Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Erma Bombeck’s syndicated column was the voice of fin de siecle suburban housewives. My parents’ bookshelves held many of her bestsellers, including “Just wait till you have children of your own! Unlike Bombeck’s other books, JWTYHCOYO! included comic illustrations by Bil Keene, the cartoonist of “Family Circus.” The book meanders through all the major parental milestones, from baby showers to diapers to learning to drive.

JWTYHCOYO!’s title actually came from Bombeck’s own youth. I don’t remember what she and her mother were arguing about; I don’t recall whether Bombeck herself remembered. What stuck was the image of her mother turning to her and saying “Never mind why I’m smiling. Just wait till you have children of your own.”

Decades after reading those words, other episodes from JWTYHCOYO! regularly emerge from memory as I walk the age-old path of parenthood. For example, Erma Bombeck has now achieved a certain kind of immortality: I think of her every time I sit in a bathroom staring at an empty toilet paper roll, as I wonder how my children will survive when I am dead. Indeed, I fear certain skills will die out with my generation. Operating a mechanical toilet paper spindle may always be beyond the reach of my lazy iChildren.

Fellow Burnaby-boy Michael Bublé’s Christmas album joined the rotation this year. A few perky repetitions resulted in a Bombeckian epiphany. How had I previously failed to notice “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” includes the poignant line “Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again”?

This week I passed another Bombeck milestone. After regaling me with some fresh drama from the soap opera that is middle school, my daughter Eleanor caught me rolling my eyes. I finally got to say it myself: “Never mind why I’m smiling. Just wait till you have children of your own.”

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