Years ago, I wrote my first book. I wondered why I’d done such a silly thing. After all, I was thinking to myself, who really cares if I write a book?

Brewton, Alabama—the Huddle House restaurant is busy tonight. There are teenagers all over. A few wear formal clothes and styled hair.

Brewton’s prom was a few hours ago.

One girl wears white satin. The boy next to her wears a tux. Their smiles could be used in Colgate advertisements.

If there’s anything happier than youth, I wish I knew what it was.

So this is Brewton. Some visitors might drive through town and remark: “What a cute town.” Or they might say: “Those old houses are pretty.”

And even though the antebellum homes on Belleville Avenue are worth slowing down for, this place is more than houses.

This place means something to me. I’ll tell you why:

For starters, look at the railroad, cutting through the center of the downtown. Listen to the train whistle. I’m a sucker for trains.

The old storefronts on Saint Joseph Avenue. They haven’t changed in a million years. The flatiron building that was once Holman’s Pharmacy—which later became Old Willie’s.

Go have a look at the new middle school. You’ll meet teachers with thick accents. And Miss Leola—the lunch lady whose tea is sweet enough to power chainsaws.

The redhead principal. A woman who has memorized a list of names longer than the Lamb’s Scroll of Life.

Visit the high school. It will make you believe in society again. Go to a football game on a Friday night during the height of the season. When the T.R. Miller Tigers take the field, you’ll go deaf.

I wish I would’ve grown up here, but I didn’t—I’ve wished for a lot of things that never came true. But this place has a way of making up for ungranted wishes.

Years ago, I wrote my first book. I wondered why I’d done such a silly thing. After all, I was thinking to myself, who really cares if I write a book?

I decided to give away fifty free copies to friends and family as Christmas gifts.

I told a few people about it on a Friday. By Sunday morning, I had two hundred and eleven emails—all requesting books. One hundred and ninety-seven were from Brewtonians.

It made me light headed.

The next week, more envelopes started hitting my mailbox. Letters which said things like: “We are so proud of you.”

“We.”

Some envelopes included gifts. Others had personal notes. Most envelopes bore a 36426 zip code.

That was quite a year.

So Brewton might look like a timber town to some, but it’s more. Sure, I know it’s imperfect, but to an outsider like me it’s almost holy.

It’s people like Connie—journalist, author, and poet—who once hugged my neck and said, “I believe in you, boy.”

People like my father-in-law, who once said, “You’re my son, and I’m proud to be pinch-hitting for your daddy.”

People like the white-haired preacher, Brother John, who once told me, “Do you know how much God loves you, son? I can see it all over you.”

These folks must’ve seen an orphan kid like me coming from a mile away. A kid who grew up feeling unspecial.

A kid who didn’t have more than a seventh-grade education. Who’d never been to football games, who never went to prom, who didn’t think he had much to offer the world.

This is my wife’s city. But it’s here that I discovered what it feels like to belong.

So if you should ever pass through Brewton, Alabama, slow down. Visit the Huddle House.

You don’t want to miss this place. People get reborn here. God lives here.

And so do five thousand of his friends.

27 comments

  1. Susan Hammett Poole - March 20, 2018 6:08 am

    Endearing memories of this wonderful little Alabama town 🙂
    You made me smile.

    Reply
  2. Connie - March 20, 2018 7:18 am

    I’ve been to Brewton many times. More than a few to band competitions at the high school. It’s a nice little town, but I will look at it with fresh eyes next time I’m up that way. Feeling loved is so very important, and I’m glad they made you feel at home. Love and hugs from another beautiful, overlooked and underappreciated small town, Bay Minette. I’m so glad across something you wrote one day. I don’t know how many books you’ve written, but I have 5 of them, and treasure them. God bless.

    Reply
  3. Sherry - March 20, 2018 9:56 am

    I grew up in a place like that…I’ll have to go to Brewton one day..,,

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  4. Debbie - March 20, 2018 11:22 am

    Keep up the good work Sean!

    Reply
  5. Patricia Schmaltz - March 20, 2018 11:49 am

    Sean, I have only passed through Brewton. But you are correct, it has charm and love in every inch of the town!

    Reply
  6. Candace Bradford - March 20, 2018 12:14 pm

    Been to Brewton, your exactly right!

    Reply
  7. Annie - March 20, 2018 12:51 pm

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  8. Lynn Ray - March 20, 2018 2:13 pm

    Sean, my husband (Doug Ray) sold mortar to the Martin’s at Keego Clay Products. He became very close to Bob and I am sure he knew Jim. Doug passed away two years ago and I saw where Jim died too. We saw them many times, Bob’s retirement, a wedding and other events. Doug always got Bob the Auburn/Georgia football tickets. If you talk to anyone of them please tell them Doug Ray’ s widow, Lynn, said hello.

