The sky is wild, with vivid cloud shapes that would make Picasso look like a hick.

FAIRHOPE—I am having supper at a bar, watching baseball. The food is superb. The baseball is not. The place is crowded.

Louis Armstrong is singing overhead, “What a Wonderful World.”

I love this song. I wish I could tell you how much I love this song. The elderly man to my left loves the song too. He is singing along. His date is not impressed.

“I’m on a date with my granddaughter,” he tells me.

He looks ninety years old. His date is ten. She’s eating a cheeseburger.

He finally winks at me and says, “My granddaughter hates it when I sing in public.”

I finish supper and follow the sidewalks, carrying a to-go box. It’s sunset. The live oaks hang over the winding streets, and there is an epidemic of pink flowers.

No matter where you go in this town, the bay is nearby. I stop and sit on a park bench to admire it.

I wrote a college essay about the Mobile Bay once. Ships have been sailing this water since the 1500’s. Hernando de Soto and his men first named it “Bahía del Espíritu Santo.” Which, when translated literally means: “Dude, I Think We’re Lost.”

It’s a beautiful sunset. I see a boat with running lights glowing. I hear the distant sound of music. The Temptations, I think.

The squirrels in the trees are trying to fit in the rest of their steps for the day.

The sky is wild, with vivid cloud art that would make Picasso look like a hick.

Though, I have never particularly cared for Picasso. I suppose I’m not smart enough to appreciate such high-brow art.

I’m a Norman Rockwell man, myself. I once made a weekend trip just to see a Rockwell exhibit in Birmingham. I spent two hours admiring his work. I went back the next day to view it a second time. He means that much to me.

Fairhope would have suited old Norman. The storefronts downtown. Rambo’s Auto Service on the corner—the gas pumps still have spinning numbers.

Fairhope Pharmacy’s painted brick wall is pure Mayberry. The potted ferns, Greer’s Market, the picket fences, elderly men taking granddaughters out for date night. It’s all here.

A young couple passes me. They are arm in arm. I hear the young woman talking to her husband.

“I think we should paint the room pink,” she says. “And if it’s a boy, we can always change it back to blue.”

“I dunno,” he says. “Couldn’t we paint it blue, and always change it to pink?”

“No, blue’s a dark color. It’s harder to cover up a dark with a light. Don’t you know anything about interior design?”

My guess is no.

After the couple comes and older woman accompanying a girl on a bike. The girl wears a helmet bigger than her body. She is cuter than a duck in a hat.

She is peddling, panting. She waves at me.

The lady shouts, “Don’t go too far ahead, Jessica! You could get hit by a car, Jessica! Don’t fall, or I’ll give you something to cry about! Quit waving at that stranger and watch where you’re going!”

It is an adult’s job to worry. Some happen to be particularly good at their job.

“Look at the sunset, Grandma!” the girl shouts.

“Hey!” the woman shouts back. “Are you even listening to me, Jessica?”

I sincerely doubt it.

Sometimes, I wish I could remember every single thing I ever saw, tasted, touched, or loved. Like Teddy bears, old Fords, the chapel I was married in, and old dogs. But the older I become the more I forget, and it’s a shame.

The other day, I ran into a man I grew up with. Jimmy is his name. I couldn’t remember him. I looked right at him, and forgot his name. I was so embarrassed.

If I’ve forgotten names, what else have I forgotten? The taste of warm Nehi Soda after baseball practice? Or what about the way your mother kisses you when you leave town for the first time? Or the name of your pet frog in third grade, do I remember that?

So I’m taking a picture right now. With my mind. I want to remember every bar waitress, park bench, and young couple with child. Every little girl on a bicycle, each boat blaring party music. And the Bahía del Espíritu Santo.

Maybe one day, if I look long enough at everything, I will understand it.

I see the old man from the bar, and his granddaughter again. They stroll past me. They hold hands. She walks fast, and he struggles to keep up. I hear him breathing heavy.

