A red-alarm dress code

It’s days like this that I wish I still had that box of “dress-up” clothes from when I was a kid.
Granted, nothing would fit anymore, but it would be fun to take things out, have a look, and remember how much fun it was to pretend to be someone else in those fancy fittings.
The box had been chock-full of treasures my mother had collected—some of her own party dresses, shoes, and other used clothes for us to play with. Oh, how many hours were spent playing out dramatic roles born from that old box.
This memory of childhood, and other good things from my past, greeted me last week as I skimmed through some old photos sandwiched in the bottom of a box left unpacked in the closet from our move some eight months earlier.
What I wouldn’t have given to find a red velvet, sleeveless, below-the-knee party dress—like the one from the dress-up box—hanging in my closet ready-to-wear for Christmas Day.
It was beautiful, and wearing it when I was a kid was like being at a grand gala every time.
My brother, Jay, wore it once, too. Just once. But that’s all it took to make a memory neither of us ever forgot (blame that kind of entertainment on country living if you will, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything).
Thirty-two years ago, television wasn’t allowed for daytime entertainment and unless you wanted to play Etch-A-Sketch, nothing came close to the electronic games of today.
Sometimes, but not often, country life was boring. Sure, we could get a ride to town easily. But it came Monday to Friday at 8 a.m. and was called the school bus.
So weekends called for free-thinking fun. During the summer, we’d take a bag lunch into the forest and picnic with our cousins who lived down the road or play in the hayloft in Grandpa Drennan’s barn.
On a really interesting day, we could pluck chickens or shuck peas with our grandparents.
Wintertime meant lots of sliding on snow-covered hills of standards not seen today. We skated on Frog Creek when Dad said it was okay or built snow caves to hide in when Mom said it was time to do chores.
But sometimes, like that one summer day, Jay and I came up with a new plan. We’d get “dressed up” and go for a walk.
Jay must have been only seven or eight years old at the time and had the best legs (for a boy) on Frog Creek Road. That day, he put on the red velvet dress.
He looked stunning. So much so that I can’t even remember what I was wearing.
Down the gravel road we headed to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house, where at 3 o’clock sharp we’d be sure to find cookies on the table during coffee time.
Traffic on the road was never a problem back then—save for a herd of cattle being shifted from one field to the next.
And, of course, the odd gravel truck.
The sight of my brother wearing that red velvet dress turned at least one head. I still can remember the truck driver coming to a dead halt alongside of us and looking down with disbelief at who was wearing what.
Today at 40, Jay is as manly as it gets—and handsome—with a “GQ” style to rival anything Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger could slap on a runway. He always did have a flare for fashion.
I don’t shine up too bad, either, if I might say so myself. In fact, my kid tells me I even dress like a modern mom.
But I’ve never stopped traffic.

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