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.

Nothing.

Amen.

 

41 comments

  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

    Reply
  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

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

    Hilarious. Lord! One of your best!

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

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

    Reply
  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

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

    Very nice!

    Reply
  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.

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

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

      Reply
  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 !

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

    Earns two ❤️❤️S! I’ll swan!

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

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

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

    So typical of Small Town South Alabama! Love it!

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

    Beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

    LOVE this one,Sean!

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

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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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!!

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

    Love Alabama 💙🐭❤️😎

    Reply
  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.”

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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,

    Reply
  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.!

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

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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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!

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

    Simply beautiful!!!

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

    Great rayet

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

    You’re observation skills are admirable!

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

    Bless you

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

    One of my favorites! Thank you, Sean! 🙂

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
  38. Celina Branton - September 2, 2018 7:25 pm

    I am 78. Both my mother and grandmother were from Alexis, Alabama, plus all my maternal aunts and an uncle. I had great aunts – Imo (short for Imogene) and her older sister, Zepho, and Zepho’s husband, Guy, who lived on a farm not far from Rome, GA in an old unpainted house with a wrap-around porch and floors she scrubbed with lye soap. Had an out-house, hen house, but most of all, a happy, clean family house. A well, then got a water pump in kitchen! Uncle Guy was missing 2 fingers because he laid them on a log and dared his brother or some other boy to cut them off with an ax. He did. I loved these people. Yes, the had an Alabama dra…..wwww….lllll, many hugs, smiles, a clean house, and the best fried chicken, fried okra, fried squash, cream corn (always white), fried fat back always on the stove in a saucer, white cream gravy, crowder peas, fielld peas, all kinds of peas, creamed potatoes, fried potatoes and onions, potato salad, deviled eggs, white “big” butter beans, homemade biscuits, homemade cornbread, sliced tomatoes, chunks of onion, little green onions, chess pie, banana pudding, chocolate pie, lemon pie, pecan pie (only on special occasions), blackberry cobbler (in season), sweet tea, milk from the Jersey cow, buttermilk great Aunt Zepho (kid you not, that was her name), Old Maids of all colors in blue Mason jars filled with water….. sweet shrub used for brushing teeth after meals (found growing wherever we walked)….. well, there were also feather beds, home quilted quilts, homemade muslin or linen sheets (none were fitted), pillow cases that had girls, flowers, and the like embroidered on them, handkerchiefs that had “tatting” around them (I still have mother’s tatting shuttles), lots of home made aprons, rocking chairs on the porch, and they swept the yard! Yes, hugs and drawls.

    Reply
    • Celina Branton - September 2, 2018 7:30 pm

      “buttermilk made by my great aunt.. butter churned by her… etc.

      Reply
  39. Linda Crawford - September 3, 2018 12:50 am

    I was talking to some newly relocated Yankees who asked. “What do these people want?” Whatever do you mean, I replied. “They must want something, they’re too nice.” Bless their hearts.

    Reply

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