Sometime in my youth, I was probably 9 or 10, an invention called the BeDazzler came into my life. It boasted turning my ordinary acid wash mom jeans into the embellishment envy of all my peers. Careful application of bright jewel tone, non bpa free stones with use of a heated device was required, as was as parental supervision. Once set, denim would seem to have had a wingman for life in the BeDazzler. Like so many trends of my childhood, I thought the BeDazzler had gone to a fashion house in the sky, until last weekend when I went to a Dolly Parton concert.
We set up our snacks, beverages, chairs and blankets on a patch of lawn a few hundred feet from the pavilion where the 70 year old gumdrop of a woman would perform. An aerial view of the grounds probably looked like passport style stickers on old luggage; a collective journey of people from different walks of life. The stars in the sky themselves took a back seat to the sequence vests, rhinestone studded boots and myriad of cowboy hats with colorful emblems. A woman on the blanket adjacent to me, her face frozen in a grin, looked like she’d narrowly escaped a Fourth of July clearance sale with her mix of scarves and stetson/tiara. Her husband was a modest matching fanny pack away. Everywhere I looked pockets of people shone brighter than the next, all before the first sound check. This was more than pandemonium. I think I bought a ticket to a way of life – self acceptance with a side of banjo!
She opened the show with a pragmatic yet joy filled reminder that no one should be ashamed of their family or their religion or anything else that makes them who they are. I was buying what Dolly Parton was selling. This petite powerhouse was our storyteller for a few sacred hours. She invited us in and implored us to celebrate our role as main characters in our own stories using hers as the template.
Dolly told of a time when her mamma made a game of sending Dolly and her siblings out for a stone to make stone soup, a recipe frequently made during financial hard times. Years after the fact Dolly realized that Mamma knew which stone to pick before she even asked the children to look. She always chose the child who needed their stone to be picked the most. She always chose the person who needed that boost. It’s a lesson Ms. Parton has clearly spent a lifetime paying forward, one that resonates deeply with me in my role as author and advocate. I tried not to diminish my own worth for not having donned a sparkly something. Perhaps the fact that I was sweating prosecco would suffice as my glitter moment.
The anecdote about the town trollop, a woman she looked up to as a child because the lady was always nice to her and so put together, was my favorite. Her preacher granddaddy was very concerned that young Dolly not be swayed by the make up and the fancy dresses, since they were obviously the Devil’s work. Harnessing the Angel and Devil we all have inside our present day performer recounted that she challenged her grandaddy with the fact the God was likely more concerned with the content and intent of our hearts. Furthermore, just because we’re going to heaven doesn’t mean we have to look like Hell.
Amen, Dolly! Cheers to a life lived with a balance of gratitude, grace and glitter. Thank you, Appalachia!
For me, it’s crisis with jazz hands. How will you BeDazzle your life?
Kate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a speaking engagement.