I caught a glimpse of the original steel magnolia cradling her guitar as I flipped through the thin, glossy pages of Southern Living Magazine last Sunday afternoon. Divine Dolly Parton. Sweet, singing, songwriting Southern royalty. Jennifer V. Cole had the good fortune of sitting down and interviewing Dolly for the Southern Living feature. I surged with envy, wishing the magazine had hired me instead.
As a child of the Sixties and Seventies, I grew up watching and listening to Dolly on The Porter Wagoner Show and her variety show, Dolly! Her angelic voice, her big platinum blonde locks, her curvaceous figure, and her vibrantly-colored, sequined jumpsuits with the tight waists and bell bottom pants will forever be etched in my childhood memories.
“Coat of Many Colors,” “Hard Candy Christmas,” and “I Will Always Love You” are among my all time favorites. Indeed, Dolly and I have sung these songs together hundreds of times in the car, though she was never physically present for our dynamic duets.
Her harmonies with Brad Paisley in “When I Get Where I’m Going” gave the song wings, and boy, it soared. It soared sky high.
But what does Dolly Parton have to do with Project Keepsake? In her interview with Southern Living, she spoke of a time capsule that will be opened in 2045 at DreamMore, and she mentioned a certain keepsake that grabbed my attention—a piece of wood from the porch of her childhood home. The interviewer asked her what the plank meant to her.
I read every word, closed the magazine, turned to my husband, and said, "I knew it. I knew it. I knew Dolly had keepsakes."
He looked over at me for a moment then turned his attention back to the football game.
Just before Project Keepsake was published, I sent a copy of my manuscript to her people and asked them to share it with her. I knew it was a long shot, but I tried anyway. I had hoped Dolly would read the keepsake stories, embrace the project, and possibly, write a blurb for me, but that’s not what happened. A few months after my request, I received a very polite rejection letter in the mail. I emphasize the word, polite.
Still, reading Dolly’s interview in Southern Living validated my belief that everyone—even Dolly Parton—has a keepsake and every keepsake has a story to tell. Just as mine do, Dolly's keepsakes surround her with rich, powerful memories.
We all keep and hold onto objects that link us to the memories we care most about. We keep things so we will remember, but somewhere along the way, our keepsakes take on lives of their own and define where we came from, what matters to us, and perhaps most of all, who we are.
That piece of wood from the porch of her family's cabin—that simple keepsake—says a lot about who Dolly Parton is.
Thank you, Dolly, for your magnificent music, your wisdom, your grace, your many acts of charity and kindness, and most of all, for your sharing so much of your heart and soul with us throughout your illustrious career.
Do you have a keepsake? Where did it come from? Why is it special? Share the story.
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