Mama and I delivered the paper each day. Rain, sleet, or World Series. Weekends, black plague, holidays, Christmas Eve, even her birthday.

We delivered newspapers together. She’d drive the car. I’d fling. I’d aim for doorsteps. Seldom did papers land on doormats.

Sometimes, I’d hit cars parked in driveways so hard I’d set off burglar alarms.

Mama would laugh until she choked.

It bears mentioning, that in my life I’ve shoveled cow pies, cleaned chicken coops, baled hay, and unclogged septic tanks. Throwing papers remains the worst damn job I’ve ever had.


Before the sun came up, Mama and I would arrive in an empty parking lot. A truck would deliver a pallet of newsprint with a forklift. After I signed for them, the delivery man would give me a look of sympathy.

We’d deliver roughly seventeen trillion papers to half of Florida. On Sundays: triple.

In the winter, Mama and I would sit in the vehicle, the heater blasting, stuffing newspapers into plastic bags. Often, I’d have a pissy attitude.

Not Mama. The woman could detail outhouses while whistling Dixie.

Thus, we’d canvas the city with a vehicle so packed with newspaper, the rear bumper scraped the pavement.

Our route: four high-rise condominiums, three subdivisions, two trailer parks, a hundred newspaper vending machines, churches, whorehouses, space-stations, and one partridge in a pear tree.

When we’d finish, we’d watch the sunrise, eating donuts, drinking coffee. Then, I’d go back to my apartment and sleep for eight years.

Mama and I worked each day. Rain, sleet, or World Series. Weekends, black plague, holidays, Christmas Eve, even her birthday.

On her birthday, the roads iced over. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I locked the keys in the car. My first reaction was to beat on the windows—I don’t know why.

The sheriff deputy got a kick out of that.

Our deliveries were all late, the boss was fuming mad, he threatened to let us go.

We ate lukewarm fried chicken in the Winn Dixie parking lot. I sang “Happy Birthday,” then gave Mama a card.

She read it and fell silent—which is unusual behavior for her.

“What’s the matter, Mama?”

She looked at me with serious eyes. “I want you to write our story one day.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Mama.”

She didn’t laugh. “Dammit, listen to me. One day, you’re gonna write it down, and it’s gonna be good. You hear me?”

It was absurd.

She went on, “And when you do, I want you to look back on everything. Your daddy’s death, the god-awful jobs we’ve done to pay the rent… The good and bad. And I want you to make it seem beautiful, somehow.”

She started crying. “One day. Promise me.”

Yes ma’am. I’ll do my absolute best.

Happy birthday, Mama.


  1. Beverly Stovall - December 15, 2016 9:56 am

    And a Happy Birthday from Me!
    Thank you Sean for such a wonderful story…….
    You’re a good boy!!!!!!! I know your Mom’s proud!!!!!

  2. Elaine - December 15, 2016 10:30 am

    I love your columns and feel grateful for having found them. It’s been a hard year, what with one thing and another, and you remind me to find the blessings.

  3. Cherryl Shiver - December 15, 2016 10:43 am

    This is the best ever…. the love between a son and his Momma is forever. I was blessed twice over, I call them Bill and Jody.

  4. Katy - December 15, 2016 11:50 am

    Precious memories

  5. Christy Jordan Keyton - December 15, 2016 1:47 pm

    I love this so much I can’t stand it!

  6. Sue Rollins - December 15, 2016 4:19 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Mama as well. I know she’s been smiling for days, proud of her boy and the words he writes.

  7. Gayle Dawkins - December 15, 2016 5:20 pm

    So good Sean. I miss my momma.

  8. Martha M Wilson - January 5, 2017 5:31 am

    Your Mama is a very wise woman! I am so glad you listened to her. I hope she has a very happy birthday. Today was my Mama’s birthday. I miss her. I probably should have listened to her more than I did.

  9. Rose - January 11, 2017 1:01 pm

    I would say you have succeeded….and done a wonderful job while doing it.

  10. Becca Allison - January 27, 2017 9:12 pm

    Darn it! You’ve made me cry again! My sons helped my husband and I deliver papers when we were in between jobs, and I hope they remember it half as kindly as you. I know your Mama is proud, wherever she is.

  11. Paul - February 21, 2017 3:38 pm

    I enjoy reading your stories. You make me shed a tear and smile every morning.

  12. Donna McGowin - December 24, 2017 12:37 pm

    She would be so proud

  13. Michelle - December 25, 2017 2:16 am

    This brought back memories of when I used to help my Daddy deliver the Post Herald newspaper in Birmingham, Alabama before the crack of dawn. I tried so hard to get the paper in the middle of a yard and he could throw it over the van all the way to the porch, man he had a good arm and aim 🙂 Even though I hated getting up so early for that I sure do miss it and him now. My Daddy passed away the year I turned 12 and although it’s been 38 years it still feels like yesterday.

  14. Dianne Correll - December 27, 2017 9:41 pm

    another good one! You have made your Mama proud!!

  15. Barbara Bray - December 26, 2018 11:25 pm

    A boy should mind his Mama..I’m so glad you did.


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