Moving Day

There are professional movers in my house. They are carrying my whole life through the front door in the form of furniture and boxes. And the memories are getting so thick you have to swat them like mosquitoes.

“Where’s this go, boss?” one of the movers asks.

He looks about 18 or 19. He is a walking tattoo exhibit. He is rolling a piano across the house. My piano.

You don’t know how special this instrument is to me. My mother bought me this upright when I was a young man. She had no money, she lived in a trailer, and yet she dug deep to buy me a Yamaha U1 because her baby boy wanted to be a pianist.

The first song I played on this piano was “Danny Boy,” in honor of my late father.

Over the years, I have played “Danny Boy” in beer joints, mildewed taverns, inside foggy VFW bars, and at Catholic funerals.

I have been playing piano in earnest since my 9th birthday. I’ve played at civic meetings, school plays, Rotary Club fundraisers, hotel lobbies, tiki bars, and honky tonks.

Playing piano is also how I met my wife—sorta. I got a job working as a part-time pianist for our Baptist church.

Each Wednesday, this Baptist young woman would sit on the front row near the Mason & Hamlin to watch me accompany choir practice. She asked me to play a tune for her one evening after practice was over. I played “Danny Boy.”

My attention is diverted from the piano when I see another mover carrying a large cardboard box containing office supplies.

Inside this box is my Letera 32 manual typewriter. Sea foam green. The typewriter of my childhood, my adolescence, and my adult years.

Back in the days before computers were mainstream, there were only two things a writer was required to own. A copy of “The Elements of Style” by E.B. White, and a manual typewriter.

Over the years, I have produced so many rough drafts on this workhorse that my fingers have worn the S, E, and D from the keyfaces.

More movers walk by, carrying more of my things. And it’s hard not to be overcome by the dusty scent of my own history. Nostalgia is a powerful narcotic.

There is the magic kit from when I was a boy. The kit contains the linking rings illusion, magnetized half dollars, and the exploding BIC pen that caused my uncle to write me out of the will.

In another box is my first cellphone; a Motorola about the size of a cinderblock with an antenna tall enough to interfere with commercial air traffic.

I come across my father’s old pocketknife, a Case XX, butter-yellow handle, dual blade.

My grandmother’s Bible—held together with Scotch tape and glue. With a handwritten note inside: “Have I not commanded thee, be strong and of good courage; be not afraid and neither thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”


There are the old Kathryn Tucker Windham books, given to me by my mother-in-law. The porcelain Corningware coffee percolator my mother gave me when I left home, when we both wept while standing in the driveway.

The army surplus duffel bag my father used for our Little League team’s collection of bats and balls.

The photographs from the time my wife and I camped at the Disney World campground in a tent because we were so broke we often went to KFC just to lick other people’s fingers.

And my office desk, which is a library desk I bought from the my childhood library when they had a going-out-of-business sale. The desk where I once read books as a youth is the same surface on which I have written 13 books.

And it all makes me wonder, where has my life gone?

Ten minutes ago I was courting a young brunette who sat on the front pew during choir practice. Just yesterday afternoon, I was graduating from community college, and announcing to my old boss that I was quitting my job to become a writer. “I’ll keep your name on the schedule,” was my boss’s reaction.

How did life canter by so quickly? Where will the next 20 years lead? Which loved ones will I lose in the next two decades? Years from now, when I look in the mirror, will I recognize the old man I see? The old man who is about to take over my life?

If I’m being honest, this thought is a little frightening. And it’s humbling. And terrifying. And wonderful. And heartrending. And sobering. And joyous. And it also makes me a little sad, although I can’t pinpoint why.

But then I see a cheerful brunette bouncing from the back room, breathless from carrying boxes. She sees me looking at my old piano.

“Play one for me,” she says.

So I do. I raise the keyboard cover. I play an F. I clear my throat and sing about as prettily as a braying jackmule.

“I’ve never heard that song before,” says one of the teenage movers. “What’s it called?”

“Danny Boy,” I said.


