Thank you for hugs from small-town women who talk with soft drawls, and aren’t afraid to tell me they love me. Watch over my mother-in-law while she attempts to eat too much fried food without a qualified member of the clergy standing nearby.

This is a small restaurant. A meat-and-three, where waitresses wear T-shirts. Where your iced tea never falls below the rim of your glass. Where catfish is fried whole on the bone.

I have two dates accompanying me tonight.

My mother-in-law—who holds my arm for balance. I’m carrying her purse. And my wife—who walks ten steps ahead of us at all times.

The dress code is summer weekend casual. I’m wearing jeans. My dates are wearing pearls, pumps, and ruby lipstick.

They always do. In fact, I’ve never seen them exit the house in anything they wouldn’t want to be buried in.

We order a round of teas. My dates scan the menus without conversation. When our server arrives, my dates have questions.

“Is your tartar sauce made with DUKE’S?” asks my wife.

“Are there REAL ham hocks in your collards?” asks my mother-in-law. “I don’t like those ham-flavored packets.”

“What’s in the potato salad?” asks my wife. “If I even LOOK at a stick of celery I start gagging…”

“Are your French fries STEAK fries, or shoestring?”

“What kind of cake do you have tonight?”

“Where’d you graduate high school?”

“What’s your stance on foreign commerce?”

“What’s your social security number?”

The server looks to me.

“I’ll have a barbecue sandwich, ma’am,” I say.

Two more women enter the restaurant. They have white hair, and they are also sporting pearls. They sit behind us. They speak with accents that are soft and sophisticated.

As fate would have it, my two dates know them—sort of.

Miss Youth Dew and Miss Dignified are from Anytown, Alabama. My mother-in-law is from Brewton.

And since South Alabama is one large family tree with lots of strings of pearls hanging from its branches, they know some of the same people.

“Do you know Bucky Mc-So-And-So?” asks Miss Marjorie. “His daddy ran the Western Auto.”

“Did you know Sister What’s-Her-Name?” says my mother-in-law. “She always made Coca-Cola cakes in Civic League.”

“I graduated school with her BROTHER.”

“Get out! Her brother’s niece’s Sunday school teacher is my COUSIN’S SISTER-IN-LAW!”

“Are you serious?”

“Sister, if I’m lying I’m dying.”

“I heard her son landed in jail.”

“He’s out on parole now, living for Jesus.”

“Bless him.”

Our food arrives. My mother-in-law puts a hurting on two slabs of catfish which are roughly the size of men’s work boots. My wife’s plate is so big she has to remove her earrings to eat.

Mid-meal, my mother-in-law remarks, “I Suwannee, we forgot to say the blessing.”

She asks if I’ll do the honors. I tell the ladies to join hands and bow heads.

Dear Lord:

Thank you for catfish, fried whole on the bone. Thank for tea, sweet enough to cause temporary blindness.

Thank you for mothers-in-law who hold my arm for balance. Thank you for friends from Alabama. For High Bluff, Bellwood, Eunola, Geneva, Hartford, Oxford, Slapout, Chancellor, and Coffee Springs. God bless Brewton.

Thank you for hugs from small-town women who talk with soft drawls, and aren’t afraid to tell me they love me. Watch over my mother-in-law while she attempts to eat too much fried food without a qualified member of the clergy standing nearby.

Thank you for my own mama. For my sister. For my niece. And thank you for seeing fit to give me a special wife. I would be nothing without these breathtaking women, Lord.





  1. Beth Reed - July 7, 2018 6:13 am

    I love this story of a night out. Yes sirreee that’s small town AmeruAm but especially in the South.
    I love how you write. It’s just like I was sitting at the table with y’all. Have a great weekend. Xxx Beth Reed

  2. Beth Reed - July 7, 2018 6:14 am

    America… I hate my phone….. I read over my post before I submitted it and still it posted what it wants to. Grrr

  3. Dru - July 7, 2018 6:56 am

    Hilarious. Lord! One of your best!

  4. Gary D - July 7, 2018 9:13 am

    I love it. All is good in small town Alabama.

  5. Vaudy Holley - July 7, 2018 10:08 am

    I can remember times such as this one. I grew up in Whistler Alabama which is north of Mobile.
    Thanks for story, which is so very real

  6. MaryBurns - July 7, 2018 11:12 am

    Very nice!

  7. Sharon Bartley - July 7, 2018 11:21 am

    I always love reading your work (even the Chic-fil-a piece–why did everyone get their panties in a wad over that?), but this one especially resonates with me. Its like a visit back home….Bless your heart, Sean.

    • David Bartley - July 14, 2018 8:43 pm

      I’m a Bartley too with lots of relatives from walker county, Sharon.

  8. Mariam - July 7, 2018 11:38 am

    Truly made my morning! I think I am kin ! You could have been sitting in my presence w/ me asking those questions so casually! Southern ppl “just do that”! I swanny we are all alike- sociable in a warm southern style! Thank you Sean for sharing your delightful gift of words !

  9. Grace Murdock - July 7, 2018 11:46 am

    Earns two ❤️❤️S! I’ll swan!

  10. Harriet - July 7, 2018 11:53 am

    I could eat two of those boot-sized catfish for breakfast…with or without pearls.

