Little Sister

She was four when Daddy died. The morning of his death, I sobbed alone on our back porch. She crawled onto my lap. “Don’t cry,” she said.

I was the second person to hold her. Daddy said to me, “Whatever you do, don’t drop her.”

She looked like a white bullfrog. She smelled like vanilla and grass clippings. I promised I’d take care of her forever.

That was harder than it sounded. This girl grew into a kid who did reckless things.

She used to leap off round hay bales, flapping her arms, yelling, “CATCH ME!”

She liked to see how long she could hold her breath underwater. She climbed trees that were too high. She ate too much bacon.

Her first word was, “NO!” Her second word was “NONONO!” She used these words when I tried to force an oyster past her lips.

She pitched a fit.

I’d never known anyone who didn’t like oysters. They were the food of our forefathers. Our ancestors consumed oysters when they learned the War Between the States was over.

She was four when Daddy died. The morning of his death, I sobbed alone on our back porch. She crawled onto my lap.

“Don’t cry,” she said.

I did anyway.

We took care of each other. I did her laundry and taught her how to fry bacon. And when our dog had puppies, I showed her how to hold them—there’s an art to handling newborn pups.

Once, I rented a library book on French-braiding. She let me practice until her hair resembled overcooked spaghetti.

She tried out for the school play. I attended her audition. She was nervous, and the smug drama teacher told her she had no talent.

I’m a quiet man, but I wasn’t that day. I called the teacher a greasy communist who didn’t love the Lord.

Throughout her high-school years, she worked different jobs. Once, she worked in an ice-cream shop. Each day, I’d clock out of my job and visit her.

When the store was slow, she gave me ice cream for free—with Heath Bar crumbles. I gained eight pounds during that time.

I saw her last night. It was a party. People wore nice clothes. She wore a dress straight from a magazine. Not many women compete with her.

She is long, strong, and big-eyed. She inherited my ancestor’s looks. I inherited an affection for oysters.

I stood, watching her.

She saw me across the room. We hugged. She gives good hugs. Always has.

She’s a woman. So help me, a woman. She has a husband, a daughter, a good job. I don’t know how she survived our sad childhood without getting hurt. God knows, it wasn’t easy.

But seeing her in cocktail attire, I felt something I don’t often feel. It’s the same feeling I’ll bet Daddy felt when he handed her to me.

Some might call it pride. Maybe that’s what it is. Whatever you call it, it feels so good it throbs in my throat and makes my smile hurt.

You’d be proud of me, Daddy.

I didn’t drop her.


  1. Cherryl Shiver - March 31, 2017 10:10 am

    Oh, WOW,…just WOW. You really touched me this morning. I had a brother nearly 8 years older than me. He wanted to name me Linda Blue, until he found out Roy Rogers had a daughter named Cheryl. Linda Cheryl it was. I was his real live play pretty. Thanksgiving day 1963, Michael, my Momma and I were in a car accident. Every since that day he has been my special Angel. Like you, there is no doubt he was always and still is always right there with me. There are some things you just can’t take from a little girl a week before her 7th birthday.

    • Sherri Griswold - June 1, 2017 2:40 pm

      Cheryl, I’m sorry you lost your brother. I lost my only sibling when I was 43 and try to remember that I am blessed to have had her that long. I’m speaking with you, however, because I grew up using “play purty” to describe toys and have never heard anyone outside my family use it. I’m from central Alabama. Do you mind telling me where you’re from and whether you’ve heard others use it? Thanks.

      • Susan Best - June 1, 2017 7:05 pm

        Sherri, I also grew up using that description, got it from my Granny Green (nee Petty) and Granny Butler (nee Covington), both originally from south Ga.
        I suspect many of us Southern baby boomers heard and used the phrase when we were younger. It’s gone out of style and use like so many of our other regional words and phrases. My Granny Green said ” Well I swan” and “arsh potatoes” Granny Butler used the phrase ” Hardee down mean”. I miss the sound of those.

        • Sherri Griswold - June 2, 2017 1:54 am

          I miss them too, Susan.

        • Kathleen Long - January 26, 2018 5:43 pm

          Sherri and Susan! Thank you for the mental image of my daddy’s people. They hail from the Shubuta – Pachuta triangle. Bless them, and bless you!

      • Barbara Summers Roling - June 1, 2017 8:51 pm

        I also noticed play pretty. I grew up in Dale and Houston counties in Alabama and the term play purty was very common in that area!

        • Sherri Griswold - June 2, 2017 1:35 am

          Interesting. Thanks for the response. I wonder if it’s just Alabama.

          • Kimberly Bowie - January 26, 2018 10:52 am

            I grew up in Mississippi and we used that phrase too! Haven’t heard it in years.

          • Jeanne Hinote - January 26, 2018 2:06 pm

            It’s in Milton Florida! I hadn’t heard it since my grandmother said it and she’s been gone 26 years.

      • Brenda Shropshire - June 4, 2017 9:24 am

        I’m from middle Tennessee and grew up with play purty, arsh taters and I’ll swan along with many other sayings I miss hearing.

      • Gerald - January 26, 2018 5:55 pm

        Sherri, that was common in the Fla panhandle in the 50s. Haven’t heard it for years.

  2. Michael Bishop - March 31, 2017 11:35 am

    No, you didn’t. Thanks so much.

