Sometimes I fall down.

What I mean is:  sometimes I fall down.  Hard.  On my face.  Or my knees.  Or my bum.

I think I fall down more than I should.  I mean, the only people who fall down on a regular basis are, generally speaking, toddlers and drunks.  Even elderly persons don’t fall as much as I do because after they fall once, they usually wise up and sit themselves down for a spell.  Not me.

When I fall down, I get right back up.  I have to.  Because when I fall down I am, invariably, running down a sidewalk on a busy street with countless cars zooming by.  So in the split-second between feeling my foot catch the pavement and watching that pavement come at me with a ruthless speed, I have a decision to make.  I can:

a)  remain in my fallen position on said sidewalk, rubbing said bum in a flagrant exhibition for drivers of said cars, or

b)  stand back up as fast as I can, thus shortening the length (but not disgrace) of  said flagrant exhibition.

Because I’m not a toddler or a drunk, and therefore have no cause to be lying face down on the side of the road, I’ve no choice but to go for option b.  And so when I’m pounding the pavement down Main Street and my Addidas-clad tippy-toe begins that imminent tippy-toeing that I’ve come to know and dread, I readily accept that the next three seconds of my life will be spent soaring over several sidewalk lines (Superman style), sliding into the pavement palms-first and, depending on the speed of my run, finishing up with a tuck-and-roll move of which, I don’t mind telling you, I’m pretty proud.

Now, because I am a “runner” (loose term), I’ve always given myself something of a free pass when it comes to My Falling.  Sure, I may trip now and then when I’m out and about, but that’s only because

a)  I’m out and about!  Don’t I get some leeway just for getting off the couch?


b)  the pavement is loose and bumpy, which is not my fault and is what jumps up and grabs hold of my unsuspecting midair foot every time.  Geez.  With conditions like these, who wouldn’t fall?  (Oh wait:  everyone else.  Everyone else wouldn’t fall.)

After many a bruise-and-scratch, I’ve also decided that my inability to run around the block in a steady upright position is merely an extension of

a)  my vibrant athleticism (i.e., you can’t tame the beast)


b)  our town’s sorrily kept streets (they’re a death trap, I’m telling you.)

So when I have to walk through my front door with a hole in my spandex and a welt on my eye (again), and explain to my husband What Just Happened I can—and do—blame My Falling on My Running.  At least, I could.  Until now.

Because a few days ago, I fell down—hard, on my face, and my knees, and my bum—while crossing a parking lot.

Crossing a parking lot.  

And it gets better:  I fell down (hard/face/knees/bum) twenty feet in front of my husband and three children, thus giving them the live version of the Tuck-And-Roll which, up to this point, they’d only heard as legend.  We were leaving a truck stop on our way home from Portland, so the bonus was that three eighteen-wheelers were parked directly in front of My Fall, so three anonymous truck drivers were afforded the pleasure of watching me bite the gravel.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened, because I wasn’t running this time.  I was ever-so-lightly jogging—fast walking, really—to get out of the cold and into our car, but not enough to warrant the massive plunge that followed.  One moment I was a carefree mom beckoning my children to race me to the van, the next I was jackknifed over my—mysteriously upright and intact—32-ouncer.  (My husband said I “saved the soda” on instinct, which I would proudly claim, but this cup was full of water so I’m still not sure how it remained standing after the Great Crash.)  It was dark, but the lot was well lit, and when I looked up I saw that the trucks were warm and running which meant, of course, that they were likely occupied.  I couldn’t make out the faces of the drivers (tender mercies), but the impending noise from the brood behind was deafening.

“Mom, Mom!  Are you okay?”  (Muffled children’s laughter.)

“Hey Jen, are you alright?” (Muffled grown man’s laughter.)

“Yes, I’m fine.”  (Muffled groan.)  The crowd moved closer as I heaved myself up, then descended upon in me with an atrociously feigned concern.

“No, really, Mom, are you okay?  What happened?”  (Open laughter disguised as muffled.  They wanted me to hear it, I know they did.)

“I’m fine you guys!  I just fell.  I don’t know what happened.  There must have been a loose rock.”

“A loose rock?  Really?”  This from the pretending-not-to-be-laughing man.

“Yes, A LOOSE ROCK!  Look, there it is, right there—that’s what I tripped over!”  I reached down and picked up the pebble.  The laughing man wisely downshifted to a frown-smile.

“Oh, I see.  Yes, I’m sure that’s what made you fall.”

This nonsense continued as we made our way to the van, whereupon I plopped in the front seat while my kids kept distractedly quizzing me, hoping their lame interest would somehow guarantee them next week’s allowance.

“You sure you’re okay Mom?”  They were already cueing up Here Comes the Boom and didn’t give a flying rat’s fat if I was okay.  And I was not.  I had a scabbed knee, a bruised ego, and four family members who Didn’t Give A Rip.

“Stop asking me if I’m okay!  You know that I am and I KNOW YOU DON’T MEAN IT!  JUST STOP!”

The car fell silent for the next half hour—a blessed relief to all who were in it.  I slumped down in the passenger seat, musing over what had just taken place.  If I could fall when I was barely walking fast, who’s to say I couldn’t fall when I was barely walking slow?  Or walking at all?  With this turn of events, what was to keep me from falling out of my bed, my shower, my chair at a restaurant?

