I love this time of year. Holidays, food, and college football. The Iron Bowl is upon us. I’m going to a friend’s place for the game. I will be the only University of Alabama fan amidst twenty-nine Auburn University sympathizers in “War Eagle” T-shirts.
I have time to kill. I stop at a small bookstore. The kind with narrow aisles, and off-the-wall books.
I am a book guy. I am crazy about bookstores. I even like the way they smell. I have always wanted to be a maker of books. It was my earliest ambition until I discovered cheese. Then I wanted to dedicate my life to cheese.
When I was a boy, I read the newspaper with my father. He would point to the text and teach me to pronounce the words of columnists.
“What’s a columnist?” I once asked.
“Someone who writes for a paper,” he said.
“Oh, everything and nothing.”
Everything and nothing. Some phrases you don’t forget. This is one such phrase.
The Christmas before he died, my father gave me a gift. It was a hardback book of American newspapermen like Mark Twain, O. Henry, Ambrose Bierce, and Will Rogers. When I asked him what it was about, he said, “Stories about everything and nothing.”
They were glorified columns, and I read the book so often the pages went limp.
A few years after his passing, I wrote my first attempt at a column. I was a teenager. It was ridiculous copy, written longhand on yellow legal paper. It was about nothing, really. It was meant to be a humorous commentary about Thanksgiving spent with unstable family members.
I sent it to a small newspaper via snail mail. Every morning thereafter, I ran to the end of the driveway to be the first to search the pages. The paper actually ran it.
There it was. The second page. It was jammed between a story about the winner of the greased hog chase, and Miss Eleanor’s gossip column.
My five hundred words. And there were misspellings everywhere.
One of the opening sentences read: “Oh, how I kove this time of year…”
Even so, I was in heaven. Since then, I have always koved small-town newspapers.
Anyway, the bookstore. The books on the “humor” shelf are arranged alphabetically. There are all kinds. I am reading from a joke encyclopedia when one book catches my eye. It is written by a familiar name.
I glance both directions for a hidden camera. This has to be a joke. It’s my book, and I don’t know how it got here.
I thumb through it and read a few stories to myself. I read one about my father, one about my uncle offering beer to a cow. I read about my late canine friend, Ellie Mae. And one about my wife.
This has never happened to me. I decide that I must have this book. I take the book to the counter to checkout. I’ve been writing for a while, but I’ve never actually purchased my own hooey before.
The cashier is playing on her phone. She smiles when she sees me. She asks if I have a frequent reader’s card.
“No,” I say.
“Do you wanna donate ten dollars to the Animal Shelter Fund?”
“Do you wanna donate to the Children’s Literacy Project? It’s only four dollars, plus the cost of a book.”
“Do you wanna apply for a Reader’s Club credit card and get ten percent off today’s purchase with no annual fees?”
“Do you wanna fill out this survey for a one-dollar-off coupon for any drink in our coffee shop and three free cubes of sugar?”
“How about signing up for our email list and receiving enough daily junk mail to short-circuit U.S. Congress?”
“No, thank you.”
Next, she rings me up. She rifles through the book while I dig money from my pocket.
She says, “I haven’t seen this book before. I wonder what it’s about?”
Well, maybe I should tell her it’s about a boy who hasn’t done much with his life. An average kid who managed to survive this long and write some things down.
Or I could tell her it is about a boy, trapped in an adult body, who tries too hard sometimes. A kid who is occasionally his own worst enemy. A kid who always wanted to make his father proud, but never got the chance. Who hopes his father knows he turned out okay.
But all I can think to say is: “Oh, it’s a book about everything and nothing.”
“Cool,” she says.
Before I leave, she points to my University of Alabama cap and says, “War Eagle.”
“Roll Tide,” I say.
Then we high-five.
No matter how old I get, I will always kove this time of year.
Sandi in FL. - November 25, 2018 7:28 am
Hi Sean …. love reading this post. It made my happy meter spike! For Christmas last year I ordered seven of your delightful books to give my sister as a gift. She was very pleasantly surprised. Which one of your books did you purchase at that bookstore? Curious minds want to know.
Pamela McEachern - November 25, 2018 8:01 am
Peace and Kove from Birmingham
Jean - November 25, 2018 12:11 pm
Me too Sean. Roll Tide!
Jan - November 25, 2018 12:19 pm
Good one! War Eagle!!
Connie Havard Ryland - November 25, 2018 12:49 pm
I’ve always loved columnists. Erma Bombeck. Lewis Grizzard. You. Stories about everything and nothing. Book stores and libraries are my favorite places. So thankful I get to read your column every day.
Susie - November 25, 2018 12:57 pm
This was great, so koved it. And yes, your father is proud of you.