  1. Naomi Smith - February 26, 2022 6:35 am

    Moving is the hardest work I know. Not the physical moving, but just the gut wrenching memories that continually surface while involved in the act of moving. I wish to never have to subject myself to moving again.

  2. KC - February 26, 2022 6:43 am

    Wow, one of your best!! Congrats on your new home in Birmingham! You and Jamie are going to be just fine! The pipes are calling!

  3. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - February 26, 2022 6:45 am

    We are so glad you are moving to Alabama! Our lives do fly by quickly. You made the right choice in being a writer. And, you are an entertainer too!

  4. Billie Roberts Padgett - February 26, 2022 7:29 am

    I agree with Naomi (above). Moving is awful…awful hard…awful, emotionally…awful, physically…awful. When we were in the seemingly-never-ending move from Illinois back to Florida’s Panhandle, I told my sister I wasn’t so sure “hell” isn’t going to be “constant moving.” May not be a lake of fire. Might just be moving and moving and moving. I don’t want to take a chance. I prefer His promise of “in my Father’s house are many mansions” and “I go to prepare a place for you.” I want to be ready…

    • Jimmy Stewart - February 26, 2022 7:37 am

      Billie!!! Awesome. Made my day. Beautiful!!! Well done…

    • Jan - February 27, 2022 3:36 am

      For various reasons I have had many moves in my almost 79-year-old life. I dread a move like the plague, and I have said for many years that to me, “move“ is a four-letter word. I am not one to use “four letter words“ and I hope I never have to use that one again until the little guys with white coats come to carry me away! Blessings on you in your new home. I hope it brings you and Jamie more joy than you can now imagine in the many years to come.

  5. Jimmy Stewart - February 26, 2022 7:35 am

    I agree with KC. One of your best ever. The emotion and the memories generated by the move from Florida to Birmingham, as overwhelming as it’s been for you, has helped you capture the moments and deliver them to us so beautifully. With each sentence and paragraph you draw us closer to your heart and give us the same experience as you, only it becomes multiplied because you help us create and maximize our own life experiences! Therein lies the secret, I think, of what you do with your writing. You share so personally your daily experiences that readers, like me, become intertwined in such a way that our lives are forever enriched by yours. Our experiences enhanced by your “take” on your experiences. We can (and I always do) see our lives differently because you see yours so clearly and document it so vividly. So, Sean, thank you once again for your transparency and consistency. Your insight and your humor. Your daily writing makes me (want to be) a better human being. And for that, my wife and my dogs thank you. And whithersoever I go, so do I!

  6. Jimmy Stewart - February 26, 2022 8:13 am

    One more thing…life IS too short (we are just a vapor being vaporized). Thank you, Sean, for helping us stretch it out and make it seem much longer! You dig deep every day and for that, I for one, am very grateful. I believe some if not much of your success/effectiveness/appeal is, at least in part, due to your own “search for significance” and in your search, you have and are enhancing and/or increasing the personal significance of thousands of others (and most importantly to me….my own!!!). You are teaching and modeling for others how they can and should be doing the same (Each person using their worth/significance/talent/experiences/skills to help others find their own personal significance). I am blown away by the impact you are having and will continue to have and I am beginning to see more clearly how we all should be doing similar things to help others every day (there is a great sermon illustration in what you do for others, that would challenge every body, including this pastor!). Thank you for doing what the Lord put right in front of you to do and giving 100% Every. Single. Day. It challenges and motivates me beyond words!!! You glorify the Lord every day by helping so many of your fellow travelers, of which I am very grateful to be one. Blessings, then, to you and to Jamie . . . Now and Always!!!

    • Debbie grissom - February 26, 2022 9:43 pm

      Jimmy beautifully said for Sean. Amen. And Sean and Jamie. How much we love you And love to us all

  7. Karen Erwin-Brown - February 26, 2022 10:06 am

    My piano got me through pandemic. Cost $100 and a long afternoon for 2 men who love me, and a friend, and a stranger, who don’t ever want to see me coming again. Don’t know about comma placement in all that. Get out that book. 4 total. I started playing at 66. will have to try “Danny Boy”. Hope your move is great. I grew up in Ensley which is western Birmingham. Now West Point, Ga for 21 years. Go to Leeds to the Medal of Honor monument. Henry Erwin is my dad. Parts of Highway 119 named for those 3 MOH recipients.

