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Local teacher turned author shares life lessons in ‘Fall Suitcase Stories’

Cover of “The Fall Suitcase Stories” by Chesterfield resident Peggy Dolan

After a 44-yearlong career in education, Peggy Dolan began her second career. Well, sort of.

“I’ve been storytelling since 1970. Perhaps even earlier than that, since I told stories when I used to babysit,” explained Dolan, who affectionately is known to many as Aunt Peggy.

Officially, the Chesterfield resident became a published author last July, but her book “The Fall Suitcase Stories” is all about fall.

The collection of poems centers around a colorful cast of autumn-inspired characters, who are learning to navigate the trials of the world. Penelope, the Pint-Sized Pumpkin, yearns to be picked from the pumpkin patch and dreams of becoming a pumpkin pie. Tobias, an amiable turkey, has concerns about Thanksgiving. And Dolan’s personal favorite, Freddy, the Christmas Snowflake, is anxious about falling to the ground until he learns that his bravery will be well-rewarded.

“These stories have a challenge to them,” the former school teacher explained. “I wanted there to be a lesson.”

Life, after all, is a series of lessons you carry with you – sometimes figuratively, sometimes in an old suitcase. Dolan’s suitcase dates back to World War II and was a gift from her father.

In her youth, Dolan learned that most of poet Emily Dickinson’s works only gained popularity posthumously. So, to make things easier, Dolan asked her parents if they had a trunk in their attic into which she could put her stories and poems. Then, if she died, all of her works would be in one place waiting to be discovered and loved. Dolan’s father didn’t have a trunk, but he did have his World War II suitcase, the very suitcase featured in the title of her books.

Today, that suitcase carries props, costumes, puppets – anything Dolan feels will fully complete her transformation into Aunt Peggy, the storyteller. She travels from school to school and all around West County, including stops at local attractions and book stores, where she reads her stories to children with such vim, vigor and care that she has become something of a local celebrity.

“I was in Marshall’s once and a child just ran up to me and gave me a hug around my legs,” she said, laughing. “I thought it was one of my nieces, but no, she had recognized me from school.”

“The Fall Suitcase Stories” is the first of four books Dolan plans to release. Two are spring and summer counterparts to her first book, “The Spring Suitcase Stories” and “The School Days Suitcase Stories.”

The third, “The Olden School Days Suitcase Stories,” will be a chaptered collection of poems, or a “povel” as Dolan affectionately calls it. The portmanteau of “poem” and “novel” is a term she loved so much that she had it trademarked.

Dolan’s first book is available online at mascotbooks.com, on amazon.com and on BarnesandNoble.com.

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