Brewton, Alabama, 6:02 A.M.—I’m sitting in Aunt Cat’s kitchen, sipping coffee.
She’s not my blood aunt. She is my wife’s aunt. Even so, I have called this woman “Aunt Cat” for a long time now. Referring to her as otherwise would be an affront to aunts worldwide.
Aunt Cat and I are talking. She’s in pajamas, I have bed-head hair. We’re at her kitchen table, using quiet morning-voices. The early sun is coming through the windows.
It’s nice weather. There’s a train whistle in the distance. Bird sounds outside. There is a calico kitten in Aunt Cat’s lap.
I am happy. My surrogate aunt and I chat about everything and nothing. About family. About jelly jars. About mothers-in-law. About last night’s small concert downtown.
Last night, my band played in Brewton. It was big fun. Mister David hauled giant speakers downtown. He strung miles of cable, and set up colored lights.
Some folks sold boiled peanuts. Suzy had baked goods for sale—her handmade bread is good enough to make a grown man fan himself with a church bulletin.
There were local vendors with tents. Not the trendy sort of merchants—like you’d find at hippy suburban farmers markets. No. These were men who would wear jeans and red suspenders to their own funerals.
Aunt Cat put out a spread, of course, at her house. Ham sandwiches, cheese trays, caramel poundcakes, cookies, you name it.
After the informal concert, I hugged necks. Old friends asked how my mama was doing. One woman brought me a poundcake. Miss Connie brought a cooler of beer for the band.
I received three Baptist church invitations, two Methodist, one Presbyterian.
At the end of the night, Miss Connie sat beside me on my vehicle bumper.
We watched families carry lawn chairs to vehicles. Women climbed into camouflaged pickups. Two boys tossed a football—one wore crimson, the other wore orange and blue.
I’ve been coming to this place for many years. And every time I visit, it makes me high. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the paper mill.
Miss Connie placed her arm around me. “This place is kinda like your home, you know,” she said. “And that makes you one of our people.”
She looked me in the eye to say it.
As it happens, I grew up without people. And home was a place we paid rent for. I don’t mean to get melodramatic, but such raisings can ruin a man.
Sometimes, a fella starts thinking he doesn’t matter. Sometimes, you feel like you don’t belong. Sometimes you wonder whether you HAVE people.
But then, here I am, welcoming in the South Alabama morning with Aunt Cat.
If you ask me, life is pretty. It’s bizarre and surprising. It’s hard. But I believe people are magnificent creatures if you let them be.
I’m grateful for what heaven has given me. For those who have had the gumption to give a damn about me.
I am grateful for potlucks, homemade bread, old guitars, old friends, adopted family, and surrogate aunts.
But most of all, I am grateful for Brewton, Alabama.
Jill - August 28, 2017 1:01 pm
I grew up so much like you did Sean. Home was my Grannies house where often I felt like an orphan despite my well-starched dresses, gravy & biscuits, and the church bus that I waited for on her front porch. But that being said: you Sean are a blessed man. I am blessed too that I can read you which evokes a smile.
Maybe I should move or better yet, become a “Aunt Cat” myself.
Scott Gardner - August 28, 2017 1:02 pm
I’m also an adopted son of Brewton- my wife’s from there too. Always loved the way folks accepted me as one of their own.
Catherine - August 28, 2017 1:04 pm
Small towns in the South will feed you, body and soul. ??❤
Kitty - October 13, 2017 12:34 am
Nothing better than a small town in the Southl—preferably in Brewton or Marengo Co. Where I grew up!
MJC - January 10, 2019 8:29 am
Jeff Corkran - August 28, 2017 1:07 pm
Having lived in southern Alabama for a while, though not in Brewton, I fully understand. Thanks for your reflections on southern life, Sean. In the midst of all the turmoil of today, they are quite refreshing and reassuring.