    • John - February 27, 2022 3:51 am

      Karen, your dad was the only member of a B-29 crew that was awarded the Medal of Honor. (As I recall.) I’ve read about him several times in various histories of the 20th Air Force. My dad was a left gunner on a B-29. 58th Bomb Wing, 462nd Bomb Group. Thank you for your dad’s service and his bravery and courage. His was a singular selfless act saving the rest of the crew.

      • Karen Erwin-Brown - March 20, 2022 7:18 pm

        John a B29 will be in the Columbus Ga air show in May . You can tour it for $20. Thanks for your kind words about my Dad .

  8. Meredith Smith - February 26, 2022 10:44 am

    I wish both of you the very best in your move to your new home and life in a new state. I look forward to reading about new encounters and experiences, which I am sure will be nothing but glorious for you both. Congratulations and enjoy the unpacking! 😉

  9. Shelton A. - February 26, 2022 10:48 am

    Moving will do that to you. Once your piano finds a home in your new house in Birmingham and you have your desk and typewriter set up, you’ll start to feel at home again. As for the future, the one sure thing that I can tell you: welcome to arthritis! Don’t fear tomorrow, God is already there. I read that little piece of wisdom this morning before I read you. God bless you, safe move and travels, and think about all the new smells for your dogs.

  10. Leigh Amiot - February 26, 2022 10:50 am

    “…for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
    I’m in awe that words written by God then copied down by your grandmother reached out to you at this time.
    God is like that…all the time…if we just pay attention.

    • Lavenda - February 27, 2022 4:05 am

      Your reply made me cry alittle.i read the same thing you did..and not 1 time did I take it like you said. His grandmother DID reach out to him..thank you for pointing that out. God is good

  11. stephen e acree - February 26, 2022 11:41 am

    So today I will go to my piano and pick out Danny Boy. I can play almost anything by ear and I know Ive tried that one before.Thanks again, Sean.

  12. Julia C, February 26, 2022 - February 26, 2022 12:03 pm

    This one especially brought tears! My husband and I ‘downsized’ three years ago after 32 years in the same home. I had to give my piano away which had been my mothers. She and I had played many duets together on that console. It was a ‘comfort zone’ for me. I miss that piano almost every day as it represented the bond we had. In times of trouble or heartache, it always gave me peace to be able to sit down and play old Baptist hymns from childhood. I had to let go of so many things during that move. One thing I did learn though was you still have your memories (for better or for worse) and that is one thing that can not be taken away! Hold on to that which is dear and move forward as you are doing. Best Wishes to you and Jamie with your move and remember, the best is yet to come!

  13. Lynn Schroeder - February 26, 2022 12:23 pm

    I can’t fully describe how much I enjoy your blog. I look forward to reading each one every morning. Thank you! Best wishes for a smooth move to Alabama.
    War Eagle!
    Sincerely An Auburn Alums Mother

  14. Linda Willson - February 26, 2022 12:36 pm

    Trust me…as the chapters of life stack up I think we all puzzle over the very same questions whether we are moving to new territory or planted securely with no change on the horizon.

  15. Joy Jacobs - February 26, 2022 12:42 pm

    Tears, again! Thanks for sharing your life with us. ❤️

  16. Sally Speaker - February 26, 2022 1:06 pm

    Come on to Birmingham and after you’re moved in and have put sheets on the bed, spend some time just driving around to get oriented. There are pluses and minuses, like everywhere else. Get a library card and you have your choice of about 15 libraries! Sample lots of churches – everybody in the pew is new these days cuz everybody’s been gone so long. Take deep breaths. Take your time. Take care of each other. It’ll all work itself out. (From a fellow transplant)

  17. Anne Arthur - February 26, 2022 1:10 pm

    The big day is here. Big move, inside-out. Saying goodbye is pulling heartstrings but saying hello will cheer you up big time. All good wishes to you and your lovely brunette. As the Jamaicans say, “walk good”.

