The Red Dress Club: Lady in Red
I think of him whenever I hear it. Doesn’t even need to be the entire song. Just a few bars will bring back that one night in April, nearly twenty-five years ago.
The details are of interest to no one, but me. Especially because they are not particularly interesting or steamy. It was a quick stop on the itinerary of my transition from girlhood to womanhood.
1987 Choir Tour — Washington, D.C.
Prior to curfew, we wandered down to the bank of vending machines. There was another high school group hanging out there. Southerners. It was a welcome experience to meet kids from somewhere so different from SoCal. And with my finely-tuned JewDar, not even a full two minutes had passed before I had zeroed in on the single Jewish student in their group. Which, as it turned out, was a near-miracle as these kids were from a Southern Baptist private school.
As Wayne explained (that was his name), the public schools in Natchez, MS were lacking and the Southern Baptist school had a good academic program. The Jewish kids were excused from chapel and “all that kind of stuff.”
I had never met a Jewish kid who went to parochial school. Then again, I had never met a Jewish kid from the South before that night. For all I knew, all Jewish kids in the South attended parochial school.
We must have talked for a good two hours. His family had been in Natchez for several generations and had been founding members of their synagogue. A synagogue whose membership was already dwindling back in the late 80s and numbers less than fifteen today. He was fully engaged in the conversation and it was the first time that I was aware of someone’s attraction directed towards me. And to say that I was not looking my best would be an understatement. Either shorts or sweats, topped by my red CIMI sweatshirt. The only positive comment I can make about that sweatshirt is that it brought out the red highlights in my blonde hair. And at some point, The Lady in Red came over the radio.
Brilliant neither in its composition or lyrics, its power, like many sounds, rests entirely with the circumstances that accompany it. In this case, it is the instant recall of an exhilaration that came from a chance encounter as I teetered between child-and adulthood.
For those who like stories with the perfect happy ending, try this one on for size: I never saw Wayne again. Apparently the kids from the parochial school were up to some shenanigans (e.g. green-coloured vodka in their Scope bottles and the like) and were locked into their rooms at an earlier curfew. I learned a great deal about the Jewish community of Natchez. I initiated and sustained a conversation with someone of the opposite gender. And, most importantly, the seeds of self-perception were cultivated that evening. The perception of my own emerging self as attractive, interesting, and desirable.
Maybe what that song brings back is not the memory of any particular individual but of a defining moment. A necessary step along a very, very long journey.
Remembe(red) is a memoir meme. This week’s prompt: think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory. Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing! Constructive comments/suggestions encouraged.