By Tess Frizzell

Cotton-picker. Dreamer. Singer. Songwriter. Star. Survivor. To me: grandmother. My grandmother left an imprint of her titan spirit, warlike determination, and humble sincerity dispersed among those who remember her. Her story begins in a poor shack in McMinnville, Tennessee where she, being the oldest, helped raise the nine brothers and sisters under her.

Long days of picking cotton with empty tummies were only the beginning of her struggles, but they were also the beginning of her dreams. My story begins with a proud grandmother with not enough fame and fortune in the world to spoil me with.

Home for country music royalty. Where legends are found sitting in a circle singing a round. Backstage at the Opry. To me: playground. My white, flat dress shoes with silver buckles carefully leap in and out of cable wires and curiously chase spotlights. My make believe begins wearing off and I realize I miss my grandmother. I start my journey to find her. I take a right at the pink lemonade stand and find her dressing room, where she only answers to my little raspy voice.

Her voice matching that of a mother's lullaby when she spoke tells me "come on in, baby" and my head full of ringlets peaks in the door. She is "putting on her face" she tells me and I walk over to have her plop me on the counter. I am hypnotized by her ritual. I fight back the urge to blink, mesmerized in her every move. The long fake eyelashes sitting on the tip of her finger make it half way to her face, when she stops to look at me and says, "Remember, these are our little secret."

She reaches in her giant brown makeup case for her long, heavy sparkle earrings, and begins to hum. I jump off the counter, as I have on a perfect twirling dress. It is periwinkle and white striped with endless ruffles. It is my favourite twirling dress, the kind where everyone watches you in it, and the one my mom bought me the week before for our visit to the governor's mansion. I find myself getting dizzy, though I cannot tell if it is from the spinning or the strong smell of my grandmother's Oscar de la Renta that overwhelms the room. I am sitting in the magical place where everything is white and creamy and peachy coloured. The canopy on her bed flows all the way to the floor and the dainty softness of the room makes me feel like I am floating in the clouds. My feet dangle freely about a foot from the floor.

Her vanity is skirted with a creamy satin drape with lace and ribbons covering it and I stare at it curiously, thinking maybe it is a wedding dress. Scattered about are these items she carries everywhere. Fake fingernails and eyelashes catch my eye among the lipsticks, liners, and perfume. As I somewhat fightenly wonder how someone's fingernails and eyelashes wound up in my grandmother's makeup, I become distracted.

I look out the ceiling to floor length window in front of me to see rolling hills and big green trees that look like my mother's broccoli. It is then that I see them. I jump up and run to the window. I turn to tell her what I see, as I can feel that she has come in the room and been watching me. My dimples make her laugh and she says "what do ya see little girl?" Pointing with my little index finger with red fingernail polish, I tell her there are deer in her yard.

She crouches beside me and her soft cheek touches mine as she says, "let's hope they don't get on the tennis court," and we both giggle. It is the time of year I crave. It is Christmas and we are driving to see her. The curvy roads are torturous to me. I am almost fighting back tears I want to get there so quickly. She has a power that draws me to her. My heart has an aching like something is pulling it when I know she is close. Christmas at her house is epic. It is the only time of year where she can give lavishly without hearing, "no, no, this is too much" over and over.

One time she had told me shopping was her favourite thing, and at Christmas she had an excuse to spend ridiculously. My little fist is wrapped so tightly around my red "going to grandma's" suitcase that my fingers are sweaty. We pull in the drive and I hear my mom saying something like "hold on, let's get everything first,” but it is useless because I jump out of the car the minute it is parked and I run inside to her. Her face lights up and she says "Merry Christmas little girl" as she picks me up. My face is covered with her big red curls and I smile, as I smell her. Her tree is always fifteen feet or more high and it is flocked.

I get up close to look at the bright, shiny balls, but I do not touch it, as I think the white stuff is cold snow. I get almost sick with excitement, as I know that tomorrow there will be so many presents in the room, it will be hard to walk around. I wonder silently if Santa will bring me the doll I wanted and did not tell anyone about. Opening gifts the next day lasted hours and hours. Her giving spirit makes my heart happy.