  18. suzi - February 26, 2022 1:11 pm

    past and future entertwined

  19. ladyjane48 - February 26, 2022 1:39 pm

  20. Peyton Lingle - February 26, 2022 1:57 pm

    I thought you might like this article:
    By Melissa Kirsch
    Good morning. Popular culture is taking us back to the past.

    Remembering when
    When the present moment is stressful or uncomfortable, when the future seems especially fuzzy or uncertain, nostalgia offers a balm. It’s why many of us turned to “Friends” reunions, “Sopranos” re-binges and childhood video games earlier in the pandemic.

    As Gen Xers and many millennials approach or move through middle age, the entertainment industry has become determined to soothe their passage with a ceaseless and sentimental remembrance of things past: “Sex and the City,” “Gossip Girl” “Jackass,” “The Matrix” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” have all taken another turn around the piazza in the past year. “Frasier,” “Night Court” and “Beavis and Butt-Head” are rumored to be returning. Even “Law & Order” is back.

    The Super Bowl halftime show, featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent, certainly set its sights on the midlife-adjacent. This fall, Avril Lavigne, Bright Eyes and My Chemical Romance will perform at the early-aughts emo-and-rock festival When We Were Young, a gathering that seems engineered to induce nostalgia. Its name serves to both rebrand sad music for loners as a group activity and to douse any thirty-somethings’ lingering delusions that their best days are ahead of them.

    Nostalgia is easily packaged and sold because it promises to create a community out of a cohort. We experience this every day on social media: Strangers become momentary pals when you swap stories of the music you loved or the clothes you wore when you were both in sixth grade. The internet is an endlessly renewing nostalgia mine from which anyone can, at any time, extract a cultural gemstone — a music video from the early days of MTV, a jingle for a product long out of circulation — and post it for all to appreciate.

    In a recent essay in Town and Country, Kyle Chayka warned of the perils of too much nostalgia. “With our digital cultural channels, art can be profitable only if it gets attention, and it can get attention only if it matches a pre­-existing pattern,” he wrote. “That pattern is called nostalgia, and while it’s pleasurable, is it not ultimately boring?”

    For the moment, nostalgia is serving a purpose: It provides a retreat, a respite, a way to feel less alone. The word, roughly translated from the Greek, means “a longing to return home.” It makes sense that some of us would seek and find comfort now in pop culture that feels homelike, that’s reliably soothing and predictable, in a world where so much is not.

  21. Tim Wood - February 26, 2022 2:15 pm

    The part about seeing the old man in the mirror….that’s the point I’m at in my life. Where did it go? If you haven’t listened to Toby Keith’s song ” Don’t Let the Old Man In”, find it and listen to it. I have made it my anthem. Keep up the great writing and good luck in B’ham.

  22. Stacey Wallace - February 26, 2022 2:21 pm

    God bless you and Jamie.

  23. Gigi - February 26, 2022 2:24 pm

    Again, another wonderfully painted picture brought to life for us by your writing. As for your Grandmother’s Bible, two words ~ Norris Bookbinding ! They are located in Greenwood, Mississippi. I’ve had several Bibles rebound and leather covers put on, along with an old, classic book. Their workmanship is superb ! (I am not affiliated with them in any way). I just like to promote small businesses that do great work. Enjoy your new home, we can’t wait to hear the stories we’ll get from it.

  24. Sue Adams - February 26, 2022 2:28 pm

    I hope the next moving day I have to endure will be to the sweet by and by!

  25. Jan - February 26, 2022 2:30 pm

    May the Lord bless you and keep you … Welcome to Alabama!

  26. Paul McCutchen - February 26, 2022 2:31 pm

    Have a pleasant move. Now the fun starts….Unloading the boxes. From here you will only need two words………..Yes Dear

  27. Gayle Wilson - February 26, 2022 2:40 pm

    Sean, thank you for putting into words our thoughts when life continues to pass us like an eighteen wheeler on the interstate. The juxtaposition of our inner being of enjoying the memories yet also the melancholy that joins it. I’m wishing you and Jamie many, many years to make memories in your new home. Another chapter and more beautiful memories.

