Old Stuff

I love flea markets and antique stores. This is because I like old stuff for which there is no use.

Antique pocket knives, porcelain cowboy figurines, hundred-year-old snuff tins, arrowheads, and tin coffee pots.

I am holding one such coffee pot. A percolator just like this used to sit in my father’s garage workshop on an electric hot plate.

I had my first coffee from a tin pot. It tasted like ditch-water and aluminum. But it didn’t matter because in that garage my father and I talked about things.

Things like: fishing, batting stances, the proper way to clean fried chicken bones, and God.

“Is God real?” I once asked.

He smiled. “Have you ever seen a little sign from above? Something that just sticks out, and seems like it means something?”

I shrugged.

“Well I have,” he said. “I see’em everywhere, every single day. Once you start looking for them, you see all sorts of little things that prove there’s someone Upstairs.”

I miss his simple explanations.

At this flea market, I find a Norman Rockwell compilation book. You probably won’t care about this, but as a boy I had this exact book. My father gave it to me.

My father handed it to me and said, “Old Norm sees the world in such a happy way. I think you’ll like old Norm.”

Norm.

After my father died, I cut out the pages of that book and tacked them to my bedroom walls. They were reminders of who my father used to be.

Over my bed hung the painting of a mother and son, saying grace at a crowded cafe table. It was right beside my all-time favorite painting: elderly musicians, playing music in a barbershop.

I once visited a Norman Rockwell exhibit. I drove to Birmingham to see it. I was first in line at the museum. The lady who took my ticket said, “Oh, you’re in for a real treat.”

She wasn’t kidding. It took me three hours to walk through the paintings. It’s the only art exhibit I’ve ever seen—and the only one I will probably ever see.

If you can believe it, I went back to the museum the following morning to look at the paintings again.

The lady over admissions said, “Wasn’t one dime tour enough?”

No.

She unhooked the velvet rope and said, “This one’s on the house.”

Anyway, this flea market. I’m at a checkout counter, I pay the cashier. She is a middle-aged lady. She has wiry gray hair, an American-flag lapel pin on her T-shirt.

She inspects the coffee pot, then looks at the Norman Rockwell book. She smiles while she flips through the book.

“I love these paintings,” she says. “Old Norm saw this world in such a happy way, didn’t he?”

It was a familiar thing to hear.

Not that it matters what I think, but I believe in signs from above. I believe our loved ones watch over us.

I believe in God.

And it’s good to know you’re around, Daddy.

65 comments

  1. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - September 5, 2021 7:22 am

    Man, that was deep.

    Reply
  2. david grant - September 5, 2021 8:54 am

    GOOD ONE ! write on Sean.

    Reply
  3. Laura W - September 5, 2021 9:03 am

    Took my mom to see a Norman Rockwell exhibition once, it was so good.

    Reply
  4. Dean - September 5, 2021 9:41 am

    Thank You i love old things I guess because I am old.
    Great column as always

    Reply
  5. Sheri Russell - September 5, 2021 10:01 am

    We bought an entire collection of Rockwell plates of Crsigs list. Boxes and all. We would like to share some of them with you. I have no idea how to make that happen. We are south of you in Venice..
    Sheri Russell 610.453.1385.

    Reply
  6. Nancy S - September 5, 2021 10:46 am

    I’ve always loved Norman Rockwell too. Many years ago when I was a young mom, I bought a book with his various paintings. I just think he captured us (people, kids, families, etc.) from a special time. Oh, how I wish we could step back in time when things were like that! Thanks Sean!

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  7. Thames Robinson - September 5, 2021 11:22 am

    Thank you, Sean.

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  8. Paul - September 5, 2021 11:24 am

    Another good one, Sean. Appreciate you. Keep up the good work.

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  9. Bar - September 5, 2021 11:27 am

    I believe in God. Now that I am old, I see God in ways as never before. I believe my mama and my husband Charles are watching me. My heart and my mind see them still.

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  10. Bar - September 5, 2021 11:28 am

    I believe in God; I see God; I see my mama and husband Charles who are with me still.

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  11. Karen - September 5, 2021 11:50 am

    Thank you. I love visiting antique and vintage places. They are a little bit like museums. I see God everywhere. When I hear a dove I feel like my Adar is near.

