My wife and I arrived in Charleston on a chilly December afternoon to celebrate our honeymoon, years ago. The city was decorated for Christmas. Garland hung from each balcony, lamppost, stray dog, and politician. We rolled into town listening to “Danny’s Song” on my truck radio.
The song goes:
“Even though we ain’t got money,
“I’m so in love with you honey…”
Nobody can hear this song and not sing along. Not even hardened war criminals can restrain themselves from humming with Kenny Loggins when he breaks into the chorus.
Anyway, Charleston is an immaculate place. And charming. To small-town folks, the city can almost seem intimidating. This is especially true if you are like me and the most cultured city you’re familiar with is, for instance, Dothan.
People kept telling us that Charleston is the second most historic city in the world (Rome, Italy, is the first). They said this wherever we went. Even at the Waffle House where our waitress was a tired woman with the personality of a boiled ham.
She said, “Did you know we’re the second most historic city in the world?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“You will when you see how much things cost.”
So you can imagine how exhilarating it was to learn all the history that has happened within the city. We were constantly pointing and shouting, “Hey! George Washington slept in THAT building!”
Or, “Hey! Garth Brooks walked his Shih Tzu on THAT grassy lawn!”
Or, “Hey! Thomas Jefferson used to buy his lottery tickets and cigarettes at THAT convenience store!”
The city has a very uppity feel. Average residents of Charleston dress to the nines, even when they check the mail. Wherever we were, it seemed like everyone was wearing pearls, chenille, and high heels. And that was just the men.
Downtown we saw the Gullah women weaving sweetgrass baskets. Most of these women were sitting beside large propane heaters, working their fingers raw. Their baskets were incredible. And expensive.
Even the no-frills baskets were upwards of $770,000 bucks. The Gullah women also made beautiful sweetgrass palmetto rose bouquets by twisting sweetgrass to resemble rose blossoms. My wife wanted one of these, but they were WAY too pricey.
So I bought her what I could afford, which was a Christmas ornament to the tune of $39 bucks. It was a sweetgrass basket the size of Malibu Barbie’s sun hat.
We did everything a newlywed couple could do that didn’t require spending money. Like visiting Waterfront Park to see the famous pineapple fountain and confiscating handfuls of wet pennies without being busted by the cops.
We visited Folly Beach County Park, Brittlebank Park, Palmetto Islands Park, and Charles Towne Landing. But mostly, we would just sit on benches and people-watch. My wife loves to people-watch and create make-believe stories about people.
“You see that couple, right there?” my wife would whisper.
“What about them?”
“They’re having a scandalous affair, he works for the government as an international spy, and he can’t tell her what he does for a living, or how many people he’s killed in the line of duty.”
I would simply smile and say, “Quick, hide these pennies in your purse, here come the poh-poh.”
And so it went. We would carry on like this for hours. Her making up stories. Me stealing from municipal property. Until it was time for supper. At which point we had to get VERY creative when it came to stretching our last few bucks.
We found a fancy restaurant that served complimentary yeast rolls before dinner. I pretended to scan the menu while filling my face with free bread and butter. The menu was way above my head with entrées like “jambon-beurre,” “concombre a la transmisión fluíde,” and “croque monsieur de possum feet.”
Our waiter brought so many baskets of complimentary bread that he pulled a hamstring.
When it came time to actually order dinner, we played it cool. My wife ordered clear broth. I ordered a wet towelette and a side of ketchup.
But we didn’t mind being on a shoestring budget because we were happy newlyweds. And I don’t mean just moderately happy. We were the happiest idiots on this side of the Atlantic.
After dinner, we walked arm-in-arm along Broad Street to see the storefronts, lit for Christmas. We wandered the cobblestones of Chalmers Street until our feet ached.
We visited Saint Phillip’s Episcopal Church, established in 1681. A church that, even from its early days, believed wholeheartedly that no matter what predicament this turbulent world is in, Episcopalians will drink hard liquor at their Christmas parties.
We walked King Street, East Bay Street, Legare Street, and it was all so magnificent.
On our way back to our room, we passed a man on the corner. He was tall, ragged, and he smelled like a distillery. He asked if we had any money. I was ready to walk away, but—and I’ll never forget this—my wife gave him all her cash.
The man was overcome, then he reached into his pocket and gave her a tiny sweetgrass rose. And it was there on the streets of Charleston that knew I didn’t deserve this woman.
Love is a funny thing. And I don’t know enough about love to try to explain it. I’m not a smart man, and I’m not well-off. But I know that when I am with her, every tree, every cloud, each planet, star, moon, and solar system belongs to us. So does the second most historic city in the world. Because even though we ain’t got money…
Well, you know the rest.
Happy anniversary, Jamie.
Harriet - December 19, 2019 7:09 am
That was beautiful. Happy anniversary y’all.
Karen Greatrix - December 19, 2019 7:46 am
Wishing you many more years of love.
Sandi. - December 19, 2019 8:42 am
Sean and Jamie, best wishes for many more years together as husband and wife. Hope you make it back to Charleston soon. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
Leigh Amiot - December 19, 2019 9:39 am
🎶 It’s the most wonderful time of the year 🎶…to be married!
Happy Anniversary, Jamie and Sean!