Finally he stops and points to the sky. “Isn’t that a nice sunset, honey?” he says.

She throws her arms around his waist. They hug. “I love you, Granddaddy,” she says.

And I think to myself.

What a wonderful world.

33 comments

  1. Sandi in FL. - May 10, 2019 6:59 am

    A gifted writer transports the reader to the very scene he is describing in vivid detail. You are an abundantly gifted writer, Sean! I really enjoyed this post,

    Reply
  2. Estelle - May 10, 2019 8:34 am

    Your description of Fairhope takes me back in time. It wasn’t as large a town as it is now. I can see the waters and smell the salty breezes in my minds eye. You have a whole way with words Sean. I love your stories. Love you too. ❤️

    Reply
  3. Steve Bailey - May 10, 2019 9:41 am

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  4. Jean - May 10, 2019 9:56 am

    I love Fairhope….Norman Rockwell…..and you. Hate Picasso.

    Reply
  5. Carol Heidbreder - May 10, 2019 11:01 am

    Fairhope Fairhope, I love you! Born there and grew up there. If you love it now, you should have known it a “few” years ago before all those other folks discovered it. Now that was pure heaven! I love every part of that beautiful place . It is therapy to go back just for a taste. But I am blessed to have family there too. Yes, what a wonderful world! Thank you for your nod to Fairhope!

    Reply
  6. Camille Atkins - May 10, 2019 11:05 am

    Indeed, it is!

    Reply
  7. Jill - May 10, 2019 11:25 am

    Just the other day I was speaking to someone about memories, “I fear I am not making memories.” Concluded what will my life be when I am older without memories. Reading the above you wrote, reminded me that I do. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  8. Joe Patterson - May 10, 2019 12:06 pm

    Thanks again

    Reply
  9. Steve Scott - May 10, 2019 12:06 pm

    It was definitely Mayberry when I was growing up (1943-1961). A very different time. In the summer we’d leave the house and not come back until dark. Stayed in the water till we looked like prunes. Don’t think we really appreciated what we had and as kids we would say things like “I can’t wait to blow this burg.” Now I could not afford to live there!

    Reply
  10. Dianne - May 10, 2019 12:14 pm

    It truly is a wonderful world! Thanks for the reminder of just how wonderful even small things in our daily lives are.

    Reply
  11. Liz Watkins - May 10, 2019 12:44 pm

    Yes it is!
    Liz

    Reply
  12. MermaidGrammy - May 10, 2019 12:50 pm

    Fairhope is one of most favorite places. You, too, could be someone’s favorite grandpa. Find a little girl and/or boy to adopt; paint their rooms the right color and give them the best memories of their lives. You can do it!! There are children waiting for you to love. You have too much to share to choose not to. Thank you for this lovely sunset

    Reply
  13. Amanda Smith - May 10, 2019 1:08 pm

    I love when you write about Fairhope! We moved here when I was in Kindergarten and my daddy opened a Feed and Seed that just had it’s 32nd birthday. 🙂 Mr. Rambo’s daughter is my partner teacher…I’m heading over now to share this lovely piece with her! Thank you, friend!

    Reply
  14. Rhea Wynn - May 10, 2019 1:13 pm

    I love reading your column each morning. It reminds me to slow down and actually see people and the world around me. I get so caught up in the daily grind that I forget to see the world. Thank you for the daily reminder.

    Reply
  15. Susan - May 10, 2019 1:15 pm

    You paint such beautiful pictures with your words.

    Reply
  16. Dianne Riedl - May 10, 2019 1:27 pm

    Your words all put together the way you do it leaves tears in my eyes and joy in my heart! Thank you for being so real!

    Reply
  17. Judy - May 10, 2019 1:28 pm

    I have always been a Norman Rockwell art sort of myself. And, I visited that show in Birmingham also. I met two of my cousins – both live in B’ham, I do not – for lunch in the museum. One had to return to work, but the other and I strolled through his paintings for at least 2 hours. I would do it again, but take even longer- the lunch and viewing the art work.

