Must be the season of the witch (hazel)
Sucker that I am for anything that's actually manufactured in New England, I was all over a story in yesterday's Boston Globe on the Dickinson Company of East Hampton, Connecticut, makers of witch hazel. Of course, this is the 21st century, so they've got a web site - plus they're called Dickinson Brands. (I'm betting that in 1866 - when they were founded by a minister looking around for a new gig, once demand for the Union uniforms he manufactured fell - a brand was something that was seared onto cattle rump and nothing else.)
However new fangled their name and web site, Dickinson's still makes a decidedly old-timey product: witch hazel, which in its milder form is used as a facial astringent, and in it's more potent form as a cuts and scrapes remedy.
Was this what my mother used when we were kids? Yes, we eventually became a Bactine household, but earlier on, she'd spread some stingy-thingy on a cut. I know it wasn't mercurochrome, which everyone else's mother used. Mercurochrome was cool because it turned the area around the cut red. Of course, the "everyone else" argument wasn't ever going to convert my mother to the norm. Thus, we had Easy Money instead of Monopoly, Keyword instead of Scrabble, and - if my hunch is correct here - witch hazel instead of mercurochrome.
If so, a triumph of prescience and awareness of my mother's part: mercurochrome is now banned in the US because of its mercury content, while witch hazel prevails.
And it's really prevailing in Connecticut - the world's witch hazel capital. No lay-offs, booming business due to an increased interest in things natural, and fifth generation East Hamptonians whose families have worked there since the good reverend Dickinson mothballed the army blues business and started hacking away at the witch hazel shrubs that thrived in the area.
Native Americans used witch hazel as a cure-all. So did the early European settlers. Your grandmother [that would be your grandmother; my mother] used it; a bottle of the clear, nut-scented liquid is probably still tucked away in the back of her medicine cabinet. And so, perhaps without your knowing it, have you: Witch hazel from East Hampton is an important ingredient in shampoos, mouthwashes, high-end facial toners, acne treatments, and eyewash, to name just a few items.
Not that Dickinson is without challenge.
Yes, they're selling a lot, but they need to "make the remedy relevant for today's generations," who might consider witch hazel the remedy that put the fuddy in fuddy-duddy.
Perhaps they should consider a name change: bitch hazel, or bee-yatch hazel. (Yo!) They might also weigh the benefits of Twittering. Maybe they can get the Bridezillas, Real Housewives, and Dallas Divas of the world to use it.
Hey, it's a cure-all: is Survivor still on? Does 'today's generations' watch it? Kitting survivorists out with a couple of bottles of Dickinson witch hazel might be just the thing.
There's no end to the retro funkiness of witch hazel.
Twigs from the plant itself may have been used for divining rods, an item and practice that I would be just delighted to see make a come back, although in New England - knock on wormwood - we don't seem to have all that much of a problem with drought. (Of course, we will once the parched, sun-baked parts of the country figure out how to attach their straws to our aquifer. That sucking sound you hear...)
I must away to buy me some Dickinson's Witch Hazel.
I will cleanse my pores, sooth my puffy eyes, and - with any luck - take a few miles off the odometer of life, at least as far as the outside looking in is considered.
Maybe it's the glorious fall weather, and the fact that yesterday I saw my first bright red foliage; maybe it's because I'm just a provincial homer; or maybe it's the fact that products like Dickinson's are still made here, but I really and truly love New England.