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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Remembering Mary Jean

hen I was a little girl, my parents came home from a shopping trip, with 3 gowns for my sister and I (and all of the girls in the neighborhood) to use for play and dress up. I can remember that there was a light pink gown, a fuchsia colored gown, and a gold gown.  Today, I know they were either old bridesmaids or prom gowns from a thrift store, but at the time, I felt as if I had walked into the fairy tale.  Though, my sister promptly took them for her own, and I rarely had the opportunity to play with them again, I still remember trying them on and how I wonderful I felt in them.  Even today, I wonder what became of those old gowns...

As a kid, I was always "stuck" with hand-me-downs until Grade 6, because I shot up a full 6 inches taller than my sister as she has never grown over 5' 2".  My parents then had to buy clothes that fit me, and since most of what they bought were my Mother's choice, I hated everything I owned.  My parents did what they could with 4 kids and one salary at that time...no disrespect intended.  So, I got a job after school working in a small-time electronics store and in the summer time doing yard work, and I got a few baby-sitting gigs.  I was now able to buy what I wanted.  Thus, beginning my love affair with 1970's "hippie" and "Bohemian" clothing from which I have never truly recovered.

 Shortly before this, in my hometown of Poultney, (it must have been around 1973 or '74?) there was a little Boutique called "Bombadils" that was owned by this beautiful woman by the name of Mary Jean Lobdell.  She was slightly plump, with very long brown frizzy hair in a Carol King sort of style, that she had grown down to her buttocks. Her face, to me was angelic, in an almost Victorian sense.  Today, I would label her as an all-natural woman, who was an authentic "hippie".  She wore peasant blouses and halter tops over large breasts and long floral skirts, with dangling earrings.  Being young and impressionable, I was always mesmerized by her style.  

Bombadil's was located in the basement underneath our town's laundry mat.  I remember the round sign that hung over the doorway on which were the round popular '70's style writing bearing it's name. Each time I would walk into her shop, my sense of smell would be filled with fragrances that I have never forgotten.  Nag Champa incense, essential oils and mostly I remember sniffing the strawberry scented candles.

Her clothing inventory was geared toward the "College Girls" - from Green Mountain College - with high quality India Imports, brass and wooden incense holders, Indian bedspreads, candles and jewelry.  Ravi Shankar and George Harrison music frequently played while she ironed clothing. 

I remember that once or twice, she painted my finger nails, and offered me a cup of herbal tea.  It seemed she had endless patience and always had a place in her heart for me.  Thinking back, I wonder if I was obnoxious, just showing up in her shop, but she never alluded to it.  The only thing I ever bought was a leather bracelet - and I wore that thing to death.  I just remember how much I loved her because of her genuine kindness toward me.  

Growing up on Main Street, I would walk down to see her.  One day when I was preparing to do so, my sister and her friend Carol Jones stopped me to ask where I was going.  I told them I was going to visit Mary Jean.  Carol held the Rutland Herald newspaper in her hand, and handed it to me.  

The article that she pointed to, explained that Mary Jean had been driving in her blue Gremlin, went off the road and "died of massive head injuries".  Those words jumped off the newspaper.  Strangely, I did not know what to do with this news, as no one I had ever known had died before.  I remember feeling completely numb with tears rolling down my face, and I sat on a hassock in the living room. I was too scared to cry in fear of my sister and Carol laughing at me, because I felt that everything to them, was a joke back then.  But they didn't laugh, and they looked sad, too.  All I remember was, walking up the stairs to our bathroom and weeping into a towel, having no where else to spill my grief.  I was devastated.

I remember that a woman named Harriet Holcomb and her boyfriend Ben took over the store when Mary Jean died.  It was never the same.

About a year or two later a store called "Pearls", which used to be occupied by an old A&P Store on Main Street, came to be.  They had shirts made in India, and I remember buying a few of them over the course of one summer.  If I recall, they went out of business around 1978 - the year before my parents moved my little brother and I to Williamstown.  

My love of clothing today, borders on sickness, and over the course of the last couple of years, I've gained weight and can't fit into a lot of my beloved inventory.  I keep the clothing, vowing to loose the body fat....but let's be honest:  No one wants to read about that!

I still think of Mary Jean.  I don't clearly remember her face any more.  She crawls into my mind when I enter into certain boutiques and smell the incense or essential oils.  In particular, when I smell a strawberry scented candle, I think of her.  I think of her little Gremlin that was parked on the street the week before she died, and can't help but wonder, what made her loose control of her car?   These are things I may never find out, and all I can say is that her spirit truly lives within me.