I was interviewed by a nine-year-old. I’ll call her “Kay,” but that’s not her name.
Kay is my hero. Kay is a foster child who loves Auburn University football. Kay is also serious about the sanctity of the interview process. Kay wants to be a lawyer when she grows up.
Her digital recorder sat on the table. She gave me a bottled water. She also had prepared homemade pimento cheese.
It was very good cheese. However, instead of using pimentos, Kay used homegrown habanero peppers from her foster-mother’s garden. Lots and lots of peppers.
The skin on my tongue will be forevermore mutilated by these peppers. My lower intestinal tract will never be the same.
The interview was for Kay’s school. Kay was supposed to be writing about people who were fascinating. But, she couldn’t find anyone, so she wrote about me.
She pressed the button on the recorder. “Please state your name,” said Kay, her pencil poised.
“Your FULL name, please,” Kay said, preventing obstruction of justice.
“Sean P. Dietrich.”
“What does the ‘P’ stand for, please?”
“No, not really, I was just trying to make you laugh.”
But Kay does not laugh or smile. Kay would make a very good poker player.
“Sean, tell me how you started writing?”
“With a pencil,” I said.
“Please be serious.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m a writer by accident, really.”
“I was no good at anything else. And believe me, I’ve tried it all. I’ve worked a lot of jobs.”
“What kinds of jobs?”
“Oh boy, let’s see…. I’ve been a drywaller, a landscaper, an electrician’s assistant, a commercial framer, a house painter, an ice-cream scooper, a commercial fishing deckhand, a church pianist, and once, after a wild night in Biloxi, I was ordained.”
“Is that true?” said Kay. “Were you really ordained?”
I retrieve the little plastic card from my wallet to prove it.
“You mean you’re still ordained?” she asked. “Remember, you’re under oath, Sean.”
“Yes,” I said. “One of my friends wanted me to officiate their Baptist wedding ceremony, so I had to get ordained in the state of Alabama.”
“So are you Baptist?”
“A recovering one.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was raised Southern Baptist, and that means we ate pear salad, dancing was a federal crime, and my mother ironed my jeans.”
“But what about now?”
“Now, I wear jeans that haven’t been ironed, and I do the Cha-Cha Slide at weddings sometimes.”
Little Miss Auburn made notes.
“What are your beliefs on God?” she asked.
Jiminy Christmas. This kid is tough. I was once interviewed by Don Noble on Alabama Public Television, wearing makeup, under very bright studio lights. Don has nothing on this nine-year-old.
“My beliefs on God,” I said, loosening my collar. “Well, I guess I believe that God, um, loves everybody.”
“Well, that’s just it, I can’t explain because I don’t know enough. I’m not smart enough. What do you think about it?”
“Me?” She furrowed her brow. “I think he watches over kids, and loves us all. And I know God is an Auburn fan.”
“Gimme a break, Sweetheart. Everybody knows that on the Eighth Day God created Nick Saban.”
“Would you like some more pimento cheese, Mister Sean?”
“No thank you.”
“Who is your hero?” she asked for her final question.
And I had to think about this. Truth be told, I have had a lot of heroes in my day. Not famous people. Common people.
The old men who stepped into my life after my father died when I was a boy. Men who sort of made me what I am. They treated me like I was somebody.
Also, my mother. And the church ladies who babysat me. And old bosses, who overpaid me because they cared. And the people who told me I should be a writer, even though I showed no talent for it. And teachers who helped me complete my college degree by age thirty. And foster kids who want to interview me.
“You are my hero,” I told her.
“Me?” she said. “Why me?”
“Because, you just are.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I am. You’re gonna go a long way in your life. I can feel it. ”
“Really? Do you think so?”
“With all my heart.”
She shook my hand. Then, she asked if she could give me a hug. She threw her arms around me and said:
“It’s kinda hard being a foster kid sometimes, I never know what’s going on in my life. Thank you for letting me interview you.”
My eyes turned pink. I drove home that night and I thought about her. In fact, I haven’t stopped thinking about her. I was even thinking about her this morning, when someone emailed me to say that after a long time waiting, my hero has finally been adopted.
Whoever those lucky parents are, I hope they’re saving for Auburn tuition.
Linda Hempfleng - November 10, 2018 6:37 am
This is one of my favorites!!!
Suzanne Hill - November 10, 2018 7:30 am
Awwwww This was sweet. A good one, Mr. Dietrich. I want to cry. Hey! When are u coming to Ardmore, Alabama/Tennessee? 2 states 4 counties, 2 mayors, 2 city councils, one McDonald’s, 2 Dollar Stores, 2 gas stations, 3 banks, about 8,000 people, one police department, 1 newspaper, 2 supermarkets & 4 churches? U will never know what county u r in. Or state.
Sandi in FL. - November 10, 2018 8:12 am
I agree with Linda … this is also one of my favorite posts of yours, Sean. I love it and am saving it to read again. What a blessing that your young friend has found a forever home where she will be loved and cared for instead of being in the foster system until she’s 18. Hopefully your paths will cross again. You could interview her next time and find out how she’s adapting to her new home and family.
David P. - November 10, 2018 12:05 pm
Love this post. Please let your interviewer know that when she graduates from law school, she has a job waiting on her in Birmingham.
