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Erma Bombeck

A Perfect Family Is Cause for Concern

January 09, 1986|ERMA BOMBECK

For years I've had a dream. I'd wake up one day and all our kids would be employed and their cars would be running.

In my mind, I fantasized about how we'd all sit around the kitchen table and talk of happy things that had nothing whatsoever to do with resumes and carburetors. We'd be a family again.

Well, it happened. At 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, the "Halley's Comet of Family Living" occurred. All of us stood around the kitchen and celebrated the phenomenon.

"Well, this is really great," my husband said.

"It certainly will be wonderful to talk about something meaningful and get on with our lives," I added.

Possibly five full minutes passed without anyone saying anything and then I said to my son, "Aren't you going to get a haircut. . . ."

"Made an appointment for the weekend," he said.

"Did you pick up all that mail that's been collecting here all. . . ."

"Got it yesterday," he said.

We sat in silence. Finally, my eyes brightened, "I'll bet you forgot Grandma's birthday and she's always so thoughtful about. . . ."

"Took out her present last weekend. Had a nice visit."

My husband turned to our daughter, "I don't suppose you've started saving a dime toward your car insurance?"

"Paid it last week," she said.

Throughout the dinner hour we struggled to find some sin against parental wisdom that we could discuss. When they were between jobs, it had been so stimulating. We could give them our "Pull yourself up by your bootstrap" speech (an oldie but a goodie), and when the cars broke down, it was wonderful to march out the traditional "If you hadn't been so stubborn and held out for a classic car, you'd have wheels today. Maybe next time you'll listen to your parents."

The evening dragged on. They couldn't do anything wrong. They had put oil in the car. Their laundry was done within the last week. They were eating well. Their health insurance was paid up. They had no traffic tickets outstanding. Their rent was paid.

I never knew perfection could be so dull. But then I was new at it. Was it possible that controversy bound us together and the parent-child roles provided a common ground for rapport?

As they left, one of the motors in a car refused to turn over.

"Turn off the engine before you flood it and then floor it," his brother said.

"No, I know that car. Pump it," said his sister.

"Nonsense," my husband said. "The battery is dead, and if you did what I told you to do in the first place, you'd have another year on the warranty."

I was putting together the "You probably left the door open and ran the battery down" speech.

We were a family again.

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