin married whom and how they met.
     If it was a good story, she might even talk about being a teenager and "bobbing her hair to become a flapper." The stories were all the same, but the giggly way she told them made it worthwhile.
     My father was already on his way to work about 45 minutes away.
     He loaned money to farmers so they could raise chickens and grow things. The houses were fun to go into when the biddies had just hatched, but they would die if you took one home.
     We knew better than to do that, but some kids didn't, and it was gross what happens afterward. Biddies don't have enough feathers to stay warm, even in the summer, so they just die.
     You can't put blankets on them or place them next to a blow-dryer or light bulb. It's all too heavy or strong or hot. You can't even hold them next to you and pretend to be a Mama chicken because you aren't warm enough and will hurt it by accident.
     They die right in front of you, out in the open, their skin all pink and shiny.
     After they get worn out from calling for their Mamas, they just stand there for a while and shiver, waiting. Then, they curl up in a little ball and stop moving, only twitching a little, until it stops.
     Then, they die. Just like that, in front of your eyes...they are gone.
     The only thing you can do is watch.
     They are cold right away, not like baby cows and horses and kittens.
     The cold is the reason they die; it's what takes them away.
     Maybe Erma keeps them warm now, like she did me all those years ago when I decided I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.