Bathtub Mary (or Mary on the Half Shell)

Photo from Wikipedia entry, “Bathtub Mary.

I drove to Waltham today to get a new Brownies uniform.  The troop has decided to go with just the vest which disappoints me greatly because I do love a good costume on a kid.  Every activity I’ve ever volunteered to sign the girls up for required special attire: soccer, ballet, Girl Scouts…  I am presently and actively encouraging horse riding lessons (English for the full dressage look) and some kind of martial art.  I can only hope that one of the kids takes an interest in fencing in the future.  With Brownies I figured I could at least indulge in both the beanie and shorts, but people clearly like to keep things simple. I get it.  This is my indulgence.  Some moms might collect handbags, jewelry, or shoes (something I’ve already seen a lot of at the local school).  I collect tiny costumes.  One has an infant sailor suit and Kimono resting in her baby box at the top of a closet.  The other has infant Halloween costumes in hers.  Neither, of course, has any interest in filing these items away, but I stuff them in the boxes anyway while telling myself it is for them.

Somehow I found myself in West Newton on my rambling return.  There was a time that I knew this area well.  The eight years that have passed since I lived in Massachusetts, however, have made everything strangely disorienting.  At first I just think I’m on a street that I’ve never been on before.  Then I get a mild feeling of deja vu as I continue to drive even though nothing looks overtly familiar.  Suddenly, and quite jarringly, I find myself on a street or in a neighborhood and every pothole, every building, every corner has a clear and vivid story from my life.  And I get there without recognizing any of it until I recognize all of it.  There are no new buildings or major road alterations, but nothing looks familiar until it is Momento familiar.  Thankfully I still have my out of state license plates on the car so my erratic driving just makes everyone think I’m a tourist (or mom to a college student) driving haphazardly instead of someone having geographical epiphanies at every intersection.

I’m prone to reflection so it’s not like I don’t think about the past, but my memory is worse than it should be even for big things – years of multitasking abuse – let alone waxing nostalgic about little regional details.  Little regional details that have suddenly become major fixations:  preppy clothes; Pastene products; Hood dairy (Hoodsie cups!); rotaries; old homes and the requisite crumbling barn; moss sprawl; and ice cream stands.  Today it was bathtub Mary, resting behind a chain link fence on a quiet lawn of a corner lot multi-family house.  It wasn’t a real bathtub (those are rare if I recall), but it was oval and upright.  The edges were scalloped which gave it a shell-like look.  They popped up on lawns every few streets until we drove into Newton proper and then they vanished.  Yet another example of something I barely thought I remembered until I remembered.  Now, as a proper Atheist, I have a strong urge to plant one in the back meadow of our yard, but in keeping with the fairy garden vibe of the entire town want to cover it snuggly in moss.

I never even knew I missed you, Mary.

Update: My husband, always willing to indulge an absurd tangent, has mentioned – again – his desire for a Sky Mall Bigfoot.

Updated Update: The kids are now taking riding lessons.  I believe is is called, “hunt seat equitation.”  All I know is that I’m getting ready to hit the neighboring town’s tack shop for a fuzzy helmet, breeches (whatever they are), and riding boots.  The eldest knows exactly what I am up to, but she’s spent too many years watching Saddle Club and Horseland to resist the costume herself.  Success!

Published by Karina Coombs

Freelance writer

3 thoughts on “Bathtub Mary (or Mary on the Half Shell)

  1. I just self published a photography book of lawn statues of Mary, where I spent 5 months hunting them down on the north shore of Boston. I’m an atheist myself, but I have a sentimental naustalgic fondness for them.


    1. Do you have any links to your photographs? I would like to see them. Yes, I had forgotten about them until moving back here. I don’t think I’ve seen them anywhere else I’ve lived. I too have a secular, but nostalgic fondness for them.


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