If you’ve never visited the Northeast, I strongly suggest you do. The scenery, the cuisine, the architecture… I adore every aspect of it.
On my most recent trip up north I visited Salem, Massachusetts. Although the Salem witch trials are a gruesome part of early American history, I feel very drawn to the hauntingly beautiful old cemeteries and grave sites of the unfortunate souls who perished during this time.
In Salem I stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel, a fantastic old building, named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, of course. The inside of the lobby is draped in rich colors and antique splendor. I immediately felt right at home.
As I waited my turn to check in, a man walked passed me, stopped abruptly, smiled and turned back to me. He glanced up at my unruly red hair and then back down at my luggage.
“Have you come to Salem to channel your great-aunt Winnifred?” he asked with a laugh. I simply raised an eyebrow at him and smiled very slightly as if to say I don’t mean to be rude, but please leave me alone.
He gave me another smile and a laugh, and walked out of the hotel.
After I had checked in and been shown to my room, I freshened up a bit, tucked my hair into a big bun on top of my head, and headed out to explore the city. I set out for the oyster bar I had passed on my drive up to the hotel.
I walked through the front doors of the restaurant and asked the hostess if I could take a seat at the bar, pulled out a chair and plopped down. The friendly waitress came to take my order and then whisked off to make my drink.
“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a Winnifred?” a male voice beside me asked.
I turned to see an older man sitting a few chairs down from me at the bar. He looked at me with a harmless smile.
“Um, no I don’t believe anyone ever has,” I replied. Who names their child Winnifred anymore?
The older man continued to chat with me, and if you know me you know I’ll talk to anyone. I rarely meet a stranger. The man’s name was Art, and he told me interesting tidbits about Salem and all of its peculiar inhabitants. His oysters were delivered, and a few seconds later my plate brimming with shellfish arrived.
We continued to visit as we ate, discussing shellfish, witchery and wine, and all things Salem. He was a very charming gentleman, and after we chatted he excused himself and we parted ways. I asked the waitress for my ticket and started the trek back to Hawthorne Hotel.
Along the way, as I meandered down the winding and twisting roads of downtown Salem at dusk, I walked passed the Salem Community Theater. I heard lots of theatrical and expressive voices so I stopped at the front doors and peered in. Several young actors and actresses were reciting their lines from what looked like Romeo And Juliet.
But poor Romeo… He was obviously very young, about 100 pounds lighter and a whole head shorter than the object of his affection. I stifled a giggle as his warbly voice crooned up at Juliet’s window.
“You’d make a great Winnifred Sanderson if you want to come back in late September and try out for the part,” a voice said.
I about jumped out of my skin! Spinning around, I came face to face with a gray-headed eccentric looking woman.
“Hello, my name is Edith, I’m the director of the community theater.”
Edith and I shook hands and started chatting. I told her I was just a tourist from the South, but over our lively 30-minute conversation realized that we were definitely kindred spirits. I gave Edith a hug. We made plans to lunch together the following afternoon, and she promised to take me on a “locals only” tour of Salem. We parted ways and I continued on my way to the Hawthorne.
The hotel wine bar was open when I arrived. I was exhausted from traveling, and a relaxing glass of red wine would be the perfect ending to the day.
I slid into an antique high-backed chair at the bar and watched the bartender walk my direction. She smiled warmly and asked for my order.
A moment later, she returned with my glass of Cabernet. “Here you are Winnifred. Oh, and I just call all redheads around Salem Winnifred,” she said with a giggle.
“Why?” I asked. “I’ve been called that all day and I’m so confused! It’s just because of the red hair?”
“Well yes. Well, that and because you resemble Winnifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus. You have seen that movie right?.”
I felt my face fall. My eyebrow cocked in disbelief.
“Are you saying I resemble Bette Midler’s character in Hocus Pocus?” I said unamused.
“Yes! I think you look just like her! And she’s sort of a mascot around these parts,” the bartender said excitedly.
It took every bit of self control I could muster to not roll my eyes. That Winnifred? The frizzy haired, buck toothed, bossy oldest sister in Hocus Pocus? I was flabbergasted. I guessed the bartender could sense my bristling to the idea.
“I mean, it’s not that you look just like her, per se. It’s just the hair. It’s just the frizzy, large, bun…” She trailed off, glancing at the floor.
“Ah, yes of course. This frizzy red hair is always the culprit,” I said dryly. I thought back to all the comparisons: Annie, Ms. Frizzle, Raggedy Ann, and now Winnifred the Witch.
“But everyone loves Winnifred. We are crazy about witches here in Salem,” she gushed.
“How ironic,” I said, still unamused. “Can you tell me where the nearest drugstore or beauty supply is?” I asked.
“There’s one at the end of the block on the left,” she said. “But the front desk keeps just about anything you can think of that you may have forgotten.”
“I doubt they have a flat iron,” I said.
“Um, no, I don’t believe they have one of those.”
“I didn’t figure. Thank you for your help, though. I’m going to find one. I think tomorrow I’m going to try to channel some Jessica Rabbit or Ariel. Anything is better than Winnifred.”