Little Lights

My wife grew up in this town, and that’s my connection to it. These people adopted me long ago, when nobody else would.

Brewton—it’s cold and wet in South Alabama. Forty-nine degrees. In this part of the world, that’s cold enough to cancel school and make snow angels in the mud.

Last night, the town was supposed to pepper the sidewalks with luminaries—little paper bags with candles in them. But it was too wet.

It’s too bad. You ought to see those lights. They line Evergreen and Belleville and take your breath away.

Last year for Christmas, I strolled down Belleville Avenue with my wife to see the luminaries, I marveled at how beautiful they were.

There was a live-action nativity at the Methodist church. Children played the roles of Mary, Joseph, and stable animals. One kid was dressed like a cow with the biggest set of udders you’ve ever seen.

My connection to this city is my wife, she grew up here. Long ago, these people sort of adopted me, when nobody else would.

I’m in town for an early Christmas celebration with her family today. I stop at Walmart to buy a few things before the party.

I see someone I know in the produce section. They shout my name. I hug their neck. We talk.

I see two more people in the meat department. More conversation, more hugs. More talking.

In the beer aisle, I see five people I know. But we don’t even make eye contact. These are my fellow Southern Baptists.

I stand in the checkout line, and I’m behind a woman who I know from Pensacola. She is from my childhood. The mother of a good friend of mine. I’m surprised to see her in Brewton.

“What’re you doing in town?” I ask her.

“My husband’s family lives here,” she says. “What about you?”


“You know,” she goes on, “they say everyone in the world has SOME kinda connection to Brewton.”

And I think she might be right. I’ve never visited a place where I haven’t accidentally met someone from Escambia County.

For example: I was in New Mexico, this past summer. My wife and I were at a desolate gas station near Logan. A man behind the counter asked, “Where’re you from?”

“Florida,” I said.

“What part?”

“Near Pensacola.”

“Hey, I know where that is. That’s about an hour from Brewton, right?”

I almost fell over. Of all the cities he could’ve named.

“Lived in Brewton when I’s a kid,” he said. “My dad worked at paper mills when I was growing up.”

And once, I was in Abilene, Kansas. I met a woman in an antique store who had hearing aids and carried a walker.

“You talk funny,” she said. “Where’re you from.”

So I told her.

She grinned. “Ain’t that near Evergreen, Alabama? My son married a girl from Evergreen. You ever heard of it?”

Heard of it? They could bury me beneath the Evergreen Shoney’s buffet when I die.

And just last week, my wife and I were watching the presidential funeral for George H.W. Bush. My wife pointed at the TV and shouted:

“Hey look! That’s William Lee at the funeral.”

Sure enough, there he was. A singular Brewtonite, attending the most famous funeral in the world.

Still, that’s not what makes this town special. Not to me.

You might not know this, but Brewton made me a writer. Before Brewton I wasn’t anything of the sort.

After I wrote my first book, I almost gave up on it. Besides, why would anyone care to read my stuff? There are hundreds of university English majors with beautiful dissertations that took five years to write.

I’m a community college grad who once wrote a six-hundred-word column about coaxing my dog to poop out a wedding ring.

That year, I ordered a box of ten paperbound copies. I was going to give them as Christmas gifts to friends, then forget about the book altogether.

One of those books made it to Brewton. Just one.

The next day, I had fourteen emails from residents in Brewton who wanted books. So I sent a few more.

A week later, I had fifty-some emails, mostly from Brewton, asking for books. So I ordered a case. I addressed almost every book to the 36426 zip code.

The next week, more emails. More boxes of books. It was one of the greatest Christmases of my entire life. The people of this town wouldn’t let me fail.

And that’s how I kind of began.

The people in this town changed me forever. I grew up with a broken family, our holidays were pitiful affairs. There wasn’t much to be happy about, our Christmas trees were crummy.

But this place. This town. These old houses. These sidewalk candle displays. They do something to me.

Anyway, if you ever get a chance to admire the Brewton luminaries this season, you won’t regret it. The lights in this town are breathtaking.

And I’m not talking about the ones on the sidewalks.

I mean the ones seated around the supper tables.


  1. GaryD - December 10, 2018 10:20 am

    Brewton? My sister’s husband is from Brewton! Small world!

  2. Gale Smith - December 10, 2018 10:22 am

    Thank goodness Brewton folks helped get you started on your path as a writer. It was meant to be, and you are a natural. It’s those little lights around our tables that make the difference. You make a difference. I share your columns and show them to people all the time. Now, most everybody knows who you are. The new readers, well, it only takes one Sean story to switch on a light in their eyes. It means a piece of home when they no longer live here. It means a part of their past, their childhood. You speak our language….you tell our stories with simple eloquence. You belong to us and we love to share you with others.

