She walked over to our tent in the heat of the afternoon. We were wrapping up our activities at the Feria de Bienestar Familiar (Family Wellness Fair) for the day. It was hot. Very hot. The Woman in the Red Dress said she was thirsty. We could see that she was more than thirsty. She was dehydrated to the point of not being steady on her feet. Our own water bottles were empty, except for the lab tech's. Our lab tech is a no-nonsense woman with a brusque manner and compassionate heart. She gave up the last of her own water, quickly located some bags of water and directed the Woman in the Red Dress to drink it up.
I remembered the dress and the woman from a year ago, two years ago. It's funny how the memory of a red dress can stick in the mind. The woman's dress reminds me of a red dress which I wore as a little girl - a dress for Sunday School or a special day at school.
I looked carefully at the frayed edges of the skirt, the elastic around the sleeves which had lost its spring, the well-ironed ruffles. The dress was sewn by hand, probably a long time ago. I think the red dress is the woman's favorite dress. She had come to the fair in her best fair-going dress. I think the woman likes the way the skirt swishes. I think she feels pretty in her red dress. And she is. She is very pretty in her fancy, red dress.
A couple of grandmothers from the community were with us under the tent. They shared a little information with us about the Woman in the Red Dress. She had walked all morning to get to the fair. Many grandmothers in rural areas walk long distances to find company, to go to church, to gather fuel, to get water. She lives alone. Many grandmothers live alone. She does not always have enough to eat. Many elderly people struggle with hunger.
The Woman in the Red Dress is a hero. She is beautiful inside and out. I don't remember her name, but I remember her spirit, her spunk, her eyes, her smile, and that red dress.
"You look so beautiful in your red dress," I said. "May I take your picture?"
"Yes, of course," she laughed. The other grandmothers under the tent told the Woman in the Red Dress to pick up the last bag of water. They asked her to pose with it, so that we would have a memory of this moment. I wonder what the grandmothers were thinking when they said we would "have a memory of this moment."