Marilyn Ward Vance - December 19, 2019 9:46 am
Happy Anniversary! I hope you have a gazillion more to share!
George T Jacoby - December 19, 2019 9:48 am
Happy anniversary, indeed! May there be many, many more! You were channeling me and my wife, you know – joy and happiness are free for the taking 🤗
Jubilate Latte - December 19, 2019 11:12 am
God grant you many years.
MaryJane Breaux - December 19, 2019 11:19 am
Wishing you both continued health and happiness! You have the love thing nailed. ❤️
Jan Fincher - December 19, 2019 11:34 am
Thank you for writing so glowingly about our lovely city. And you’re right, everything costs an arm and a leg here.
Cathi Russell - December 19, 2019 11:58 am
Happy Anniversary to you both!
Berryman Mary M - December 19, 2019 1:26 pm
A beautiful store of young love.
Jo Ann - December 19, 2019 1:31 pm
Happy Anniversary, Sean & Jamie!!
Shelton A. - December 19, 2019 1:35 pm
Happy Anniversary, Sean and Jamie!! Great story…great memories for you both (Ellie Mae and Thelma Lou and Otis Campbell eating your hats, rolling around on a carcass, and emitting smells that only a dog could love-humans tear up). Seriously, remember all the time each of you thought about how lucky you are to have each other.
Anne Chandler - December 19, 2019 1:44 pm
Love this! Happy Anniversary!❤️
Ginger Smith - December 19, 2019 1:57 pm
I’ve never been to Charleston! Next time y’all go, let me know. We’ll tag along. And bring our pots of money. Happy anniversary!!!
Gordon - December 19, 2019 2:07 pm
Wishing you both a Happy Anniversary, and hopes for many, many more.
Glenn - December 19, 2019 2:29 pm
Ok, so now I have to try to write something for my wonderful wife because we both enjoy your column and our anniversary is coming up. Thanks a lot dude.:-D
Martha Young - December 19, 2019 2:33 pm
Happy Anniversary !!!!!!!!!!!!
J.J. - December 19, 2019 2:44 pm
Love the story you’ve shared with us. Love me some Charleston, even on the shoestring. Love the gullah rose twist. Now curious about Dothan! Happy anniversary.
Brenda Stone - December 19, 2019 2:53 pm
Happy anniversary 🍷Here’s to many more!
Peggy Serna - December 19, 2019 3:00 pm
Happy Anniversary and me and my bestie are gonna see you in February 13! Can’t wait
Peggy Serna - December 19, 2019 3:01 pm
Sharon Brock - December 19, 2019 3:14 pm
Happy anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich. May you have many more filled with love and laughter.
MermaidGrammy - December 19, 2019 3:33 pm
I wonder if any of us “deserve” love. We sometimes feel we must earn it – that’s certainly not right. Sometimes we squander it. You and Jamie are incredibly lucky to have found each other. Now go find a child(ten) to adopt and show them what L.O.V.E looks like. Happy Anniversary to two fine folks. We love you
Linda Moon - December 19, 2019 3:58 pm
My favorite place for Lovers in Charleston is Two Meeting Street Inn. You and Jamie might love it, too. Happy Idiots sometimes make the best married couples, so Happy Anniversary to you both! And, one more thought….are these make-believe stories about people that you send our way perhaps inspired by your wife? I love to read them every day, so thank you to whoever inspires them!!
sjfcorl - December 19, 2019 4:23 pm
We were the same. Broke in money but rich in love. 44 years have passed and we are greatly blessed. I wish the same for you and Jamie. Happy Anniversary!
David & Jane (Florence, AL)
Edna Barron - December 19, 2019 6:29 pm
Happy Anniversary. Wishing you many more wonderful happy years together. Hugs, Edna B.
sparkerlpc - December 19, 2019 7:08 pm
Happy anniversary, y’all! And may you always be the happiest couple on this side of the Atlantic!
Rebecca Souders - December 19, 2019 7:13 pm
Susie - December 19, 2019 8:40 pm
Beautifully written. Happy Anniversary and many more to come.
Ala Red Clay Girl - December 19, 2019 8:43 pm
Actually, Sean, I think you do know a thing or two about love, and this post proves it. Happy Anniversary!
Carolyn - December 19, 2019 8:45 pm
Happy Annniversary Dietrich Lovers !! And may you celebrate many more
Annak - December 19, 2019 9:41 pm
Happy Anniversary, and may the very best be yet to come, along with many more happy years together.
Patricia Gibson - December 19, 2019 10:46 pm
Susan Kennedy - December 20, 2019 12:53 am
Happy Anniversary! Danny’s Song —- Love it!!
Ann Marie Bouchet - December 20, 2019 4:46 pm
Happy Anniversary, Sean and Jamie…..that was a wonderful column, Sean. I, too, love Charleston.
Jon Dragonfly - December 21, 2019 5:43 pm
Do any of us deserve these gifts from God called Woman?
Carol - December 21, 2019 9:54 pm
Happy Blessed Anniversary you two 🎊🎉👏😍👍🎈
Love ya !
Robert Chiles - December 24, 2019 3:27 pm
Perfect! Great writing, Mr. Writer. And Happy Anniversary! It’s all in picking the right one, and you both picked fabulously.