  11. Martha Owens - July 7, 2018 12:01 pm

    So typical of Small Town South Alabama! Love it!

  12. Katherine - July 7, 2018 12:30 pm


  13. Shirley Brown - July 7, 2018 12:46 pm

    You don’t have a single older brother or a clone do you Sean?

  14. Terri - July 7, 2018 1:04 pm

    Father God, thank you for Sean. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
    Love you Sean.

  15. Lydia - July 7, 2018 1:14 pm

    LOVE this one,Sean!

  16. Connie Havard Ryland - July 7, 2018 1:16 pm

    Simply lovely. Love and hugs from another small Alabama town.

  17. Donna - July 7, 2018 1:33 pm

    I’m still giggling about “removing her earrings so she can eat”…I want to go to this restaurant TODAY!!!
    Bless you for writing and starting each day off with words of humor, wisdom and insight. Thank you.

  18. Jack Darnell - July 7, 2018 1:36 pm

    This is the same if I take my date to any cafe in Belmont, NC. I Suwannee that must happen to anyone who never had a home town and marries a hometown girl!
    A few weeks ago I lost the last person who Suwannee’d. My sister passed away and until she died she Suwannee’d she didn’t ‘aim to act’ high classed!
    Good entry, I love your dates!!

  19. Charlu Kent - July 7, 2018 1:41 pm

    Love Alabama 💙🐭❤️😎

  20. Sue Cronkite - July 7, 2018 1:48 pm

    Right on the mark. My daughter went to the store for me yesterday, because I didn’t have time to “get dressed.”

  21. Jeanne Butler - July 7, 2018 1:51 pm

    Love it. Wish I grew up in a small town in Alabama. My town in Delaware, Old New Castle, is small but a different kind of people, Northerners! Love you Sean

  22. Carol - July 7, 2018 1:51 pm

    Lord , Thank you for son- in -laws like You!!
    I got one too.
    He’s my right arm too! And he likes his tea sweet !!
    He needs your prayers. Thank you !!
    Love ya,

  23. Jack Darnell - July 7, 2018 2:00 pm

    Oh BTW, I copied some of that stuff. Since I am a famous author (sold 5 books) I have been asked to speak at my wife’s HS reunion. Being a PK and moving all the time I never had a hometown and was a HS dropout This will be the 61st reunion I think so there aren’t many left, so they don’t mind asking a dropout. LOL My talk will center around the Hometown I never had. Thanks for some fodder for my friends.!

  24. Heidi - July 7, 2018 2:16 pm

    You make me wish I had grown up there…..and belonged.

  25. Edna B. - July 7, 2018 2:25 pm

    I’m still giggling over this story. I just loved it! I’m blessed to have a son in law like you. He insists that I hold his arm for balance and he puts up with all my old lady quirks. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  26. MJ - July 7, 2018 2:41 pm

    Sean, I am laughing and crying at the same time. I love your wit and keen eye for what really matters. You are pretty darn special yourself.

  27. Pat - July 7, 2018 3:11 pm

    I really started giggling when the others ladies came in and the conversation turned into “do you know….”? I certainly found myself in that conversation. You never know who knows who though…I remember talking to a girl at work (in Alabama) at Christmas time, asked her plans, and she said she was going to mamas in Savannah. I had an aunt and uncle that also lived there…they lived just down the street from her mama!

  28. Pat - July 7, 2018 3:14 pm

    Just got to give a shout out to my husband who was also a wonderful son-in-law to my parents and to my son who is a wonderful son-in-law. Guess its in the genes!

  29. Theresa - July 7, 2018 4:55 pm

    Simply beautiful!!!

  30. Mern Brewer - July 7, 2018 5:11 pm

    Great rayet

  31. Barbara Pope - July 7, 2018 5:22 pm

    You’re observation skills are admirable!

  32. Carolyn - July 7, 2018 6:04 pm

    Bless you

  33. LeAnne Martin - July 8, 2018 9:40 am

    One of my favorites! Thank you, Sean! 🙂

  34. C.E. HARBIN - July 8, 2018 12:25 pm

    Mercy sakes, that brings back tons of memories. All my Aunts ‘Suwanee’d’ all their lives. I miss that and the string of pearls.
    I’m still giggling over your wife having to remove her earrings to eat.
    This article was one of your best.

  35. Anna Ehrhardt - July 9, 2018 11:17 am

    This one was great. I am still laughing. Love your posts. Sweet tea and blindness. good one.

  36. Lynda - July 11, 2018 7:53 pm

    I loved this. It reminded me of taking my elderly mom and her sister’s out to eat. It took them forEVER to order since they had to grill the waiter about everything in the food. And no matter where we were we had to try our best to strike up a kinship with somebody (and usually did).
    I love your stories.
    I love the Alabama.
    I love the south.
    I love catfish.
    Thank you

  37. Jeananne Lybbert - July 12, 2018 3:39 pm

    Dear Sean-
    Thank you for your wonderful writing. It’s very rare that I don’t cry while reading it. It helps me focus on what’s right in the world and to pay attention to all the wonder around us!
    This post was such a blessing. It helped me realize that there are men out there who treasure women and cherish them. My marriage was anything but. My ex-husband had an affair while I was having chemotherapy…But now I know that there are more man than just my beloved daddy that love women! Thank you!


Leave a Reply