    I have had a recent diagnosis that should be an “easy cure” but it has taught me to slow down and enjoy the moments. I think that is one thing I like about you and your writings…you do just that. You slow down, though you do seem to get around! And you soak up everything around you.Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. Your writing is art…poetic art.

    Reply
  18. Connie - May 10, 2019 1:39 pm

    Today you knocked it out of the park! I love that I can visualize your words so easily, I love that you make me smile and laugh. I love that you make me think about the past and future….been a little down with my second hip replacement and today you lifted me up! 🙂

    Reply
  19. Jim Keith - May 10, 2019 1:58 pm

    Sean, are you related to Derek Dietrich the Reds baseball player?

    Reply
  20. Jack Darnell - May 10, 2019 2:00 pm

    YES, it is a wonderful world. It would be nice to remember everything. Imma thinking you do a better job than anyone I know. Just sayin’. But just forget I said that! LOL

    Reply
  21. Tim House - May 10, 2019 2:13 pm

    What a great “snapshot”!

    Reply
  22. Bobbie - May 10, 2019 2:23 pm

    Thank you again for a beautiful picture to start my day. Not only are you a gifted writer, but thru your writing you have an amazing gift of encouragement … of bringing smiles, and tears, touching the inner places that are sometimes forgotten as we get older.
    I can still see that quaint little town with its flowers along the sidewalk…the street that leads down to the bay. I think would’ve been a wonderful place to live.
    God bless you. And God bless this wonderful world we live in.

    Reply
  23. Robert Chiles - May 10, 2019 2:24 pm

    You are The World’s Champion Master of “The Hook!” Are you sure you you don’t want to be a preacher? “Hook” sermons are the best. Oh (my fault) You are a preacher of the Gospel (which means Good News)

    Reply
  24. Denise - May 10, 2019 2:28 pm

    You are the Norman Rockwell of words. Thank you for sharing them.

    Reply
  25. Carolyn Allen - May 10, 2019 2:54 pm

    Love this post, Sean. Yes, Fairhope is lovely and I too love Norman Rockwell. Years ago I saw something that I knew if Norman Rockwell had seen he would have painted. I was in my car and I saw a small boy (four or five years old) in his yard.
    He was dressed from head to toe in a cowboy suit.
    He had pulled down his pants and was “tee teeing”
    in his water gun‼️ Yep, Norman would have painted it! 🤣. Cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

    Reply
  26. Linda Moon - May 10, 2019 2:57 pm

    Wonderful Song Lyrics you quoted there, Sean.

    Reply
  27. Edna B. - May 10, 2019 3:35 pm

    I agree, you paint pictures with words, and I’m right there sitting next to you enjoying it all. Thank you. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  28. Ala Red Clay Girl - May 10, 2019 4:07 pm

    What a wonderful world you paint for us with your words, Sean!

    Reply
  29. Terrie Streed - May 10, 2019 5:21 pm

    Beautiful picture!

    Reply
  30. Lois Young - May 10, 2019 7:39 pm

    Thanks so much, Sean
    What a Wonderful World is my favorite song. I don’t have to explain that to you.

    Reply
  31. Ginger - May 11, 2019 9:13 pm

    You took me back to Fairhope with this piece. I loved it all. My dear sweet friend, Anna Mary, worked at Greer’s when we were kids and vacationed in Fairhope. She and Uncle Jamie worked so hard on a huge farm, but at night she wanted us to come to the house and have supper or warm pound cake and coffee in their little kitchen by what they called the”honeymoon” light. Fairhope Pharmacy on the corner was where the pharmacist would give my Dad’s dog, Rags, ice cream in a little bowl when he trotted to town when Mom and Dad were newly weds. I could go on and on, but hey, it’s your column.

    Reply
  32. Charaleen Wright - May 12, 2019 3:35 am

    Reply
  33. Jennifer - May 13, 2019 11:43 pm

    Every essay of yours that I have read has made me cry…
    Thank you for moving my soul..

    Reply

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