She lights up just as much as I do when I open something. I open one gift and it is a real makeup mirror like the one of hers that I endlessly gaze in like I am her. My mom says "oh that one must be for me," and my heart is shattered, but my grandmother says "no honey that's for Tess," and I am rescued by her, but it is the last gift I open that makes Christmas. It is the beautiful doll with the hand painted rocking chair that I saw in the catalogue, but kept a secret.

I sit in a pool of wrapping paper and ribbons and wonder how she knew, but it was her with the magic of knowing a little girl's heart for she still had one herself. I am swallowed by ruffles in a dress one size too big as I wait for my party to start. Turning three is exciting but only for the presents, since it is too young to have guests your age actually there.

The giant strangers with some familiar faces and I are on the large porch of the farm. Under us is a large pond and a running stream of water. The April weather has fooled us all into thinking it is warm, so we all stand outside foolishly with a chill. My mother is running around so busy I wonder if she remembers it is my day. I patiently wait for it to begin as grown ups talk and laugh and pinch my baby cheeks. My mom comes to me with a present, and my eyes pop open to her delight.

It is a Mickey Mouse sprinkler and I wanted a sprinkler, but I say thank you since mom keeps saying to over and over. Then I am saved. I jump off the patio chair I'm on so everyone can see me, and I run to her. Mom, mom! Mom, mom! I yell out to her. It was my special name for her. She opens her arms and reaches for me with a "Happy Birthday Baby." She has a big basket with her and my eyebrows meet in wonder at it. She says go ahead it's for you. I look inside to see a cute puppy face look up at me with scared brown eyes. I half scream and half laugh in only the way an excited little girl would.

I pick him up with his legs dangling and she gently tells me "careful, sweetie." My mom comes over with her plans for the party interrupted and says "Oh, Mom," but it is too late, as I think he is mine and I hold him too tightly. She always knew how to save the day.

There are times when my nine years of her disappoint me, as they are not enough and the fear that I am starting to forget her begins to eat away at me. When she is brought up, my mother's guilty eyes tell me that she is sorry she did not give me more of her. She must not realize yet that she lives on through her. It is when I most feel her slipping away that I am hit with it. She never left. She never died. She never left me at all.

She lives in the wonderful world of stories. It is my stories that keep her alive. I am able to piece her back together with my words of her strength being her legs, her love being her arms, her character being her heart, her soul being her voice and with these words she is miraculously resurrected. I feel her when I choose generosity over selfishness, when beatings of the world make me stronger, when I sing, when I write, and mostly when my dreams reach toward the sky.

Mom tells me our "imagination together was real." And when I am feeling gravities of life pull me down, I feel her presence lift me up like a gust of wind under me. It is her telling me to fly. I have broken out and grown my wings she says and it is time to fly. I think of what Nikki has said, “I watched her beauty transform into this gorgeous…butterfly." She wants me to be a beautiful butterfly like her.

Butterflies come from a less beautiful place, but they fight to be strong and gorgeous and free. New colours emerge when she is telling me she is proud. Only time will tell if I will soar. When the pitter-patter of life's rain fell upon her wings too strongly, God cleared the sky for her to fly higher than she had ever flown. He flew her home. Her fluttering wings with the smooth vibrations of a violin, make their way to the heavens .Yes, she is alive as ever. She has merely exchanged her butterfly wings for those of an angel.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Dottie West Archives finally launched
Dottie West Museum launched for Dottie’s 30th Anniversary of her passing
Author Ellis Nassour Launches a Dottie tribute page
Dottie West Birthday Bash Rescheduled for 2021
A celebration of Dottie’s anniversary with the launch of this new website
A New Dottie West Compilation CD Released
Dottie’s duet partner Kenny Rogers Dies
Sony Music starts reissuing Dottie’s albums
Dottie West is in the Country Music Hall of Fame


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The Dottie West Archive's mission is to engage people in exploring the career, life and times of the Country Muisc Hall of Famer Dottie West. Something that fans can go deeper into that covers it all with tons of information to help open your eyes and so much to read and learn. So do allow yourself some time to sit back and take a sentimental journey back in time to delve into the Dottie West Archives.

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1. Dottie West On The 17th ACMA
2. TV Interviews
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1. Introduction by Dottie West
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3. Dottie Live Performances
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