It took awhile to find the place. We were, after all, in Maine, where “down the road a piece” has a whole new meaning. We just had to trust that Mapquest had plotted the trip correctly, because, having already driven 15 miles on a winding country road, there really wasn’t much choice. So we just kept going until we ran out of road. We then took the proscribed left turn, only to unknowingly pass our bed & breakfast destination several times. I wish someone had told us it’s the large colonial home with the kayak standing up, half-buried on the front lawn. That would have been a valuable landmark. If only in Maine.
We parked on the side of the circa 1850 inn and walked across the front lawn to the door. Along the way we passed a mermaid lamppost, several mermaid lawn ornaments, a mermaid statue, a mermaid birdbath. I felt as if we’d just traipsed through SpongeBob SquarePants’ home. Finally, we arrived at the foot of the front steps and a nicely painted pink sign that read – what else? – “Mermaid Cove Inn.”
One press of the doorbell let loose a thundering gong that echoed across the lawn and reminded me of the old Addams Family show. I half expected to see Lurch open the door. But instead we were greeted by Mary, our charming innkeeper, who surely must be the perkiest person in this little coastal town. She gave us the grand tour of her beautiful old house, calling particular attention, of course, to the many mermaid features. I feigned my surprise.
Our abode for the night was The Cove Room, tucked upstairs on the second floor with access from a stairway outside the house. It was a cozy little room, within which we were blessed with several mermaid paintings, a huge mermaid lamp, and the venerable mermaid nightlight. Of course, there was the mermaid-shaped soap, the mermaid soap tray, and the mermaid curtains – both window and shower – in the bathroom. Even the non-slip grips in the bathtub were shaped like mermaids. It was a comfort to know that I would be supported by mermaids if I took a fall in the tub. I would not have been surprised to see a mermaid come shooting out of the toilet. Or maybe dolphins – because I seem to recall that dolphins and mermaids hang out together. Not necessarily in toilets, of course…
As those idiotic thoughts swirled through my empty head, Mary proceeded with the tour. We were impressed with the dining room/sitting room area, set in a bright sunroom just off the kitchen. It was, of course, also decorated in mermaid motif, starting with the fisherman’s net that was tacked to and draped across the entire ceiling. With a hundred little shells hanging down from the net, it was a pretty cool affect. And, of course, it was a perfect match for the many mermaid decorations that surrounded us. You know, like the 4-foot mermaid statue, the mermaid chimes, the twelve mermaid pictures, the mermaid chess set – and one very bright painting of a mermaid on the beach, sitting in front of a ship, waving. That’s natural, of course – we all know the traditional bond between mermaids and sailors. I would expect to see nothing less, here at the inn.
But best of all, hanging from the ceiling in the corner, just below that fishing net, was a giant three-foot long carved mermaid statue. It reminded me of one of those female figurines that once graced the front of galleons in the days of the Spanish Armada. This mermaid was poised to swim, her tail flapping joyfully, her hands combing through her long flowing hair, and her ample bosom covered with… two huge sea shells. (Time to send the kids off to bed – we need to talk about this one.)
Mary explained that the nature of most antique mermaid memorabilia it that the mermaid is usually presented in the nude. No problem from the navel down – that’s all fish. But from the navel up – that’s a different story. The nude bosom was accepted as natural for the depiction of mermaids in the 19th century (interesting in a society that not long before, cherished the chastity belt). But contrary to conventional 19th century wisdom, Mary found that a number of her guests had a tendency to examine the bosom of her carved mermaid with a bit too much curiosity. And a few others were embarrassed or insulted by the display of the three b’s – buxom bare bosom – hanging over the sitting area.
So Mary became innovative and glued a couple of scalloped sea shells in the appropriate areas on her prized carving. Potential modern-day problem solved. As she explained this to us, I looked around and noticed, for the first time, that every mermaid statue had received the same sea shell treatment. I couldn’t help wondering how the sailors of old might have felt about this innovation, sitting around Mary’s dining room table with a few pints of grog under their belts and those sea shells blocking their view… The things we need to ponder…
The next day, Mary asked us how we liked our room. I frankly had to admit my disappointment that one of the paintings on the wall was of a mere girl, rather than a mermaid… I was joking, but I bet that’ll be corrected by the next time we stay at this bed & breakfast inn.
My wife loved this place. I did too. Mary and her husband Kyle were genuine people, with interesting stories. We once stayed at an inn where the motif was angels – and those angels were everywhere, not unlike the proliferation of mermaids at this inn. My wife thought all the angels was a bit of overkill (while I feel you can never have enough angels around you). She didn’t feel any overkill regarding these mermaids, however – they were just “really cute” in her eyes. Couldn’t get enough of them. Even with their sea shells.
And so went our Weekend of the Mermaids, an enjoyable time. Right up there with the Feast of St. Joseph. Or the Blessing of the Fleet. Maybe even Motorcycle Weekend. A rite of passage for all who dare comb through the little coastal villages of Maine seeking new adventures. Like a little country inn, with a half-buried kayak standing straight up in the front yard, where half the world’s mermaids live. Ah yes, Maine. “The Way Life Should Be.”
Visit Londonderry Hometown Online News every Tuesday Morning for another one of Joe’s great columns! Select “Share this story” and tell a friend Joe is back!
Joe’s Two Cents – It’s Great To Be Alive is Joe Paradis’ first published book and gathers 40 of his most popular stories, enhancing them with humorous photography. The book is a compilation of forty of Joe’s best short stories.
Injecting humor into topics from everyday life, Joe answers those earth-shattering questions we all have about the beach, the bathroom, the junk drawer. From guys’ tools to girl talk. High school seniors to the senior years.
This classic collection has been updated to include pictures and a short introduction for each story. Until now, only God knew what possessed Joe to write about these things. Now you can too!
Joe Paradis is one of Londonderry’s most popular columnists and authors. Visit his web site at www.joes2cents.com today and order his latest autographed book, “It’s Great to Be Alive!”