I’d like to make my mama proud. That’s one of my main goals in this world. If I’ve made her proud, well, then I’ve really done something.
My mother, you see, is the kind of woman who taught me how to be nice, and how to have manners.
Long ago, she would make me sit with my cousin, Myrtle, at covered dish socials, so Myrtle wouldn’t be sitting alone. Mama would say things like: “Be polite, and make sure you ask your cousin how her baton twirling is coming along.”
Admittedly, Myrtle was about as interesting as watching ditchwater evaporate. But like I said, I want my mama to be proud.
Maybe I should back up and tell you where all this is coming from.
Earlier this week, I spent some time with people who were—how do I put this— not very nice. Now, they weren’t MEAN people, per se, but you don’t have to be “mean” to be un-nice.
I hope I am never an un-nice person. What would Mama think?
Mama is a woman who says things like: “Don’t talk about yourself too much, it’s like passing gas in an elevator; people will smile, but they don’t mean it.
And: “Be a good listener, your ears will never get you in trouble.”
I don’t aspire to much in this life, but I know that I want to be the kind of man who listens.
Also, I want to be the kind of man who dogs follow for no reason. I want to be the guy who does magic tricks for toddlers.
I want to go around reminding teenagers how important they are. I want to listen to the jokes old men tell when their wives aren’t around.
I want to hear long stories on porches, and I want to be the first to respond: “Well, I Suwannee.”
A good Suwannee is hard to find.
I want the “little guys” to be famous. I want the overlooked to be looked at. I want to clap for the kid who dreams of singing on the Opry stage one day—like Mama clapped for me. I’ve never been on the Opry stage, and never will, either. But Mama really believed I could have been.
I want to believe in people like she does. I want to watch sunsets with friends and convince them that they are the most SPECIALEST people in the world. And I want to use words like “specialest,” even though that word is English blasphemy.
I want cheap beer in the bottle. I don’t need a New York strip, just give me a hamburger and onion rings as big as hula hoops. Then, I want you to know that you can hug me whenever you want and get a hug in return.
A good hug is harder to find than a good Suwannee.
And if I live long enough to see my own white hair, I want to be a man who is proud of people who don’t have someone to be proud of them.
I want my friends to succeed and surpass me. I want to be the one cheering for them in the bleachers. I want my funeral to be filled with people who say things like, “Sean Dietrich, wasn’t he a mess?”
And I want you to know you are magnificent.
Everyone and anyone. Landscapers, meter-readers, garbage men, abused spouses, ex-convicts, divorcees, jewelry artists, single mothers, lonely fathers, Mexican immigrants, nurses, attorneys, Waffle House waitresses, concrete layers, Baptists, insurance salesmen.
I hope I am the sort of guy who is kind.
But most of all, I hope to make my mother proud.