From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

The Front-Row Seats

The Bible says, “All things are possible.” I believe that.

Dolly Parton

My family have always been country music fans. My mother’s favorite entertainer was Porter Wagoner, and even as a little girl of five growing up in Louisiana, Momma passed that “hero worship” on to me. While all of my friends were singing Beatles tunes, I knew all the words to “Slew Foot.”

One of my earliest memories was the day Porter was to perform near my hometown at the Ponchatoula Hayride. We stood in line for four hours just waiting for the doors to open so we could get a good seat. Unfortunately, hundreds of other people had the same idea, and by the time Momma made it through the rushing crowd, protecting her small daughter, we had to sit near the back of the building. Instead of being disappointed, Momma smiled at me, took my hand and said, “That’s okay, baby. One of these days we’re going to have front-row seats.”

As fate would have it, thirty years later I was the feature producer for the television program Opry Backstage on TNN. I can’t begin to tell you how proud that made Momma. She had been suffering from an extended illness and died soon after I got the position. However, she died knowing I was working with the stars of her beloved Grand Ole Opry.

Shortly after her death my producer, Rusty Wilcoxen, asked me to participate in a live segment for the show. I was to be interviewed by the host of Opry Backstage— Porter Wagoner. During the commercial break as I was being miked and placed into position for the interview, I felt as if someone had taken my hand. No one was touching me, but the sensation was real.

As I looked at the crew in front of me, my thoughts suddenly raced to Momma, and for an instant I was the five-year-old girl again. To my left, less than a foot away, sat Momma’s favorite entertainer about to talk to her only child in front of millions of viewers. A single tear trickled down my cheek. As the floor manager was counting us out of the break, I spoke to Momma. Not out loud, but from the heart.

We did it, Momma. We finally got those front-row seats! The tear was replaced by a smile.

Roxane Russell

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