Friday, July 2, 2010

In the Words of Erma

The late, great Erma Bombeck was a gifted writer who gave us her light-hearted insights into life, people and mostly herself. I read her column on a weekly basis; I always looked forward to it. She always made me laugh but on a few occasions, brought a tear to my eyes. I'm not a saver of articles and such, but one particular column I've saved for over 30 years; it's yellow with age, it still brings a tear to my eyes. In honor of Independence Day, I give you Erma's take on the American Flag - What's red and white and blue and true?
"No one ever taught me about the flag.
When I was 5, I was in a dance recital. My costume was a silver leotard. Attached to it at the shoulders and wrists was a flag. During the last few bars, I spread my arms revealing 48 stars on a field of white. The audience went crazy cheering...I learned a flag could make you look like you had talent!
A few years later at a baseball game in Cincinnati, 2 men were calling each other names that would starch your underwear. One said Ted Kluszewski hit like a girl and the other guy threatened to rearrange his nose. Just then, they hoisted the flag; both of them stood with their hats over their hearts. I learned that a flag could break up a fight!
During the second World War, my Grandma sent her son to war. I never saw her cry when he left, or when he wrote or when we talked of him, but one afternoon when she thought no one was watching, she went and put a little flag on the sill in the front window. There were flags all up and down the street in windows. I learned the flag could bring tears to the eyes of people who didn't usually cry.
When I was in New York once, I saw a group of demonstators protesting the war. They lit a match to the flag. I watched in horror as the silk stipes curled in flames because I knew what was coming. Within minutes, there would be a bolt of lightning and thunder to strike them all dead - Nothing happened; the earth didn't part, the sky didn't fall and the VFW was open regular hours. I learned that a flag could touch the ground and life could go on.
Later I was to learn that people would make underwear out of the flag, key rings and toilet seats. The flag was a successful commercial venture.
I would learn that you wouldn't think about the flag for a long time, then you'd see it being raised slowly over a gold medal winner at the Olympics and you'd get up out of your chair quickly and say "Anyone want a beer while I'm up?" and go to the kitchen to hide your tears.
I'm still learning about the flag. It's an enigma to me. I've known it all my life. It's so familiar, yet it occasionally touches a nerve that excites to the point where I square my shoulders and say to a perfect stranger at the UN, "See that one with the red and white stripes and stars? That's my country."
Have a safe and wonderful Independence Day.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Erma too, and so did my Mom. Thanks for a reminder of what the flag means to me.