    Reply
  9. Jack Quanstrum - March 20, 2018 2:38 pm

    Wow ! Captivating!

    Reply
  10. Mary Anne - March 20, 2018 2:54 pm

    Sean, I’m a transplant to the Florida Gulf Coast, but I do love it…mostly because my only daughter and the two grandest strawberry blonde grandchildren in the land live here. As required of my work-from-home-job, I have to travel back to Nashville several times a year. Before Southwest offered me a non-stop flight, I drove the trip at least a hundred times up I-65 through the length of Alabama. I know every good place to stop for a bite, where to find the cheapest gasoline and cleanest rest rooms. My path led me through Brewton, AL on Sunday mornings. I LOVED driving down the street with those beautiful churches and lovely antebellum homes. More than once I packed my “good camera” and stopped to capture glimpses of exquisite homes and churches. I love the little town of Brewton too. It’s special. It’s a tonic for the soul to just drive through it. I bet it was a great place to grow up.

    Reply
  11. Barbara Stephenson - March 20, 2018 3:33 pm

    Sean you beautiful man. I love Brewton Al too. I remember one happy night in 1992 when the Enterprise Wildcats beat TR Miller in the state playoffs and my son who is now in Heaven scored the winning touchdown in overtime. I was there so I love Brewton for the memories. I loved the big bear hug you gave me when I met you at the Coffee County Farm Center. Had our picture taken with the lost dog. Keep writing. You start my day . Love you Ellie Mae and Jamey.

    Reply
  12. Linda Collins - March 20, 2018 3:57 pm

    I love your writing! A friend turned me on to you and wow! I am looking for your books to read and your daily emails are the first thing I read each day! Keep up the good work……..you’ve got a friend in me!!

    Reply
  13. Susie - March 20, 2018 4:00 pm

    Beautiful tribute to what I’m sure is a beautiful town. Can’t say I’ve ever been through it but now I’ll have to!

    Reply
  14. Barry Spears - March 20, 2018 4:19 pm

    My father introduced me to you this past weekend while attending my great uncle’s funeral. He forwarded a link to your website, and also signed me up for your daily blogs. I read the first one I received yesterday, and then listened to a radio show. It’s day two now of my time reading up on some of your past post, and I’m so glad my dad sent this to me. It took only two days and reading about 6 blog post to make me feel like changing how I see things in life. Slow down, listen, watch, and love. I never thought how much reading about shelling peas, fishing, or Huddle House made me reconnect with my past. Thank you for what you do, and I look forward to reading more. It’s nice to meet you, Sean!

    Reply
  15. Patricia Gibson - March 20, 2018 4:53 pm

    Wonderful! !

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  16. Teri - March 20, 2018 6:23 pm

    I got goosebumps of love and joy reading this…

    Reply
  17. Pamela McEachern - March 20, 2018 6:26 pm

    I think the people that choose us to be their “family” are the best we can ever imagine! How proud they are of their adopted son. Glad you met that amazing girl Jamie!

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  18. Jon Jones - March 20, 2018 9:10 pm

    Flashback of a kid in Newton.

    Reply
  19. Karen Murphy - March 20, 2018 9:17 pm

    God does love you and so do I. Your writing moves me, sometimes to laughter, sometimes to tears. Keep it up.

    Reply
  20. Toni M Martin - March 20, 2018 10:24 pm

    This might be my favorite post. God bless Brewton and God bless you as you are a blessing to so many of us.

    Hug, Toni

    Reply
  21. Ted - March 21, 2018 12:11 am

    Words flowing like a cool branch from a hillside!

    Reply
    • Maxine - March 21, 2018 3:48 pm

      Wonderful analogy, Ted and I understood it perfectly, it has been many a year but the refreshing memory is still there.

      Reply
  22. Melanie Monk Morris - March 21, 2018 2:25 am

    I have always loved that I grew up in Brewton, but now I know how much I took it all for granted!! Thank you for your appreciation and perspective.
    MMM TRMILLER CLASS OF ‘62

    Reply
  23. Maxine - March 21, 2018 3:45 pm

    Aaaaah Sean, another walk down memory lane, yours, mine or someone else’s doesn’t matter ’cause they are all pure gold.

    Reply
  24. Sandra Smith - March 21, 2018 10:55 pm

    I LOVE Brewton !!!
    ❤❤❤

    Reply
  25. Catherine - March 22, 2018 1:26 am

    I’ve never been to Brewton, Alabama. I’m sure I would love it too. I have read all of your books and loved them all. Please write more.

    Reply
  26. Anita Wadsworth Mathis - March 26, 2018 11:09 pm

    I was married in Brewton in 1978. 😎

    Reply

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