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  12. Darlene Meader Riggs - September 5, 2021 11:54 am

    Love. I, too, see God everywhere. Makes me sad for the folks who question His existence. Makes me wonder about their daily lives and how they get thru the bad days without some “Please, God”, or the really good ones without some “Thank you, God”. Pretty bleak! Say “hey!” to your pretty girl. ❤️

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  13. Melanie - September 5, 2021 12:00 pm

    Yes ❤️

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  14. Becky Kaufman - September 5, 2021 12:06 pm

    Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Karen Erwin-Brown - September 5, 2021 12:12 pm

    I love old Norm too. I have many of his pictures in my dressing room closet. Lining the walls.

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  16. Maggie Priestaf - September 5, 2021 12:19 pm

    Sean, the love of God oozes out of every word you write…

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  17. jill - September 5, 2021 12:22 pm

    Amen Yes.

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  18. Jan - September 5, 2021 12:28 pm

    Beautiful and so true! Amen and thank you!

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  19. dapeek43 - September 5, 2021 12:38 pm

    Amen!

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  20. Elizabeth LeDuc - September 5, 2021 12:39 pm

    Just 💗💗💗💗💗.

    Reply
  21. Joan Crowson - September 5, 2021 12:41 pm

    Love this. If you can, make the opportunity to visit the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. You will not be disappointed. His painting, Main Street, is the actual Main Street in the town and it looks the same. It’s the picture perfect New England town and the Museum is picture perfect too.

    Reply
  22. Martha Owens - September 5, 2021 12:47 pm

    We can all see signs from up above if we just look. The initials of a loved one on someone’s license plate is my most recent sign.

    Reply
  23. Shelton A. - September 5, 2021 12:52 pm

    od and your father’s spirit watch over you. Maybe old Norm, too. God bless and his peace to you and Jamie (and the pups!).

    Reply
  24. Kate - September 5, 2021 12:58 pm

    Went to the Norman Rockwell Museum on a trip to New England. He was an amazing artist, and I do not think I ever realize/knew how brilliant he really was. I haven’t been looking for those little signs lately, maybe it is time I started doing that again. I use to be pretty good at seeing them.

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  25. Sandra - September 5, 2021 1:00 pm

    Amen , a good one to wake up to this beautiful Sunday morning. ♥️🙏🏻

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  26. Paul McCutchen - September 5, 2021 1:03 pm

    you pick up a lot more in a “dirt mall” than I do. I will slow down next time.

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  27. Nancy Crews - September 5, 2021 1:17 pm

    ❤your writing.

    Reply
  28. cajuntiger74 - September 5, 2021 1:21 pm

    Yes. There are “signs” and messages from God all around us. Thanks for using such a personal story to remind us all.

    Reply
  29. PhillipaCrawford - September 5, 2021 1:26 pm

    Perfect column to read while I wait fir my neighbor to pick me up to go to church.

    Reply
  30. Belinda Strickland - September 5, 2021 1:29 pm

    Several years ago, I taught a vacation Bible school curriculum that encouraged the children to look for signs of God at work. They were referred to as “God winks”. I think Hallmark took the notion and named a movie that, but the VBS predated the movie.
    Regardless, we just have to look. He’s there.

    Reply
  31. Catherine - September 5, 2021 1:40 pm

    I finished reading your book “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” earlier this morning so your essay today was particularly poignant for me. Our birthdays (his and mine) are nearly exactly a year apart which stopped me in my tracks…reading tracks, that is…
    My grandmother (I didn’t know her or grow up any where near her) wrote in my autograph book many many years ago, “Remember with affection, never with regret.” It seems that is how you’ve chosen to live your life. I am in awe of your continuing to live your life in this way and applaud those in your life who helped you.
    Thank you for writing and sharing.

    Reply
  32. Heather Miller - September 5, 2021 1:44 pm

    I believe I bought that same book: large, coffee table size, and gave it to my mother for Christmas years ago. She used to say that Norman Rockwell saw life in a happy way, and celebrated the good life, or the way life should be good and celebrated. When she died, my daughter took the book. She remembered looking through it when she was a girl, and loving the pictures. My mother is in heaven and has been for 19 years, along with your dad and Norman Rockwell. I hope they’ve met.

    Reply
  33. Robyn - September 5, 2021 1:51 pm

    Thank you. I miss my momma daddy & brother badly today. I will be on the look out for signs.