  3. Connie Havard Ryland - December 10, 2018 12:07 pm

    Sweet tribute. Thankful you found your voice. I read you every day and share your words around the country. You speak the language of the South. Love and hugs.

  4. Hunter Goff - December 10, 2018 12:21 pm

    Your article today brings back great memories of my childhood. I went to elementary school in the 1960’s in Brewton.

    My fond memories of all those bicycle rides down Belleville Avenue to get a cherry coke at the drug store.

    Merry Christmas, Sean! Thanks for your morning blogs.

    Hunter Goff, Birmingham

  5. Arthur Portas - December 10, 2018 12:35 pm

    There is an old saying sorta like this … Jews don’t recognize Christ as the Messiah, Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the head of the Christian Faith and Baptists don’t recognize each other in the Liquor Store (or Casino). I always love your writing, it reminds me of where I came from (Pascagoula, Mississippi)

  6. Amanda Gibbs - December 10, 2018 12:58 pm

    Good morning Sean. I am from Florida and was born in Atmore , Alabama. I will
    Say this Brewton is a wonderful place takes my thoughts back to when my brothers were Cub Scouts and we would camp at Camp McMillion. The camp is still
    There but you can’t camp their anymore. No Scouts can- girls or boys. But the town of Brewton is absolutely beautiful. We know several people from their. Scouting friends. But i read your articles everyday and email them to my husband who reads them at work. Do you ever come to Atmore, Alabama. You need to during this holiday season and see our Christmas lights while you drive down Main Street. Tonight we are having our Christmas parade because it was postponed on Saturday due to the nasty weather we had…. Atmore has history, elegance, and above all amazing roots and people in its little town. Well I will say good day to you. And thank you for all your posts, your stories it’s like we are actually with you and your wife along for the ride in your readings. Gotta go help my children get ready for school. 8 more days and
    It’s Christmas Break from school and my two can hardly wait.. my two are freshmen in Highschool and well all I can say is twins in the 9th grade is a lot of work. My son is a Boy Scout and my daughter is a Crew member in the Boy Scouts of America. Amongst being busy at school with FFA, ROTC, FFA forestry. We stay busy in this house hold. We are a busy Scouting Family. Well I’m gone now. Have a pleasant day. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  7. Mike Guilday - December 10, 2018 1:03 pm

    My son when he was younger took a job with Enterprise Car Rentals. He was hired in Pensacola but alas, he ended up in, are you ready for this, Brewton! So I also have a connection to Brewton.

  8. Edy - December 10, 2018 1:22 pm

    Your stories often remind me that the Lord uses people to share his love.

    • Ellen - December 16, 2018 9:22 pm


  9. Jeri Blom - December 10, 2018 2:32 pm

    I was born, grew up, and live in Minnesota, but I even have a connection to Brewton! A lovely Southern Belle named Ann Biggs-Williams! She and I share a muscle disease, but when we met we became friends. She is so knowledgeable about the history in Alabama, and a ride with her through the countryside, you’ll learn more than you can retain. Very interesting!

  10. Carol - December 10, 2018 2:46 pm

    Merry Christmas ??

  11. Carol - December 10, 2018 2:47 pm

    P.S. love ya!

  12. Ruth in AL - December 10, 2018 2:52 pm

    I don’t have a connection to Brewton but have also found it to be a small world. Once I was standing in line to see a cathedral in Venice, when a voice behind me said ” what are you doing here?” When I turned around it was my Ukrainian design teacher from Auburn. Again when I was teaching in Dothan, I was a chaperone for 23 students to our sister city, Sakado, Japan. On our return trip In the busy airport of Tokyo I saw a girl I grew up with in Montgomery, AL. She was returning from Hong Kong where her family had a factory for their business. Then again in a McDonalds outside of Atlanta I ran into a fellow teacher after Christmas. It is indeed a small world.

  13. Bobby - December 10, 2018 3:17 pm

    Calvin Culliver, great football player for Bama way back in 70s attended the old WS Neal High School in East Brewton. That’s my knowledge of Brewton. Always wondered why such a small area had two adjoining towns, Brewton and East Brewton.

  14. dogsdolls - December 10, 2018 4:03 pm

    what a wonderful thank you to Brewton you just penned. No wonder they love you!!

  15. Shaw - December 10, 2018 4:09 pm

    My daughter in law is from Brewton! A great person from a great small town. Thanks for all your columns Sean, you really reach people.

  16. Haskel J P - December 10, 2018 4:55 pm

    Had a neighbor at Lake Martin in the 1970’s and 80’s that lived in Brewton and he drove 3 hours one way to his lake place almost every weekend. I believe his name.Dr. George Monzingo (spelling). Also dated a pretty young lass from there that was attending Auburn University.

