Creative Nonfiction / Essay / gramma

A Study in Scarlet

It is not mine, but I wear it often: bright red floral dress with three-quarter sleeves, a little too long, but I feel good wearing it, especially with black tights and black chunky heels. Then I am near costume, flowing and transformed. That particular dress often provokes a need for scent, so I spritz just once on my left wrist, only the left with a light, sample perfume made with cyclamen flowers. When I am more daring, I choose the cerise tomato red tapered ankle pant with a black top and the same black chunky heels, or if reminiscent, worn out Chuck Taylors. I also have a red corduroy jacket that I like to wear through winter, although this year was bitter cold so I’ll wait until spring.


“Red,” Jim Lukach. Taken on January 12, 2013. Flickr Creative Commons License.

Red was my gramma’s favorite color and I wear red whenever I rise from sleep thinking of her. My favorite color is blue, not red, but I wear more red then blue. Fortunately, red does not make me “see red,” anger is mired by a rufescent reputation that is better dead than red. Why make a color responsible for damage?

Gramma loved red. She lived in a Cape-style claret colored house with weather-worn siding on a dead-end street across from one of her daughters. Gramma owned a red sweater, bought second-hand (I think), smoked Marlboro cigarettes and drank Red Rose Tea throughout each day. She sat at the head of her kitchen table, facing the door as if waiting to welcome anyone who might walk in. She never learned to cook for one or less than eight, stewing homemade spaghetti sauce, always freezing the leftovers.

Whether red affected her mood, or added any meaning in her life I do not know, but I like to think so. But she loved greatly with a ginormous carmine-love, the people in her life: all her children and grandchildren; great grand children; friends and family; old lovers– for better or for worse. Her love was not always red-love, but shades of love blended with a bittersweet and bloodshot; an undefinable-mostly-sanguine lacking optimism, but one cannot be bright and rosy all the time, right?

Red, after all, is not always pretext for love and hate, but pretext for fever and blush, a warmth across skin with a sensitivity and the possible awakening that reminds one they are alive among geraniums and flittering cardinals.

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