Yvonne Callison - November 25, 2018 1:21 pm
You warm my heart every morning whether with smiles or tears. I kove you and your Daddy is so proud of you. Yvonne in Blanco
Sherry - November 25, 2018 1:27 pm
Besides me, you’re the second person I know who loves the smell of bookstores and libraries….
Nancy Rogers - November 25, 2018 1:29 pm
I kove your writings, misspellings and all.
Clark - November 25, 2018 1:45 pm
Go DAWGS!! Sic em!! Woof Woof!! Next week dude!!
Carol Goodson - November 25, 2018 2:51 pm
Years and years ago, a book I wrote was published, and you know what I loved most? My name (and yours) is now in the OCLC online catalog, which is a catalog of just about every book ever published–better than a tombstone. As long as there is an internet, your name (and mine) are permanently in there as authors. The best kind of immortality. Did you know about this? I am a librarian, which is why I know. Look yourself up, it’s cool: https://www.worldcat.org/
Steve Winfield - November 25, 2018 3:48 pm
Can’t help but wonder how much having that first story printed influenced your career path? Had to have a big impact.
Edna B. - November 25, 2018 4:00 pm
Books and libraries have always been among my favorite things and places. I love reading and learning. And I love this time of year. Not the cold, but the spirit that seems to take over. You have a wonderful day Sean, hugs, Edna B.
Penn Wells - November 25, 2018 5:41 pm
We have a condo in Portland, OR, because our two Atlanta born daughters and our four grandchildren live here (oh, and the two sons-in-law). It’s two blocks from the world’s greatest bookstore: Powell’s. You and Jamie should come out and stay in our condo and visit Powell’s. I’m serious.
Oh, and Go You Hairy Dawgs. I’m serious about that, too.
Betty - November 25, 2018 7:38 pm
I’ve koved you for your writing & now I kove you for your “Roll Tide”. I, too, am curious about which book you found.
BJean - November 25, 2018 9:38 pm
Me too, Sean! ?
Mike Clark - November 26, 2018 12:39 am
My wife and I kove your writings! Like going to a very familiar place! Reading your blogs takes us back to our small town upbringings (both of us), and we swear you could be writing about so many people we grew up with. (I know that proper English grammar forbids me to end a sentence with a preposition (with); but, after all, you and I are of like language and culture, and we Southerners have our own rules of communication). We are born and bred Southernersof the Deep South variety (Mississippi). We lived elsewhere for a time, but we are blessed of God to have lived most of our lives in Mississippi and plan to live out our days here. While we were living elsewhere, we met a woman who had lived in Mississippi for a while. When she learned where we are from, her eyes went moist, her countenance changed to one who was wistfully remembering a better place and time, and she opined that no one understands if they have never lived there. She knew. Like so many others we have known that became Southerners, not by birth, but by the grace of God. Sean, you and I have some things in common other than being small town Southerners. Though not by death, I lost my father early, at 9. I love to write. We love water. In fact, we live on a lake. And we love people. All kinds of people! In fact, people are our greatest joys. People are important to us. You and yours are important to us. We kove you and yours. We have a home overlooking a lake with one whole wing empty. Y’all come! Seriously! We’d treat you like family. Be blessed!
Mike Clark - November 26, 2018 1:28 am
Oh, and one more very important thing that we share in common, Sean: we are dog lovers. We love our dog, your dog, everybody’s dogs. Dogs are the nicest people we know. The most accepting, the most loving, the most loyal, the most noble, the most honest……….. Rosie is our sixth Airedale terrier. Our fourth Airedale rescue. Lily was our first rescue. She owned us for about 8 years. We still tear up when we think about her. Came to us abused, almost three, terrified of people, especially of men and children. Took me about a year to gain her trust. But she became my baby. Scuse me, need my handkerchief.
Jack Darnell - November 26, 2018 2:23 am
I comment on anything and nothing. I sorta like that, Now I don’t know whether ro WAr Eagle or Roll Tide. But which ever, I know somebody will be happy! Life is good.
Donald Warrick - November 26, 2018 4:45 am
LeAnne Martin - November 26, 2018 1:33 pm
I kove this! 😉
Shelton Armour - November 26, 2018 2:44 pm
It’s a story about a boy who became a man…a good man. A writer that reaches reader’s hearts and minds. Enjoy your book!
Bev deJarnette - November 26, 2018 3:44 pm
Another precious,” average “ story about everything and nothing!! Love it ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Joe D Fowler. - November 26, 2018 8:21 pm
Know you will be watching Saturday! I kove my Dawgs and hope for a big upset. It would make me and Larry Munson very happy.
Karen - November 27, 2018 9:11 am
Your Dad would be really proud of you. It must be amazing to see your own work on the shelf of a book store. I was at the Iron Bowl this year, my first “live and in person” game with Auburn and Alabama. I was happy that my team won for my first Iron Bowl experience. Roll Tide.