Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to write. For me, it is.
Inside the house, I’m distracted by bills to be paid, papers to be filed and laundry to be done.
On the back porch, my attention is drawn to the dogs and cats and how interestingly they interact. Dew Drop, Biscuit, Squeaky Leaks (aka Clemson), Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas all have distinct entertaining personalities. I find them captivating.
The horse barn, where we have a sitting area and where I used to write easily, has lost some of its comfort after the huge oak was felled by Hurricane Irma. Losing a big tree to me is like losing a longtime friend.
So, I often take myself down to Mama’s where I purposely find distractions since they don’t naturally present themselves. Writers are like that. We’re always looking for a way to escape the work. Tink checks emails, writes texts and trolls the Internet.
I dig through closets and drawers to see what I can find of Mama and Daddy. Of my childhood. Of all the people I’ve loved and the memories I cherish.
That’s how I found Loretta Lynn.
She was my childhood hero. Among my favorite, framed photos is an old Kodak snapshot taken of me at eight centered between Loretta and her sister, Crystal Gayle (back in the days when her name was Brenda and hair was only halfway down her back). I was dressed, as usual, in a homemade dress. This one is light yellow voile with a twirling designed border that only an expert seamstress could have made work.
It was a dropped-waist dress so she sewed the top part in the fabric then knife pleated a flounce skirt, crafted from the border, around the bottom. I feel fairly certain that I still have that dress.
Money was carefully managed in our home but, while my clothes were homemade and my bangs were cut crooked on a regular basis by Mama, I was allowed a fairly endless supply of books and several albums a year.
I always bought Loretta Lynn albums.
After I abandoned my childish pursuits and moved to adulthood, I left all those albums in my bedroom closet. They were stocked on a shelf tucked in the rear. This would have worked out just fine and dandy had it not been for the fact that the closet shares a wall with the bathroom. The only bathroom in our house. When a leak developed, it soaked the albums. The damage was not discovered until the album jackets had dried and mildewed a bit. Though the records play fine, the jackets are pretty much stuck together – but, surely by the grace of God, one is still pristine. It had the good fortune of still having the cellophane on it.
The career-defining “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was an album jacket of off-white scripted in light blue. Loretta was dressed in a cream Victorian lace dress accented by a dark sash. On the back are liner notes written by Doyle Wilburn – the Wilburn Brothers discovered her, then made a publishing fortune from her songs. The back cover is beautifully, simply designed with a scrolling border and a black and white photo of Loretta, again in lace.
You can feel the starkness but poetic wonder of Butcher Holler, Kentucky.
In talent shows, I always sang Loretta Lynn songs including “Coal Miner’s Daughter” before it became a New York Times bestselling memoir or an Academy Award-winning movie.
We were shopping at Rose’s the day I found the album. It cost $4.99. It took Mama about three hours in a hot sewing plant to bring home $5.
“Mama, can I have this? Please?” It was a rare request.
She thought for only a second, then nodded. I walked out of the store, holding that precious treasure close to my chest.
Some things are truly priceless.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.