Diane Enloe - August 28, 2017 1:11 pm
Another read that makes me feel like I am right there with you~ ☺️❤️
Susan in Georgia - August 28, 2017 1:12 pm
Just got warm, fuzzy feelings reading your story this morning. Thanks, Sean. It’s gonna be a great day!
Carolyn Huggins - August 28, 2017 1:14 pm
Sean, you have the most unusual style of writing of any I’ve ever read…it’s different..it’s “deep down,” but often comical..but ALWAYS so touches my soul! I love a sunny morning, a cup of hot tea, and sitting here reading your words. Have an awesome day!
Jack Quanstrum - August 28, 2017 1:41 pm
Great story Sean. It’s stimulating. It makes me reflect on my own thankfulness. Being raised by a tough father. Fighting my way in Chicago to make myself matter and shredding all that for forty years down here in Wonderful Alabama. I grateful this morning for both. For it has molded me into who I am today. Your stories are soothing to my soul, Sean. Shalom.
Stephanie - August 28, 2017 2:11 pm
“…people are magnificent creatures if you let them be.”
Amen to that. All of the beautiful people who helped and prayed fervently when my four-year-old had a brain tumor years ago, won’t be forgotten. Cards and prayer chains from around the country ministering to us. Most of them originating with my B-Mom right in Birmingham. Little Miracles Everywhere is my testimony to the love in people’s hearts….strangers especially.
LeAnne Storey - August 28, 2017 2:39 pm
I loved the setting of Brewton in your post this morning. My sister has lived there for many, many years. She taught at the elementary school and now has grandchildren that go there. I could just picture the town and your concert, I bet is was a perfect evening. Anyway, my sister is Susan Lynn and she is awesome. I like knowing she lives in a good place with good people. Thanks for your stories too, I love them:-)
Tamera Moody - August 28, 2017 3:00 pm
Thanks you…only 2 small words, but I hope you know all that is behind them. Bless you.
Pamela McEachern - August 28, 2017 3:27 pm
What a beautiful evening, among those you love and seriously love you. My red dog Lolly Sue and I are having our breakfast and enjoy hearing of such sweet times to start our day. Peace and Love from Birmingham.
Nancy - October 12, 2017 4:46 pm
I love the name Lolly Sue. I don’t think you could name a poodle that. It just coveys a sense of the dog.
Pamela McEachern - October 12, 2017 6:16 pm
Thank you Nancy, she is such a special girl everybody that meets her wants to take her home with them. I’m lucky she is all mine ?
Fredda Shutes - August 28, 2017 3:33 pm
I love the way you write about Southern small towns. I am from a very small town myself – Cottondale, FL. In these towns everyone is just one big family. You get support when you need it, and you get in trouble if you do something you shouldn’t. – t will get back to your parents before you can even get home. I love small towns. I believe if all Americans lived in small towns we would not have the turmoil we have today.
Joyce - August 28, 2017 3:48 pm
You never fail to inspire, Sean. You say with your pen what I can only feel with my heart. I’ve been in love with books and good writers as long as I can remember so thank you for expressing what I can’t. Lost my daddy when I was a teenager & have never felt that I had the opportunity to properly grieve his loss. You have helped me very much. Just want you to know how much I appreciate what you do so well.
Jannah Bailey - August 28, 2017 4:20 pm
And I am grateful for you!!!! And I would be more than proud to call you my people. I so enjoyed meeting and hearing you speak at the Montgomery Sunrise Rotary club last Friday. You really know how to shell down the corn.
Hugs and smiles to you my friend,
Melodie - August 28, 2017 4:23 pm
I am grateful for your writings. You help me get through my day, every day.
Jenny Young - August 28, 2017 5:15 pm
This is how my husband’s family makes me feel when we go to the little town of Hazen, AR.
When our son grew up, married & bought a house 5 miles away I was surprised at how I felt like I had finally come home. We’d lived here almost 30 yrs but there was no one that we belonged….that belonged to us. We have good friends & I always thought that was enough. I do believe it can be…..we were happy with friends who became family. But suddenly we found there is some one else in our town who actually belong to us…who we belong to. It’s pretty awesome & I wish everyone had that.