  28. Beachdreamer - February 26, 2022 2:41 pm

    Oh Sean, your best ever !! Ditto and ditto to Jimmy Stewart’s comments. I was brought to tears as I read. I felt your emotions, I saw thru your eyes…and when I read the last couple of lines, that did it for me! That brought you full circle back to ‘today ‘. You and Jamie are definitely soul mates. You both are sooo blessed, wherever you choose to live…doesn’t matter as long as you’re together. I wish you every happiness in your new found home…it will be HOME in no time, as Jamie brings that same love and laughter, and you bring your unique talent and wisdom…I just know you’ll both be happy and be so welcomed by your new friends and neighbors. What a blessing! So many new stories and adventures yet to come. God bless you, Mr & Mrs Dietrich! ❤️

  29. Cathy M - February 26, 2022 3:04 pm

    Today was in your top five. Moving is traumatic and it stirs up so many memories and emotions. I am glad that you have that precious Jamie by your side. Birmingham is going to welcome you with open arms and more hugs that you can imagine. Can you feel the love? It’s a new chapter but the process is painful. My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We are in the house that we built forty six yrs ago. We talk abt. moving but I can’t. I love my house, my neighbors and I don’t have it in me to leave. I know you are sad but you will find happiness in your new home. Danny Boy always CB makes me cry. The late Eva Cassidy nailed it . She sang like an angel. Stay strong. It’s all going to work out. I promise❤️🙏🏻

  30. Patricia Gibson - February 26, 2022 3:19 pm

    Congratulations on your move

  31. Rhonda - February 26, 2022 3:25 pm

    Good luck amigos.

  32. Sarah - February 26, 2022 3:38 pm

    This made me think of a children’s book quote: “You can be happy and sad at the same time, you know. It just happens that way sometimes.” – Norton Juster, The Hello, Goodbye Window

  33. Gloria Knight - February 26, 2022 3:45 pm

    Moving from our home of 47 years & leaving all those memories behind was a bit traumatic. Going from near Atlanta to near Knoxville, But the best part is that the 3 grandkids are only 5 minutes away!!!

  34. Marcia Enquist - February 26, 2022 3:48 pm

    Love your comment about the Kathryn Tucker Windham books! She was/is a distant cousin of ours on our Tucker side. I have her personally signed books and many letters back and forth between her and my Mother. They visited each other several times. Another favorite Southern author, dear Sean!

  35. Patsy - February 26, 2022 3:55 pm

    Your blog today really hit/touched me! As we’re contemplating downsizing, I just don’t know if I have it in me.
    And, as a Birmingham native who now lives in Indiana, my hope for you is that you will explore all that Birmingham has to offer. It really is a very special place. Say hello to Vulcan for me!

  36. Cindy - February 26, 2022 4:06 pm

    Moving is a challenge for sure – my husband and I have moved 11 times in 41 years of marriage. The memories that we made in each place stay with us as we go to the new place. We unpack boxes and the memories come back – along with the question “why did I bring that with me?” Then after all the boxes have been unpacked and we think we are settled, I go to look for something and can’t remember where it is now – only where I put it 2 moves ago! Life is an adventure –

  37. Brenda Mosley - February 26, 2022 4:26 pm

    Oh Sean. I love this one. We all reminisce like this. I’m older and I can tell you, when you look in the mirror you won’t recognize the reflection…..but you will still be young inside!

  38. Joan - February 26, 2022 4:33 pm

    Best of happiness with your move! The best Danny Boy ever, in my opinion, the long version by Roy Orbison…

  39. Linda Moon - February 26, 2022 5:47 pm

    A Yamaha U1! A library desk! Your mother dug deep. And you’ve read and written from a LIBRARY desk. Just let the old man take over, in time, Sean. Why? Because of everything you’ve written here, but mostly because it’s LIFE itself. And don’t ever stop playing for Jamie.

