Other times she wore a red dress with flamboyant accessories, or a black dress with scarlet accessories, or wearing a bright blue print with red accents. And the handbag, always a large handbag. The big brimmed hat, too. The hat, the bag, and the dressy-dress made her stand out. And her stride. She was in a hurry, places to go, people to see, shopping to do. I looked for her whenever I was driving in that section of town. It was common to see her in the late afternoon. Usually she was on the same side of the street as me, walking on a sidewalk, her back to me as I drove on by.
Her hair was curly, shoulder-length, bouncy, like the determined, bouncy way she walked. I wondered her story. Hers was not the normal stride but that of the person marching to her own tune. I never knew, of course, and I never talked to her. She was walking, and I was hauling a car full of kids.
We moved out of the area. Five years later we were back. A few weeks into our return, I spotted her. She had aged. Her hair was now pepper and salt in color. Her dresses, not quite so outlandish. But she was going shopping, walking fast, carrying a colorful tote bag in hand. It felt good to see her again, to know she was still around. Every time I saw her I would smile. She had a cheerful aura about her, and I knew she had to be a good person by the way she dressed, the kind of person that celebrates life and says nice things to make others feel good. She had character, more than most.
Then one day, years later, the front page of the local paper boasted a picture of her. She'd passed on, and they'd written an article about her. Now I knew her name. Now I learned she'd been homeless off and on but a favorite in town. Now I knew she made a lot of people smile and was loved by merchants and homeless alike. She'd been an encourager to many. In fact, the locals were covering her funeral expenses. The lady in red was going out in style, beloved by many in the community.
I've always wanted to write about her because she impressed me and touched something in me that others have not. Her inner beauty was magical even though she was doing what she did without a concern for what we thought about it. She liked being beautiful. She liked color. She loved red. She liked purpose and was about her business. Though different than mine or others, there was something special about it, and about her.
Look for the beauty and you will find it.