Janet Mary Lee - August 28, 2017 10:26 pm
Brewton is a great town. We were on our way to a HS football game there, a good ten years ago. We were the away team obviously! Several years before car navigation devices were so widespread, we missed out turn and finally stopped at a pretty house with about 2 acres of land. I rang the door to ask for directions, hoping the people would not mind. Not only did we get directions, we were invited in for supper!! We had to decline due to the game, but where else but a small town would you get such a gracious invite!! Yay Brewton!!
Mary Anne - August 28, 2017 11:25 pm
Brewton, AL. Oh my! How I love driving through that sweet little town. I live in Pensacola, but over the past decade have often traveled to Nashville for work. The trip through Brewton is a treat. On Sunday mornings, as I would drive through, I loved seeing all the folks heading to church, waving to me, and I’ve been guilty (more than once) of stopping my car and taking photos of those beautiful churches and homes on that same street. It just always makes my day and my trip more enjoyable. Now that I fly directly from Point A to Point B, I miss those sweet trips through Brewton. I believe everything you say about that town. Thank you for writing love letters to your readers each day, Sean. Your stories always touch my heart. You have a good heart and soul. God Bless you and your family.
Sondra - August 28, 2017 11:27 pm
Your blog makes my day!! Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always interesting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!! You make everyday better.
A.C. Nunn - August 28, 2017 11:27 pm
I read a column of yours for the first time today. You remind me a great deal of Lewis Grizzard, my favorite in Atlanta for many years.
I hope you’ll take that as a compliment.
Michael Bishop - August 28, 2017 11:45 pm
I’ve never been to Brewton, but I, too, am grateful for it. Thanks.
Mike - August 29, 2017 12:54 am
Love Brewton !!!!!i have called in that paper mill for 25 years! Now about to hang it up, my daughter and her husband moved to Pace Florida, to work at the new children’s hospital! I live in cullman Alabama so, I still get to go to Brewton! On my way to visit them. Thanks do much!!! I bought your book too!
Wendy - August 30, 2017 1:24 am
You’ll find similar welcomings in Marion, AL. Remember that it’s not in Marion County, but it’s in Perry County…just to confuse everyone who may rely on GPS or Waze. Being a senior citizen sure is challenging these days!
conniecheek - October 4, 2017 11:42 pm
This scene plays out in southern homes all the time! I’m taking my 86 year old mother to see her twin sister in Zachary, LA this week end. That morning coffee and conversation is so soothing. Love You, Sean!
Dawn Benson - October 12, 2017 10:19 am
I absolutely love your writing. You write how I think, if that makes sense. This story of Brewton and how it makes you feel perfectly sums up how I feel when I visit my friends in Tupelo and New Albany, MS…sort of like I am home and I’m on some kind of natural high. I’ve never actually lived there, but I always feel like I’m home when I got off at the second Tupelo exit off I-22. Sitting on my friend’s back porch watching a MS sunset is the best food for the soul I’ve ever had.
Lois M Cockerill - October 12, 2017 3:24 pm
Thank you Sean for another heartwarming morning.. Had coffee alone but thinking about all the Aunt Cats out there made me smile.
Faye Pickering - January 10, 2019 9:28 am
Tears as usual. I realized a lot of old folks sometimes feel lik orphans. And the comments on Tupelo really made me cry. My hometown.
Dan Wise - January 10, 2019 2:58 pm
William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys is often referred to as ‘The pride of Brewton Alabama’!
Steve Winfield - January 10, 2019 3:00 pm
I grew up in Shannon, Al. 2 stores, tiny Post Office, 5 churches, 3 Baptist, 1 Church of Christ, 1 Nazarine. (I attended 4 of the 5). I still live here. Got our first red light 3 yrs ago. Both stores are gone but we have 108 holes of golf. I’ve never played. I love you.