This is my final Erma Bombeck post for Erma Bombeck Appreciation Week 2010.

This was written in 1969 but I see nothing has changed in 41 years of parenting.

In addition to never being able to find a pencil when you live in a home with young children, as Erma talks about, I’d like to add the following:

Nail clippers, brushes/combs, scissors, tape measures (usually pressed into service as a stuffed animal leash), cloth napkins (used for picnic blankets for doll parties), and the spray nozzle for the hose.

If the latter seems odd to you, then obviously you do not live with a young child who is obsessed with the hose and starts asking to use it in February.

And, no, Slip N Slides and sprinklers are not of greater interest to her than simply turning on the hose and spraying water about.

I should be grateful, I suppose, that she’s so easily amused, but it means I’m often left searching for the hose nozzle when it’s time to actually do something practical with it, like water flowers or wash the car. I usually  never find it until I almost mow over it.

Let’s not discuss how many hose nozzles I’ve had to purchase over the years…

Anyway, back to Erma:

No Pencil in the House by Erma Bombeck

We have 26 appliances in our home, two cars in the driveway, a few savings bonds put away, and I’m a “standing” at the beauty shop.

We do not own a pencil.

On the surface we would appear to be a family of some comfort. If Onassis knocked on the door and wanted to buy our house for a highway phone booth, I would have to sign the agreement with (a) an eyebrow pencil, (b) yellow crayon, (c) cotton swab saturated in shoe polish, (d) an eyedropper filled with cake coloring, or (e) a sharp fingernail dipped in my own blood.

Pencils are weird little devils. I discovered this quite by accident. One day I took a spanking-new pencil, sharpened it and put it by the telephone. Three days later the same pencil showed up in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator.

I put it back by the phone. It popped up in the medicine chest.

I put it on a strong and attached it to the telephone. It broke its lead. I sharpened it. It broke the string.

It was clear that lousy pencil was not an ordinary inanimate object. It possessed the human qualities of free will and intellect.

As I studied this strange creature, other things became apparent. It enjoyed no sex life whatsoever. Other household items, like coat hangers, straight pins and paper clips, propagated themselves.

Not pencils. They never begot anything but frustration. They came into this world alone, and they dropped behind the stove and out of your life.

They also had an affinity for never being where they were needed.

The other morning I had to write an admittance note for my daughter. “Get mama’s all-occasion cards,” I yelled. (We haven’t had stationery for six years.)

She gave me the box.

“Okay, what’ll it be? Happy Birthday to a Nephew Who Has Been Like a Mother to Me, Sorry You’re Sick or Thinking of You in Your Hour of Sorrow?”

“The birthday, I guess.”

“OK, now get me a pencil.”


“Try the desk, the sewing basket, the stove drawer, Daddy’s workbench in the garage and my black purse.”

“Not there.”

“Very well, try the glove compartment of the car, the clothes hamper, the toy box, the pocket of my blue housecoat, the sink drain, the mailbox, the guitar case and the base of the big oak tree.” (Shouting hysterically) “All right you little devils! Come out, wherever you are! You’ve had your fun. I’ll show you. You’ll go to bed without your din-din!”

And some people worry about the Russians.


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