Brandi Chambless – A Red Dress State of Mind

A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age. –Robert Frost

There are two words that, when purposefully placed in a sentence together, have the ability to draw me out of the deepest, most remote parts of the land… live and music. That’s all you have to say and I am there.

For the last few months I have traveled to and fro and made a promise to myself to take advantage of the culture of every town I encounter, be it as metropolitan as downtown Dallas or as backwoods as Bodoc, Louisiana.

So, in making good on that promise to myself, I thought it was only proper to attend a recent event that was advertised on the front page of a small town newspaper as Live Music and Dance at the VFW, Saturday night, Pot Luck, $6.00. “I owe this to myself,” I thought.

Unfamiliar with the little town and being completely unsure of exactly what the VFW was, I called the only phone number listed. Within minutes, a man called me back and told me that VFW stands for Veterans of Foreign Wars and I learned all about the event that is recurring every other Saturday night. This was my lucky day! After some sketchy landmark-based directions from a local, I curled my hair and was ready to check out the event, yet finding no takers in my immediate circle who were interested in a little cultural excursion.

I headed out all gussied up with my homemade moon pies for the pot luck, iPad in hand. “I’ll just Google map the VFW,” I said. “I’m sure it can’t be too far away.” That anyone might need an iPad to navigate this small word of mouth society may be funny to you, but it was my reality. For instance, why post Bible Study times on church websites when you can just call up the Pastor and have a nice long chat!?

Based solely off of my gutsy super-sleuth instinct, I arrived at a dancehall with soft amber lights glowing through the windows. Hearing the sound of the clanging country tunes, I parked, grabbed the dessert, and made my way to the entrance.

Upon entering the foyer, I set the dessert on the gingham-covered table with all the other sweets. I found the something called gumption, enough to push open the double doors to the dance floor with a red dress state of mind, chin held higher than Scarlett O’Hara. I inwardly asked myself why this seemed to be such a great idea before leaving the comforts of our lodge.

What happened next is one of the sweetest stories of my life. With the exception of one eleve
n-year-old girl, I was the youngest person at the dance by at least 20 years. But it didn’t matter. These were some of the most precious people I have ever met. Within minutes, I was welcomed and had danced my first of many dances of the night with war heroes from every branch of the service. On the worn wooden dance floor, we waltzed, two-stepped, jitterbugged–you name it. I tried to ask my partners to tell me their war time stories, but they couldn’t hear me—partly because of the music and partly because of their failing hearing aids.

For the record, I have a history of Latin dancing with mambo dynamos as well as lots of rhythm-filled Frenchman, including my late grandfather. This dancing wasn’t “like” anything. We weren’t imitating an era; the men and women at this party were still living their era as if it was 1940. In addition, I can assure you there were no DIET sodas at the party. Though they were tender, these people weren’t afraid of sugar or living in general.

Heck, it’s taken me longer at times to make friends in Sunday School, but this remnant of the greatest generation made me feel right at home and somehow I think I made them feel alive.

I had been drawn out once again by live music, but that wasn’t all. My new friends’ welcome had also drawn out my inmost being like the lamp of the Lord shining light in a forgotten place. I was so touched by their kindness that I didn’t realize until an hour after being introduced to everyone that I was at the WRONG PARTY!

Who knew that the American Legion Hall and the VFW weren’t synonymously interchangeable?! So, I’m no Nancy Drew after all. Who would suspect that there would be not one, but two, dances with live music on a Saturday night right off of Main St., U.S.A.?! I would have never guessed that.

Nevertheless, I made BOTH parties that night. I will have to say that the VFW won the award for the man with the best dancing skills, for a 93 year old. Impressive. He could really boogie with the best… and he did–his wife in her late 70s!

I suppose if I believed in New Year’s resolutions, mine could be to always possess a red dress state of mind. I’ve been writing about my “forty years” for a while now and, well, Dear Reader, it’s finally happened. Somewhere between Christmas and New Years Eve, I crossed to the other side. If there’s any real truth to the saying that life begins at forty, my life has finally begun.

May God bless my sister Ava for putting up with all of my diva requests from a birthday-zilla for six months prior to the big event and for pulling together four days of feasting and celebration on the bayou just for me! I can trust you to keep my secret birthday wish: To still boogie woogie like that sweet man at the VFW when I’m 93 and to always pick the right party. But, if by some mistake you pick the wrong one, just go with it and tell yourself, “I got this.”

May the Lord of life bless your New Year, Dear Reader! Cheers to a red dress state of mind! Here’s to the next forty years!


Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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