Friday, June 13, 2008

Betsy Wetsy

Ah yes, the Betsy Wetsy story. It all starts with Marilyn Ellis. Marilyn lived at the end of our street and was my on-again, off-again best friend for years. When she was off-again, it was usually that she was holding hands and skipping with Cathy Young.

Marilyn got a Betsy Wetsy one Christmas. That same year, I got a really, really, substandard nothing-at-all-like a Betsy Wetsy doll, dressed in a silky red one-piece suit. No opening in the mouth, no wetting, no socks. I hated that doll. According to my mother, she was a fine doll, her eyes opened and shut, what more could you want? What you could want, was a Betsy Wetsy doll, she was a wonderful doll, she was IDEAL (that's what the commercials said too)! Marilyn and I actually fed her Betsy little pieces of cut up apples. I wonder what happened to that particular about worms.

The thing is, it wasn't just that Marilyn had Betsy, and Gail had the Easy Bake Oven, it was that I NEVER got the 'real' trademarked toy. If they didn't have these wishes at "Oglivies" in downtown Ottawa, then you didn't get it. I think in those days, Oglivies was likely the only place my mother ever had a credit card, and I'm not sure when her new found buying power was even instituted. My parents were the most practical people on the street, possibly in the whole wide world. Just about everything I was insanely passionate about was "utter nonsense" to them. Again, I chalk this up to their living through the depression and having nothing other than "practical" their entire lives. They just didn't know how to celebrate childhood. They didn't know how to be frivolous or outrageous or "just for fun". Everything was practical. No lying on your back looking at clouds or lolly gagging allowed here!

Due to my dramatic tendencies, I therefore naturally attributed just about all of my childhood indiscretions to my lack of a Betsy Wetsy Doll. By the time I was 50 I still had no doll and decided that I had best solve all my problems myself by going on-line to purchase my "missing soul". I entered my first e-bay auction and won! An in-the-box, as I had remembered her, spanking new Betsy!

I was so excited, and took her to a "Stitch and Bitch" meeting and regaled everyone with the story. If you know of stitch and bitch, it was a pretty hilarious group, and that night, after convincing me that I had to take her out of the box and play with her, it was decided to christen the baby. The ceremony was performed by Beckie who's father was a minister, so naturally she was the closest thing we had to a proper officiant. The others, all being Catholic, knew the drill and we proceeded to name her "Betsy Janet", because Janet also had been deprived of a doll...she was desperate to be the god mother, and I just couldn't protest. I swear this is all true, four grown women, one of them with a Bible in hand and looking as pious as the occasion would allow, with a lot of gesturing and genuflecting proceeded to christen the baby with white wine.

When it was all said and done, Beckie wouldn't let go of the doll and in her declining state, I decided the only thing to do was to leave the doll with her. Betsy had found a higher calling. Beckie played with that doll until she was moved from her residence to another facility. Before I had a chance to say anything, the doll was packed up with the rest of the household contents, and given to her granddaughter. Later, I sheepishly suggested that we ask for the doll back, but my plea was met with "You'd take a doll away from a little girl!!!"

And that's the end. I can safely say I had a Betsy Wetsy. I think in the end, she served a far greater purpose than Marilyn Ellis' did. Marilyn's doll was likely thrown out or is to this day, mouldering away somewhere, still full of apple bits. My doll delighted a delicious gaggle of friends, enchanted an Alzheimer's patient, and is now residing with a little girl, who hopefully will grow up feeling like her every wish was met. She's a wonderful doll....she's IDEAL.


  1. As my mother always said, "Everything comes to those who wait!". Had your parents given in to your pleas, Betsy Wetsy would be in the junk heap, end of story. How happy an ending is that?
    Practical as your parents were, I bet you had a brand new doll carriage for your substandard baby. Mine seemed perfect to me until Nancy Allen next door pointed out a a few nicks on the body and a slight cut on the hood on Christmas morning. And if it makes you feel better, I received no Betsy Wetsy to bed down in my second hand pram. Practicality ruled in Westboro! Helen

  2. I had a Betsy Wetsy, but only because my younger sister had phnemonia twice. My parent figured she was going to kick the bucket so they bought her a doll of course we had to share it. There were four of us. No carriage, new or not. I think I got my own Betsy Wetsy when I was hospitalize, again, the threat of dying will do it.

  3. I can relate far too well. My parents both grew up during the Second World War in Italy. Talk about practicality! They never had money to throw away on toys...of course there was always plenty of salami and prociutto to be had. (I hate the stuff) During my childhood the doll to have was a Tearie Dearie. Boy did I want one.
    My best friend,Michelle, who always had all the newest toys, finally traded me her cast off for what, I can't remember. I think I was about twelve and my mother thought it was ridiculous for a girl of my age to be still playing with dolls when I should be learning to cook, clean and sew and one day the doll just disappeared. Ever wonder why we are not all in therapy!

  4. Oh how I wanted a Betsy Wetsy and an Easy Bake Oven too. At least I got the Miss Canada doll I lusted after, but it was my grandmother who bought her for me. I can remember making a vow as a child that if I ever had a daughter, I wouldn't deny her anything she set her heart on, and she turned out just fine. In other words, so much for practicality!