  3. Teresa - March 31, 2017 11:50 am

    I am grateful everyday that my friend shared your post. You are an exceptional human being. Thank you for sharing your world with us.

  4. Traci - March 31, 2017 12:04 pm

    Whew! I’m just coming across your words and they are delightful and real. Your southern touch is just the right amount to leave me a bit homesick (I’m living in Michigan these days). Thank you for sharing your stories.

  5. Harriet - March 31, 2017 12:13 pm

    What a wonderful way to start my Friday! Sean, you bless me daily with your words.

  6. Darrell Dame - March 31, 2017 12:22 pm

    I certainly enjoy your articles, many leave me a little damp around the eyes. It’s the first thing I read each morning.

  7. Darrell Dame - March 31, 2017 12:27 pm

    Great, the first thing read each morning is your collumn, some leave me a little tearie eyed. Keep it up.

  8. Wayne - March 31, 2017 12:34 pm

    Love your articles​!! I read them every day. They always tug at my heart strings and make me want to be a better man. Thank you!

  9. James Godwin - March 31, 2017 12:50 pm

    I had a little sister too. She’s gone now and it hurts, really bad.

    I was 2 years older but she was my leader.

    She helped me with dates.

    She taught me everything she learned about piano.

    She was my Champion.

    Yes, sisters are special friends, God given.

  10. HRC - March 31, 2017 1:15 pm

    After my retirement I moved to Apalachicola to be nearer to my sister … I’m the baby of our small family, mom and dad have passed and I hope they both see that WE didn’t drop EACH OTHER. I never dreamed my life could be so full❤

  11. Claudia - March 31, 2017 1:17 pm

    I wish I could have met you while I was visiting Lyle and Sherry. They speak so highly of you. I read your posts every day. You have the gift of touching hearts and souls. Thanks fir sharing your poignant and astute observations. I cried today as I re-read your post to my husband. A heartfelt thank you.

  12. Judy - March 31, 2017 1:35 pm

    I was 13 when my only sibling–my sister– was born. She was 17 when our Mother died and had to remain in the house with our angry father. I know the feeling of being the older protector.

  13. Joann Wilson - March 31, 2017 2:33 pm

    You always make me. Ry. I so love this one! She was lucky to have you, me being a person who longed to have siblings.

  14. Lydia - March 31, 2017 5:42 pm

    Beautifully expressed!

  15. Patty - March 31, 2017 5:55 pm

    Simply beautiful. Your words tug at my heart, make me long for that special relationship you have with your sister. I’m certain your dad is smiling up in heaven.

  16. Nancy - March 31, 2017 9:54 pm

    Yes, your Daddy would’ve been very proud. I’m proud, too. Thank you for another wonderful story. You are far more than a gifted writer. You’re an amazingly gifted writer with a discerning, compassionate, good, good heart. I know your little sister is so proud of you and so thankful you’re her big brother.

  17. Carol Gentemann - March 31, 2017 9:59 pm

    Loved the story, and loved even more that you referred to ‘the war’ as The War Between the States…MY Daddy would have been proud. Thank you!

  18. Pamela Smith - March 31, 2017 11:22 pm


  19. Jane Carr - April 1, 2017 1:49 am

    Such a poignant article. You and your sister loved each other through troubled times and you are both successful! Wonderful!

  20. Tammy Moody - April 1, 2017 1:58 pm

    Sean you really got me crying today buddy!! You are an awesome writer and I love reading your blogs every day! Hugs!

  21. Kay Keel - April 1, 2017 4:37 pm

    I hope your sister knows how blessed she is to have a brother like you!

  22. Carol Gentemann - April 1, 2017 8:21 pm

    Loved the story, and loved even more that you referred to the war as The War Between the States…MY Daddy would have been proud. Thank You!

  23. Sam Seetin - April 2, 2017 4:12 am

    Sweet Sarah

  24. Deanna J - June 1, 2017 12:24 pm

    I have 5 sisters, I was the baby for about 3 years and then sister 5 came, I too was told not to drop her! Now we all hold on to each other!

  25. Kim Ingram - June 1, 2017 4:54 pm

    Your stories are always a addition to my day but this one is very special. I think this a definition of love. Your Dad would be proud.

  26. Sharon Manasco - June 1, 2017 6:16 pm

    That is a southern saying for sure. Well and true north of Birmingham!

  27. Mary Ann Massey - June 1, 2017 6:22 pm

    Always get a catch in my throat reading your sweet stories. You make me feel like part of the family…
    Sherri Griswold, I grew up in central Alabama too….and yes, “play purty” was not only our toys but it was also an admonition from Momma to us kids!

  28. Sam Seetin - June 1, 2017 11:35 pm

    Sarah did blossum into a beatiful women and a glowing mother of a baby girl-precotius like her oister loving uncle, sucks… and merely one year old.

  29. unkle - January 26, 2018 5:39 pm

    Good one Sean . Great photo on instagram, hope to see the Mobile on u tube soon. Uk

  30. Anna - January 28, 2018 12:31 am

    I grew up in Mobile, AL but have a good friend from Mississippi-her family used the term “play purty” to mean something beautiful, extravagant that you wouldn’t commonly have. Something totally unneccessary but wonderful to have.

  31. Charaleen Wright - May 3, 2019 6:17 am


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