    Here’s something I wrote in honor of the passage of time in my family:



  40. Susie Flick - February 26, 2022 6:07 pm

    Good Vibes to begin your “new” life in a new place. Hugs and Peace

  41. Chasity Davis Ritter - February 26, 2022 6:44 pm

    You got me again Sean but for some reason I think I’m just in the mood to cry today it’s happened a few times already. Life just goes so fast. So many beginnings and endings and all the stuff in between. You’ll be ok. You have Jamie and your dogs so no matter where you are you’ll be home. I’m glad you’ve packed up the memories to go with you. Thanks for sharing them with me. Ah kids these days..they wouldn’t know good music if someone played it for them. ❤️😢

  42. LIN ARNOLD - February 26, 2022 6:45 pm

    Growing up an Army Brat, moving was all too familiar. In my 1st 9 years of school, I was in 9 different schools. (Only 1 high school … my Dad retired.) But since then, I’ve become a minor pack rat. But not totally excessive. I’ve got things like my Mom’s Bible that my Grandmother gave to her on her wedding day to my Dad; I’ve got all my Dad’s military papers, including his enlistment papers at the age of 16 and his retirement papers 30 years later. I’ve got the prints of the Eisenhower paintings framed and lining the hallway (Eisenhower gave these to his entire White House staff during his administration). I’ve got the steamer trunk that Mom & Dad were given on their wedding day so Mom could move to North Carolina with my Dad. I’ve got the wooden steamer trunk that my paternal grandfather kept at the foot of his bed. I’ve got the wooden cabinet my Dad made for my kids to store their board games in. I’ve got the rocker my Grandfather spent all his “TV time” in … it’s a solid wood Kennedy style rocker. Things that may not be worth a lot of money, but they mean the world to me.

  43. MAM - February 26, 2022 11:00 pm

    I can relate to what Cindy said about knowing where I put something two moves ago, but we’ve been here for almost 23 years, the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere, either of us, so it’s about time to clear out things again, when I have time from all MY writing and posting for my little news business. And the old lady has already arrived, but I’m trying to keep her at arm’s length! I’m sure you’ll Grow Where You’re Planted. Enjoy your new home, with new memories to add to the old ones.

  44. Nell Thomas - February 26, 2022 11:14 pm

    Great reveal of this chapter in your actual moving experience. One of which many have experienced before and can relate. I certainly can. You named things that are very special to you. Do you already have places in mind- at the math teacher’s house- that are just waiting for this precious cargo?

  45. Nancy M - February 27, 2022 4:33 am

    As you’re exploring Birmingham, check out BhamWiki for any questions you might have. It may not have every question answered yet, but it is a wonderful resource.

  46. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - February 27, 2022 2:51 pm

  47. Nancy Collier - February 27, 2022 3:42 pm

    A Yamaha U1. She loved you very much!

  48. Buster - February 27, 2022 6:20 pm

    Danny Boy—Londonderry Air.

  49. Larry Wall - February 28, 2022 3:32 pm

    Our first home was a new one. We bought it 9 months before we married but we had been dating for 6 years, so we felt like we were ready. We lived in that home for 40 years. Amazing what you can collect, and stow, in that amount of time. When we moved to a new home we threw away many things that I now wish I hadn’t but, I knew our new home might not hold everything. Well, that was 14 years ago and I still haven’t found many things that I have hunted after the move. Just collected more “stuff”, mostly unneeded. (:-)

  50. cheryl singers - March 11, 2022 11:18 pm

    Don’t know if you have time to read all these wonderful comments. I have heard from long lost friends from “Full Faith Church” that I should really start reading your stuff. Now I know why. What an excellent writer you have become! You bring stories to life. I love that gift. Recently I was working on stage pieces for a high school nearby where they were practicing GodSpell. What wonderful and fun memories it brought to me. I’ve watched you from a little kid, young man! You resemble your dad very much. Its so wonderful to see your success and that you are still walking with God. May He continue to richly bless you.

  51. iwaly444 - June 5, 2022 1:18 am

    so poor we often stopped @ KFC to lick other peoples fingers…u southern boys make me laugh ( Blake Shelton & himself)


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