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  34. Sandra Wagner - September 5, 2021 1:56 pm

    This column will be one of my faves. For sure. There are no coincidences, Sean. You were meant to share your life experiences with us and make us feel … however and whatever they make us feel. I for one, feel God’s presence often and I talk to my dad too, but I so very much miss him talking back.
    Side note: my daughter may be your twin at heart. I can’t let her loose inside an antique shop or a market!! She’s fascinated by old things and the possible stories behind them. She’s only 11, but she fascinates me everyday.
    Side note 2: I read some of your pieces to my kids (11 and 14). Especially the funnier ones. They have learned so much about the world, traditions, places, through your writing. Thanks for writing in a way that reaches and teaches everyone.

    Reply
  35. beachdreamer1 - September 5, 2021 2:12 pm

    I always knew you were an “old soul”…..old souls love old things and they love and feel deeply from the heart. I knew from your first post I read about ‘Cape San Blas’. It takes one to know one they say. I had an antique shop for over 20 years and still can’t resist a flea market or antique sign.
    I learned so much about the people who came into the shop…if you’d listen, they’d tell you their life story, what their grandmother had…what ever happened to that old kettle that sat on the wood stove? Lots of history in old furniture. Each piece has a story, some pieces I have still intrigue me.
    I could go on and on, but just to say once again how special your writing is…how much you relate to others. Thank you for bringing light into so many lives. God bless ❤️

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  36. Debbie Schmidt - September 5, 2021 2:20 pm

    I believe in God winks.

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  37. Lifetime Chicago - September 5, 2021 2:22 pm

    I was just talking about how God works in our lives to a friend….you said it perfectly. The visits from God or our loved ones always made me stronger and a better, more balanced person. That’s how you truly keep getting and getting better.

    Reply
  38. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 5, 2021 2:29 pm

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  39. Harriet - September 5, 2021 2:36 pm

    Wow. That is God talking to you.

    Reply
  40. Teresa Brooks - September 5, 2021 2:36 pm

    Sean,
    That story brought back pleasant memories. I was raised by my Grandparents who always had a pot of coffee on the gas stove, kept warm by the pilot light.

    Reply
    • Carolyn from Georgia - September 5, 2021 3:17 pm

      Just like George Straits song! “I Saw God Today”!! ♥

      Reply
  41. Karen Snyder - September 5, 2021 2:48 pm

    I think God’s signs are everywhere, we just have to pay attention! Antique shops, second-hand stores, even the random yard sale, all spell “treasure hunt” to me, particularly for ephemera. Over many years, I’ve found and used all manner of “old” paper items. If you would like a one-stop shop for Norman Rockwell art, I discovered a couple minutes ago that Saturday Evening Post has a website. I plan to spend some time down that rabbit hole!

    Lovely post this morning.💙

    Reply
  42. Brenda - September 5, 2021 3:33 pm

    Many years ago as a professional custom picture framer I fell in love with Norman Rockwell paintings. He portrayed warm loving memories of family life and happiness. They were one of my favorites to frame. Yes love Norman and God!
    Thank you Sean for the memories.🤗

    Reply
  43. Michele Sandstead - September 5, 2021 3:52 pm

    Another epic story Sean! When are you going to pop into my antiques shop in Destin? Flutterby Antiques on Main Street. We may have some old things you would like! My husband and I have been following you and yours for many years now and would love the opportunity to meet you in person. Thank you for blessing our lives everyday. 🦋🙏🏼❤️

    Reply
  44. Christina - September 5, 2021 3:59 pm

    Absolutely Sean!

    Reply
  45. Linda Moon - September 5, 2021 4:59 pm

    I like old stuff and even old people for which there is not much use, as others might mistakenly perceive them to be. After all, old people and old stuff are still serving or have served a useful purpose at one time. Signs from above…those ‘God Things’…were at my house just yesterday, reminding me of a father who used to be. Your Daddy is there with you and mine’s with me right now. That other one, who was so very much like yours, was “around” yesterday. And we knew it.

