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The Red Dress Club: Lady in Red

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

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.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 5 April 2011 9:27 am

    I think you captured the in-between of child and adulthood perfectly. The sudden self-awareness that comes with meeting someone whose life experience has been so different from your own and yet the same in some ways.

    Good job!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 5 April 2011 4:45 pm

      Thanks. Reassuring to know that I was able to capture what has been rolling around in my head in such a way that others would “get it.”

      And thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

  2. Tuesday, 5 April 2011 11:36 am

    “In this case, it is the instant recall of an exhilaration that came from a chance encounter as I teetered between child-and adulthood. ”

    Loved that. So perfectly captures where you found yourself then.

    I went to a Christian University and I had a massive crush on the Jewish guy that went there. I was not Jewish enough for him. Is it my fault that none in my family practices anything, and I didn’t even know that my great-great grandparents fled Germany til I was 10? I think he was being harsh… Ha!

    Ah, well.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 5 April 2011 4:49 pm

      Thanks 😉 I can’t begin to tell you how satisfied it makes me to hear that I was able to perfectly express a moment that might seem so ordinary. Yet, clearly, had such an impact on the me of today.

      How amazing that your GGGparents left when the getting was still good. Sadly, not the case for so many.

      I appreciate your comment!

  3. Tuesday, 5 April 2011 2:05 pm

    I love that song. I have no idea why. I just do.

    I also loved the part about a chance encounter awaking the woman in you, so to speak.

    And can I just say I cannot read “Frume Sarah” without hearing the song in my head? 😉

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 5 April 2011 4:58 pm

      If I learned anything while in Music School, it is that there is never a need to really articulate the “why.” We are musical beings, lulled to sleep by the rhythm of our mother’s life-force from our very beginning. And so it begins…this visceral relationship we have with melody. No explanation necessary!

      I hold that one moment so dear. Had never shared it before in such a way. Thanks for the prompt.

      And yeah, I get that a lot 😉

      • Jockbro permalink
        Wednesday, 6 April 2011 1:30 pm

        While it’s true that most of us are musical beings, I saw a PBS special some time back about how people respond to music and learned that there is a tiny segment of the population that is wired with a distaste for music. That is, they have a negative visceral reaction, impacting their mood immediately. I couldn’t help but feel sad for those people.

      • Frume Sarah permalink*
        Sunday, 10 April 2011 4:07 pm

        I’m going to have to look that up. I can’t imagine how awful that must be for them to have such a reaction to something that ought to be so positive.

  4. Tuesday, 5 April 2011 8:19 pm

    I adore this song! ADORE!

    And I loved learning about a slice of your past, your story.

    This: “And, most importantly, the seeds of self-perception were cultivated that evening. The perception of my own emerging self as attractive, interesting, and desirable.” was my favorite line. Strong, powerful, transparent. Perfect. XO

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 10 April 2011 4:09 pm

      Thanks for you concrit. Especially since I retooled that one sentence more than a few times to get the right rhythm and expression.

  5. Wednesday, 6 April 2011 8:22 am

    Ah, that is such a great song. You described the experience very vividly; I felt like I was watching you as it transpired. There’s something about choir (and band) trips that lead to distinct memories. I have many, many wonderful memories myself. Thank you for inspiring a trip down memory lane!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 10 April 2011 4:10 pm

      SO glad that I was able to stir up some good memories!!

      And I have to agree — those trips were growthful, memorable, and just plain fun!

  6. Wednesday, 6 April 2011 11:22 am

    Such a personal, piece. Love it! And I agree with Galit’s favorite line. So perfectly stated.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 10 April 2011 4:16 pm

      Thanks so much, Nina. I am so thankful for the prompt because it forced me to pull out something new from this experience.

  7. Jockbro permalink
    Wednesday, 6 April 2011 1:33 pm

    Some of my fondest BBYO memories are those same types of late-night conversations in Israel or Starlight, PA, learning about minhags in other parts of the country. Until that time my understanding of Jewish life was limited to California and the few Arizoners who came to Hess Kramer. To learn that there were thriving communities in places like Memphis, Omaha, and Jacksonville astounded me.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 10 April 2011 4:17 pm

      I know. Like, there are Jews in Omaha??

      Why yes, Virginia, there are Jews everywhere.

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