UDQuickly Home My Old House Snapshots UD Magazine
Send A Class Notes

@DayMag

UDMagazine Sumer14 bombeck2

Laughter and light

1:58 PM  Jun 17th, 2014
by Michelle Tedford '94

It was three days full of belly-laughing, donkey-snorting, mascara-running good times with 350 humor writers from around the country.

And there I was, sitting in Sears Recital Hall, trying not to cry.

A fellow attendee at UD’s biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had just stood up. Her name was Kate.

She had come here from Newtown, Conn. “I was funny and lost my funny,” she told us as we rummaged our pockets for tissues. “I came here to find it again.”

We knew she hadn’t just lost it. This writer had her funny ripped from her in her own hometown by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. When would it be OK, she wondered, to laugh again?

It’s when life makes us ask such questions that we need laughter the most.

At the workshop’s keynote dinner, Phil Donahue reminded us of the power of laughter as he talked about his good friend, the late Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49. The father of daytime talk shows and the mother of misadventures had been neighbors in Centerville, Ohio, each raising stair-step children while launching their careers.

In her writing, he said, was an honesty that touched the world. She popped balloons of pretense with daggers of laughter. Her humor was revolutionary.

“Motherhood was sacred,” Donahue said as he intoned popular sentiment: “‘Oh, how blessed you are. Oh, what a wonderful mother you are.’ Mothers were on pedestals. And Erma would do a column something like, ‘I am going to sell my children.’ She punctured that pretense, and she was speaking for millions of women.”

My own mother taped Bombeck’s words to our goldenrod-yellow refrigerator door — not the words about selling us, as far as I can remember, though I certainly would have deserved it for digging a pond in the backyard and filling it with frogs, which attracted crows from three counties.

Millions of women also taped Bombeck to their fridges, taking strength from the joys of an imperfect life
with this sister who cautioned us to never have more children than we have car windows. It is a community that stretches through the miles and across the decades and that, every two years, materializes at UD, where a young Erma was told by her English professor, “You can write.”

This April, Donahue repeated the phrase, adding a charge to use our words to move mountains. “We have an assembly of people of conscience here … and you may just be the people who will make our lives better,” he said.

With their words and their support, the attendees embraced Kate from Newtown, who later wrote, “My three days in Dayton were extraordinary, and when the laughter died down I learned this above all: the line between tragedy and comedy does exist, and while laughing in the face of any horror is nearly impossible, the only way through the tears and darkness is with laughter and light.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook


*

  • Students viewed "God... Steel and a Wasted Dream," an exhibition by sculpture professors and twin brothers Kyle and Kelly Phelps that opened in Rike Gallery today. The show runs through March 2. by Larry Burgess
  • Sheet sign for Betapocalypse by Larry Burgess
  • Albert Emanuel Hall
  • Ribbed clouds over Wohlleben Hall by Larry Burgess
  • Relocating government documents by Larry Burgess
  • Making buckeyes at Kennedy Union by Larry Burgess
  • Flute soloist at practice in Fitz Hall by Zoey Xia
  • New windows for Frericks Center gym by Larry Burgess
  • Building a Sustainability Week Michael Bashaw art installation on Central Mall by Larry Burgess
  • Squirrel in a tree eating an apple by Larry Burgess
  • DSC_2023 copy wordpress 1
  • robin eating berries
  • Tim Wabler speaks to the press during the rollout of the new logo on Blackburn Court at UD Arena.
  • Squirrel outside of St. Joseph Hall
  • Engineering students working in materials lab in Kettering Labs by Larry Burgess
  • Sidewalk repair at STewart and Brown by Larry Burgess
  • 091609intramurals
  • Batman rides on campus on a Link bike by Larry Burgess