Kristine Wehrheim - November 10, 2018 12:24 pm
Cathi - November 10, 2018 12:27 pm
Oh, Sean. My eyes went past pink to full-on red. Kay is gonna make a wonderful fellow Auburn alum…we Auburn women are AMAZING.
Eiizabeth - November 10, 2018 12:29 pm
A wonderful essay. Made me cry and smile.
Robert Chiles - November 10, 2018 12:59 pm
We have habanero pimento cheese in the Carolinas. I could send you some.
Dianne Correll - November 10, 2018 1:01 pm
LOVE this!! Very smart Hero for you!!
And I believe that GOD is the Biggest ALABAMA fan!!!
Jo Ann - November 10, 2018 1:22 pm
How wonderful for “Kay.” Blessings to the folks who adopted her-it’s difficult for older kids to be adopted, so many people want babies or toddlers. Blessings to you, also, Sean, for reminding us every day that there really are more good people than bad out here.
Debbie Taylor - November 10, 2018 1:26 pm
Your story made me fall in love with Kay ?
Connie Havard Ryland - November 10, 2018 1:27 pm
Jeez, tears already this morning. And big smiles and a warm fuzzy feeling in my soul. I’m so happy for this sweet girl. I hope she’s in a wonderful home, filled with people who deserve her and will treat her right.
Richard C. - November 10, 2018 1:30 pm
Thank you for writing these daily stories. You are this generation’s Will Rogers. May God continue to bless you and yours.
MermaidGrammy - November 10, 2018 2:00 pm
Please seriously consider adoption! It will change your life, as it has my family. All jillion of us are so much better for our gifts from God. You would be great parents and you have so much to give. God had much to give you through the children he has chosen for you and Mrs Sean
4Dees - November 10, 2018 2:23 pm
This story made by day!! What a precious gift God has given the people who adopted “Kay”, and I’m sure they will treasure this gift for the rest of their lives. War Eagle!!!
Charles Mathers - November 10, 2018 2:46 pm
I am 71 years old. I have been looking for a hero for those 71 years. I have finally found one. You did good, Sean! You did good!
Carol - November 10, 2018 3:40 pm
You two would be wonderful Forster parents!!
Do you think God is sending you a message with this little hero you just talked too.
And how about Thelma Lou and Otis. Gosh they would be great playing with a child!
God works in mysterious ways!!!
Pat - November 10, 2018 3:53 pm
Precious story…hoping all goes well for that sweet girl. By the way, I hope your lower intestinal tract didn’t suffer permanent damage!
Teenie Methvin - November 10, 2018 3:56 pm
I look forward to your story every day. This is by far my favorite and yes tears fell happily for this wonderful young lady. You know your words will dance in her heart forever. Well done Sean well done❤️❤️❤️
janet - November 10, 2018 6:18 pm
Your best column yet. What a great kid and what a good story. I hope Kay’s new family equals her quality and is filled with love.
Joe Fowler - November 10, 2018 7:07 pm
Sounds like an amazing little girl. I truly hope her parents are able to make her see that the last thing the world needs is one more Lawyer/Auburn fan.
Pamela McEachern - November 10, 2018 7:41 pm
Most nights I read your story before I go to sleep. But the times I read in the morning are a benefit to me, you see I wake up with very dry eyes and by the time I have read your story…no more dry eyes LOL. You are a true hero for so many but you were Kay’s for sure! God Bless that little Auburn fan…but it’s RTR for me.
Peace snd Love from Birmingham
Shelton Armour - November 10, 2018 8:08 pm
A story that really hits all the emotional buttons…I’m glad she got a true family to love and care for her (best ending ever).
jones - November 10, 2018 8:21 pm
Beautiful! Thoroughly enjoy—and need —your daily posts!
Donna Burson - November 11, 2018 2:21 am
Jack Darnell - November 11, 2018 2:38 am
I like this. I always forward the post to at least two people. I think the joy should be spread!
Edna B. - November 11, 2018 9:11 am
Awesome story! God love little Kay. I wish her much happiness with her new family. And God Bless you, Sean. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Jackie - November 11, 2018 9:10 pm
I’ve been busy and haven’t been reading all my emails from Sean of the South. But today I picked up this one. Thank you for having every day heroes! I’m thank you for believing in encouraging that sweet little child. I’m a foster parent, and at times I know I’m failing miserably to be the encouraging one to them, it’s hard to make them see how much potential they have. I hope your words stick with her.
Patricia Gibson - November 12, 2018 3:22 pm
What a wonderful uplifting story!!
Marcia MacLean, Lynn Haven - November 12, 2018 8:18 pm
I just love happy endings. One of your best (although I say that a lot).
June - November 14, 2018 9:43 pm
So happy for Kay that she has been adopted! And never forget Kay to shout out a “War Eagle”!
Jody - November 15, 2018 4:46 am
Sounds like this sweet girl can have the best of all options. Undergraduate Auburn. Law school ALABAMA
Mary Ann Massey - January 1, 2019 3:32 am
Oh my goodness! From the mouths of babes! HOW PRECIOUS!!!!?❤️❤️❤️