    Reply
  46. Margaret Spencer - September 5, 2021 5:30 pm

    I think this is one reason I love the flea markets and antique shops ~ connections and memories, and signs. And, interestingly, after I read your piece in my mail and then clicked to comment, I saw the sketch of the Pyrex mini tea pot. That image flew through my mind yesterday as I was steeping a pot of tea (in a Hall teapot); for several years I went over to my great aunt’s house mid morning on Saturday to cook her dinner – fried chicken and I can’t remember what else – and the first thing I did was boil water in that little tea pot for her iced tea. It must have made only two tall glasses. Anyway …
    BUT – you should frequent art museums a bit more often. Really.
    I love you, too, Sean of the South.

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  47. Robert Chiles - September 5, 2021 5:49 pm

    It’s called a consolation.

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  48. Richard Dowling - September 5, 2021 6:11 pm

    Thank you, Sean.

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  49. MAM - September 5, 2021 6:14 pm

    Thank you, Sean. You reminded us to look for those God’s winks. I see them often, but I should look more carefully, because yes, they exist. I think they are actually what many call coincidences.Or, as a new friend said to me yesterday, I think it was meant for us to meet. When I was growing up, I would excitedly look forward to the next Saturday Evening Post, mainly for the Norman Rockwell painting on the front cover. I believe you write what God tells you to write. You are indeed blessed!

    Reply
  50. emily Pickell - September 5, 2021 7:14 pm

    I love this! Today is the 5th anniversary of my daddy’s passing, and your words brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.

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  51. Chasity Davis Ritter. Freddie’s daughter - September 5, 2021 7:54 pm

    It’s only 2 days until my Dad’s 3 year angelversary. Yes his signs are all around. I love you too, Daddy.

    Reply
  52. Patricia Gibson - September 5, 2021 8:23 pm

    Me too, Sean❤️❤️No such thing as coincidence

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  53. Suzi - September 5, 2021 8:35 pm

    You are the blessed recipient of a “God Wink” .

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  54. Scott Benson - September 5, 2021 9:17 pm

    Hey Sean, how did you know today was my dad’s birthday?? Gone 20 years but always around. Happy Birthday Daddy!! Love you!!

    Reply
  55. Julie - September 5, 2021 9:27 pm

    Oh Sean. You have such a way of writing. So glad that I found you! I haven’t read a story you have written that I love, they all seem to hit a spot in my heart. Your writings are what the world needs now. Keep on writing! ❤️

    Reply
  56. Marlene C Passarelli - September 5, 2021 10:29 pm

    I pray that your many wonderful memories that you’ve shared with us of your father help ease the pain of the hard one. I doubt anything can erase that pain for you but I believe our pain can be redeemed. I lost my youngest brother to drowning 33 years ago when he was 25. He was a good and kind person – a mental health worker on call overnight at our local Emergency Rooms to be with teenagers who had attempted suicide or overdosed on drugs. There are no satisfactory answers for why good people are taken too soon. You just learn to live with the questions knowing that God sees your pain and cares. Your father sounds like an amazing man. A truly good man and a wise and loving father. I have no doubt you’ll see him in heaven.

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  57. Elisabeth Bennett - September 5, 2021 10:29 pm

    I love your writing, Sean.

    Reply
  58. Rich - September 6, 2021 1:43 pm

    Had a Rockwell exhibit here in Carrollton, GA, a couple of years back. One painting tied in to a local school, Oak Mountain Academy. I had no idea. Like you I went through the exhibit once by myself and then took my wife after she came out of her writers’ club meeting. And I agree with your dad-“Old Norm sees the world in such a happy way. “

    Reply
  59. mizliz225iz Hiyt Eberle - September 6, 2021 6:45 pm

    Thank you, Sean. I need a sign today.

    Reply
  60. terry - September 6, 2021 9:45 pm

    You’re kinda like ol’ Norm except you paint with words. You both see the goodness in life.

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    • Debbie g - September 7, 2021 5:03 pm

      Terry. Couldn’t have said it better. Thanks to you and Sean

      Reply
  61. tart51aolcom - September 7, 2021 1:37 am

    I believe

    Reply
  62. caryl clem - September 11, 2021 7:28 pm

    I volunteer in a charity thrift store and I feel angels guide the customers to the treasures they seek. So many times just after I have placed a vintage piece in a spot will come the excited,” Oh, this is EXACTLY what I want.” Since love never dies, God and loved ones constantly impact our lives.

    Reply
  63. Bill Harris - September 17, 2021 12:26 am

    Thank you Sean. I see the little signs, too. God is good.

    Reply

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