These questions plagued me while I rubbed my scab through the rapidly thinning knee of my jeans, which promised to sprout into a full-blown tear within a washing.   I moved my fingers over the injury in a slow wistful motion, like Aladdin to his lamp, waiting for a genie to appear.  And if he did show up, the first thing I’d ask for is a more coordinated lower body.

The second:  denim patches for my jeans.

And third?  A world in which wearing such patches would look cool.  (Okay, normal.)  Otherwise, these are my jeans, next time you see me.

Um, what was that I said about not being a toddler?


Marriage stinks.

Last night, my husband told me that I stink.

Not as in, “you stink at geometry” (true) or “you stink at being a wife and mother” (debatable.)  But as in, “your person smells offensive.”

I think what he was trying to say was:  I stink.  I stank.  I stunk.  I smelled bad.

We were all lounging on my bed after a long night of violin lessons, swim practice, and Pack Meeting (wherein my nine-year old received his Bear Badge, thankyouverymuch.)  I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to said nine-year old while my thirteen-year old lollygagged around the covers, as she is wont to do this time of night.  She was stretching her legs and waving her bare feet in my face (as she is wont to do this time of night), and I made an innocuous comment about how her feet stank.  She laughed and said,

“Actually Mom, you’re the one who stinks tonight.”  I laughed back and played along.

“Nope–it’s you, Ms. Stinky Nasty Feet.  Get those things away from me.”  I was sure she was just messing with me until my husband, who was brushing his teeth in our adjoining bathroom, dropped the bomb.

“Actually, Jen, I hate to tell you, but you did smell kind of weird tonight.”

Um.  What?

“What are you talking about?  What do you mean, I smelled weird?  Like weird bad?”

“Yeah.”  This was stated matter-of-factly.

“Like what kind of bad?”  My voice rose with each word, so that bad rang out in falsetto.

“Oh, I don’t know…”  His voice was muffled through the towel he dried his face with.  “It was kind of…medicinal.”



“What does that mean?”

My thirteen-year old chimed in.  “Yeah, Mom, you did smell kind of bad tonight.”  Why was she smiling?

“What do you mean, bad?  What do you mean, medicinal?  And why didn’t somebody tell me?!” Father and daughter both shrugged while son artfully employed my absence from the book to snag my phone and start a video game.  Let him, I thought.  I had bigger fish to fry.

“So what you are saying is that I actually smelled tonight—smelled bad—and I sat through that whole pack meeting with a million other parents, smelling me-dic-inal, and you didn’t tell me about it til now?  Is that what you’re saying?

“I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

“Feel bad?  Feel bad? How about SMELL BAD!?”  I was stunned.  Here I’d spent the evening beaming as my son received his Den Advancement—I’d even gone up to the front so he could “pin” me, dangit—and the entire time, rather than admiring me (as I’d assumed), the other moms were simply smiling at me as they craned their necks away, pretending to look for someone over their shoulder in an attempt to distance themselves from my fumes.  Medicinal fumes.  (Did that mean I smelled like Benadryl or Ben Gay?  I was still confused.)


“I don’t understand.  I still don’t understand how I smelled bad.  Tell me.”  My husband shook his head as he stared at the mirror and slid a razor over his chin.

“I can’t explain it.”

“But I washed my hair today.”

“That’s nice.  But you still smelled bad tonight.  I’m sorry.”

“This cannot be happening.  I’ve never smelled bad before.  I am not that person!”

“I know you aren’t.  It was just…”—AND THIS IS A DIRECT QUOTE—“unfortunate.”

Unfortunate?  Unfortunate?  No.  I was not born to be one of the “unfortunates.” How could I, of all people, smell?  I shower daily: I wear Powder-Fresh deodorant and Moonlit Path body lotion.  I wash my clothes (regularly!) and use Downy (name brand!) in every load.  I brush, I floss, I chew Orbit Cinnamint gum, I use (semi) professional hair products.  But all of this was nothing compared to the fact that I had always seen myself as one of the clean, smiley, socially aware members of society.  was supposed to be the person who displayed genteel forbearance when somebody else smelled.  (Poor thing, I’d judge silently.  They just don’t know.)  I was the person in control of my breath, my body odor, my life.

Wasn’t I?

And though I cringe to think how my odiferous ignorance may have affected my fan base friendships over the years, even more frightening is the prospect of other “unfortunate” offenses that I never knew I’d given.  Perhaps some of the personal habits I’d always felt so confident about—like my frequently Spanxed-up derriere and even more frequent applications of sunless tanner (who doesn’t like a little glow in January?)—weren’t fooling anyone.  Maybe my “highlighted” (fake) blond hair and “whitened” (bleached) front teeth were merely cheap perfumes splashed over a medicinally-scented body.  Maybe all those times I thought someone was turning their nose up at me (it happens) (kind of a lot), they were really just turning their nose away from me.  Maybe I belonged with The Unfortunates after all, destined to interpret other people’s kindness as approval when really it was just pity.

The only consolation here is that a medicinal body odor often settles (as we’ve all witnessed) on persons of a certain age.  So it might be that I have been a lovely-scented girl my whole life and this new stink is only arriving as part of the general decay of my body.  It’s a twisted condolence, but I’ll take it.  Better to have old-man smell than frumpy-housewife smell.  At least with the former, some wisdom and money are usually attached.  (Which is more than I can say for the latter.)