Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?

Is there a song that feels like total magic to you?

For me, it’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”–specifically, the duet between Dolly Parton and Chet Atkins. To the best of my knowledge, Dolly released and recorded that song three times: first with Chet for his album The Best of Chet Atkins & Friends, then as a solo in the 80s, and again with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. And though all three are great songs that arguably evoke different emotions, it’s her duet with Chet Atkins that has my heart.

On the surface, “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” is a tale of the singer missing their ex. But if you listen to all three versions, you can see how different the same lyrics can feel, depending on how they’re delivered.

In my mind, the three songs are released in reverse stages of grief and nostalgia. The most recent–the trio— is melancholy, struggling in the depths of heartache and yearning for answers. Despite being sung by a chorus of angelic voices, it’s lonely. The solo version, released second, feels almost like a flirtatious wink at an ex from long ago, a reminder of what could have been. The tempo of the music and inflection of her voice are a passing look-what-you-missed-out-on message as she triumphantly walks out the door with her head held high. It feels less like a question, more like statement from someone on a healing journey. If those two versions are heartache and defiant healing, the first release–the duet with Chet Atkins–is meeting years later, all bad feelings and complications gone, with nothing but love left between them.

And that is where the magic lies.

Ignore the lyrics “Oh how often I wish that again I could kiss your sweet lips” and this version could be a tale of two platonic friends who drifted apart, for no other reason than sometimes life takes you in different directions. Maybe it’s the season of life that I’m in that makes this longtime favorite song take on that whole new meaning. I’m feeling more and more disconnected from so many friendships I cherish, whether it’s physical distance, being in different stages of life, or just…I don’t know. There often isn’t a specific reason to point to. Usually it’s as simple as: life happens and relationships change.

But do you have those friendships that pick up exactly where they left off, no matter how much time has passed?

That’s what this song sounds like. It’s hope, love, and nostalgia all wrapped up in a song amongst two friends. The opening of Chet on his guitar feels happy, hopeful, excited, and Dolly’s cadence matches that in her opening lyrics. But then she softens and slows down a bit with:

when I think of you and the love we once knew, how I wish we could go back in time

Chet meets her there; it’s the audio version of making eye contact. When Chet stumbles on the lyrics, Dolly giggles, and they just keep going and fall into a perfect rhythm…it feels so intimate, so natural and lovely and warm. I can’t imagine it without those little fumbles and banter and giggles.

Magic, pure magic.

This will surprise exactly no one who knows me even a little bit, but this song makes me tear up every single time. It makes me grateful for, makes me miss every single person I’ve ever truly loved in every stage of my life. Even if a relationship ended for good reason, I have the simultaneous gift and curse of looking back on past relationships–romantic and platonic alike–and recognizing that there was mutual adoration worthy of the nostalgia it left behind. It does take that bitter taste of regret away, and keeps me from deleting old photos or harboring ill feelings, but it can be a lonely place to be when I’m sitting and wondering if anyone ever thinks of me the way I sometimes think of them. Even in the case of friendships that merely feel too far away to just pick back up, that can be the sole thing that keeps me from reaching out.

In a way, “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” is a reminder that perhaps we all feel that way, and that relationships spill so far beyond the “beginning” and “end” of our timelines. Their mutual adoration and longing for how things used to be feels apparent, but do they pick things up right where they left off, not letting their relationship get away from them again? Or do they quickly catch up, reminisce about their good times, and go back to their respective lives? The end is ambiguous; anything is possible.

“Thank you, Dolly.” “I love you.”

Magic. Pure magic. Thank you, Dolly and Chet.

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What does naughty but nice mean. xoxo.

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