  17. Laura - December 10, 2018 5:27 pm

    I love what a small world it is. I worked for a few years at a hospital in Texas. Soon after my arrival I met one of our pediatricians and as we were talking, he recognized my Alabama accent and asked where I was from. I told him I had been born in Ozark and spent the first 3 years of my life in Enterprise. He laughed and said “That’s where I am from”, A few years later I was showing a new OB doc around. She asked if I came from Alabama (my accent gave me away again). She said her husband was from Alabama too. When I met him, he said he had relatives who shared my maiden name and his uncle did a geneology search and learned we were cousins with great, great…grandfathers who were brothers during the time of the civil war. The best thing about small towns here in the south is we value the connections we find around the US and world !

  18. Anne Stokes Haas - December 10, 2018 6:08 pm

    Born and raised in Brewton but live in Fairhope, AL now. This warms my heart ❤️. Anne Stokes Haas

  19. Edna B. - December 10, 2018 9:02 pm

    It surely is a small world. I love travelling with you to all these little towns. You have a wonderful evening Sean. Hugs, Edna B.

  20. Melanie Monk Morris - December 10, 2018 10:20 pm

    I didn’t appreciate growing up there until I left. Now I know how blessed I was to call Brewton HOME!!
    My dear friend Judy Purcell keeps us in her heart there. We will gather there again soon.
    Merry Christmas,
    Melanie (Monk) Morris

  21. Vaudy Holley - December 10, 2018 11:09 pm

    I was in Nuclear Power school in a little place called Zion IL. which was in very northern part of the state. There was a diner call the Silver Dollar and it was owned and operated by a fellow from Red Bay Alabama. They served grits at this place anyway you wanted them. You never know who will run into.

  22. Elizabeth Edens - December 10, 2018 11:12 pm

    Everyone deserves a small home town!!! Awesome tribute!

  23. Linda Faust - December 11, 2018 12:04 am

    I grew up on the Florida panhandle. I was an adult before I knew Brewton had a downtown. I thought my aunt’s
    house in the country outside Brewton was “Brewton”.

  24. that's jack - December 11, 2018 1:20 am

    Brewton? Ain’t that close to Opp! I know a sweet lady Jean who lives there. Matter of fact it was her daughter Sheila, who suggested I just might like reading Sean of the South. I do. I also have a bone to pick with Sheila. She performs snow dances and is responsible for this snow I drove into coming back to NC! Dang it.
    But I did like the post and we did drive thru Brewton once.

  25. sec040121 - December 11, 2018 10:42 am

    My Brewton connection was neighbors in Jackson, Missisippi, both of them from Brewton. Lovely people, but they had an unfortunate affinity for Auburn football. This led to the mysterious appearance in their yard, one autumn Saturday, of a real estate sign which read “For Sale by Neighbors. Call Billy Brewer Realty.” Mr.Brewer, at the time, was the head coach at Ole Miss. Our Brewton friends did not see the humor, but we still loved them.

  26. Janet Mary Lee - December 11, 2018 6:33 pm

    We were headed to watch a middle school football game in Brewton and missed our turn off. We stopped at a lovely little house to ask directions. They not only gave us directions, they asked us to stay and share dinner!! We couldn’t or we would have missed the game, but where else would you get such a great invite? I will never forget it!! ((hugs to you and Brewton!!)).

  27. Gwen Monroe - December 13, 2018 7:45 pm

    I don’t know how big a town Brewton is. It sounds lovely. Like my town. Fort Payne Al. Actually, Sand Mountain above Fort Payne. I’m blessed to get to live here. I will visit Brewton tho. That would be a nice road trip.

    • Ruth in AL - December 14, 2018 1:06 pm

      My roommate at Auburn was from Sand Mountain and I love her. She called me roomus with a twang. Sand Mountain dialect.

      • Linda - December 14, 2018 5:28 pm

        You are so right about the connection!
        My first cousin lived there in Brewton
        For awhile…..
        Small towns are wonderful ❤️
        I grew up where everyone knew my name and I am forever grateful….

  28. Trina V - December 16, 2018 1:07 pm

    Playing catch up with your posts this morning. My Brewton connection is through one of my husband’s closest friends who moved there after he graduated from Bama (punter for Coach Bryant.) I’ve been through there a time or two headed home from the beach, but I’ve never stopped to explore the town. Bet it would be fun!

  29. Ellen Cameron - December 16, 2018 9:13 pm

    In October, my husband and I were NEW ZEALAND and my SOUTHERN ACCENT began to shine! I had someone come up to me and asked where I was from. I told him that I lived in Georgia now but I grew up in ALABAMA. He said, “do you know where Brewton, Alabama is? I said that I did…in fact, I had kin-folk there! Well, right there in the middle of NEW ZEALAND….we had old home week!!!


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