Jane, a Calamity.

When I was little, my dad regularly referred to me as Calamity Jane. This may or may  not have had something to do with my propensity for roller skating as fast as possible up the driveway and slamming face-first into the garage door.


I also got my jeans caught in my bike chain at least once a day (and once, even got my foot caught in my bike chain, which promptly removed the entire bottom third of my trotter. This being the 70s, when kids were expected to survive without padding, helmets, seat belts, stitches, shoes, supervision, or the interference of proper medical care, I took my brother’s advice to stop crying and rode my bike home, pedaling pitifully with my one intact foot. Limping straight to the back yard, I again took my brother’s advice, and dropped my mangled stump into the pool, where the chlorine miraculously cauterized and healed it while I screamed Ahh it burns, it burns! Help me, it burns!)

Having a pool in the 1970s required a PhD in chemistry.

Pretty much everyone I knew as a kid knocked a couple teeth out at some point, and I did, too, trying to teach Betsy Wetsy to flip backwards off the monkey bars like Nadia Comaneci. She was no athlete, Betsy — her big claim to fame was that she came with a plastic bottle — and try as she might, she just couldn’t achieve the momentum necessary to complete the dismount. Betsy emerged relatively unscathed from the ordeal, albeit a bit dirty, but I had the wind knocked out of me, and came to with a bloody lip and a few less chompers.


We had similar bad luck with swimming lessons, when Betsy turned out to be something less than waterproof. You can understand what a shock this was was when you consider that her name was Betsy Wetsy, not Betsy Don’t Submerge Her. The glue holding her eyes in place dissolved during an extended lesson on the sidestroke and rolled into the back of her head, where they rattled pitifully every time I shook Betsy for her aquatic incompetence.  I have a vivid memory of creeping out after bedtime and seeing my mom bent over Betsy, who was laid out on top of the dryer, trying to retrieve her eyeballs with a pair of tweezers…. That’s some therapy-worthy stuff, right there.

betsy wetsy ad.jpg
It’s also fun to leave her sightless self on the driveway for your dad to run over… I’d like to take a moment and apologize to my aunt, who’d saved Betsy for her own daughters, but, in a moment of shortsightedness, gave her to me before she had kids. Sorry! Swimming is important, though, ya know?

Suffice to say, I am not a born athlete, nor even a good doll-owner. I recognize these faults, and besides, if there was any chance I might forget my innate lack of athletic prowess, a day like today would remind me.

Naturally, before I began cleaning I put on my heels and a kerchief.

Today was the third or fourth rainy day in a row; the kind of day when cabin fever sets in and you start thinking it’s a good idea to clean out the dryer’s lint trap with an automobile-detailing vacuum tool, which I may or may not have done this morning.  Since I was already covered with dust, and had a good buzz going from the combination of my daughter’s Cadbury eggs and a Coke Zero my sister-in-law left behind at Thanksgiving, I decided to press on and do some other unappetizing jobs, like changing the air filters and disassembling and cleaning the Shop Vac.

Then, of course, I had to get rid of the dirty air filters and the contents of the vacuum (not to mention the scores of magazines, dozens of boxes, empty bottles, stacks of newspapers and zillion Christmas cards that accumulated over the past six weeks). So I started hauling bags and boxes out the front door and tossing them down the five or six steps onto the front walkway in the pouring rain.

I went back inside to get the last few things, then opened the front door again, intending to start loading the truck for the trip to the dump. Afraid they were missing something fun, the dogs leapt off the couch (where they’d been lounging in front of the fire for three days) and barreled out the front door…straight into the back of my knees. I went flying off the porch, down the stairs, and into the soaking wet bags of trash, one of which promptly burst, disgorging its contents onto the walkway…and me.

The dogs, of course, thought this was great fun. The beagle joined in and the three of them barked in excited circles around my head like a chorus of furry idiots.

The difference between me and Templeton is that he chose to lie in the trash. I was put there by Golden Retrievers.

I know what you are thinking: Given the non-stop glamour of your life, how is it that you don’t have your own reality TV show?

I don’t have a good answer for that, because my life is truly five star. For instance, my face — as I realized last night when I happened to catch a glimpse of myself smiling as I passed a mirror — looks like a relief map of the Nile Delta. Today I not only fell off the bed while trying to dust a ceiling fan, but also got kneecapped by the animals I graciously feed and house, and lay in a pool of trash in the pouring rain. (It was only two or three months ago that I fell coming out of a diner and lay in the parking lot while my children stood in a circle around me, shaking their heads and saying, Oh Mom…For the record, I also feed and house them.)  There are still hours to go before bed, and who knows? I may accidentally flood the house or light the rug on fire (both of which I’ve done, but we’re not going to talk about that now).

nile delta.jpg
This is an accurate representation of the area around my eyes. Danke, to our German cartographer friends, for capturing it in detail.

Calamity Jane — the real one — was reputed to be a sharpshooting, hard-drinking, cross-dressing, horse-riding, Indian-killing, sometimes prostitute. Her life would have been a fascinating show, for sure, but luckily, there were no cameras to record it, so her legend is left to grow, unimpeded by the many hours she must have spent cleaning her horse’s feet and washing her skivvies in a stream.

I don’t care to be legendary –at least, not to anyone beyond my friends and family. But I would like to get the trash to the dump without being maimed. Surely that’s not asking too much for a modern day Calamity Jane?!calamity-janes-quotes-4.jpg



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