Old Things

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.” 

I love flea markets and antique stores. This is because I like old things 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.”


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?”


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.


  1. Sandi in FL - October 28, 2017 11:08 am

    Sean, I really like it when you share fond remembrances of your daddy. It always makes me think of my own dear daddy. We were blessed, and the memory is a very good thing.

  2. Angie - October 28, 2017 11:14 am

    I will keep this short. I hate emails. I receive tons. Emails are an evil necessity. I subscribed to receive notifications of your new posts by email. I love your posts, they make me smile. I still hate email. Thanks for the smiles.

  3. Judy - October 28, 2017 11:30 am

    I visited that same art show in Birmingham…his paintings do depict the happier side of life. As I read this story, I realized that Sean Dietrich is the “Norman Rockwell of words.” Thank you for continuing Norman’s legacy of presenting what is good and happier in everyday life.

    • Carlin Brooks - March 12, 2018 12:56 pm

      WOW! Judy nailed it!! “The Norman Rockwell of Words”! Put it on your business card, Sean.

  4. Maxine - October 28, 2017 12:09 pm

    I also visited that same exhibit in Birmingham with my husband. We’re not art patrons but we certainly enjoyed that exhibit. Looking at his work was much like watching life at it’s finest, you just couldn’t get enough because each said so much.

    I agree with Judy in that Sean of the South paints in our minds the details of moments and people that reveal the goodness and richness there are people. It’s my daily devotional…along with a few other folks that I’ve shared him with 😉

    • Mariam - October 28, 2017 5:22 pm

      Mine too Maxine….he is the Steve Hartman of CBS News “on the road” ! Going around this great country to find “good people, doing good things, for others!” I actually read Sean’s posts( if they’re post early) before my meditations on occasion. He is “the best”!

  5. teachenglish67 - October 28, 2017 12:11 pm

    Signs from above…….well, you bet cha there are. I hear my parents at time when I speak. Just the other day I mentioned “spit up” on a social media in reference to what a certain food would make me do. A person stated, “I haven’t heard that term since my grandmother was living.” Hmmm, Mother would always say that. She felt other terms were too harsh, especially the one which starts with a “P”. Daddy had had an extensive vocabulary. I hear him when I use some of those words. Yep, signs from above do exist.

  6. Connie - October 28, 2017 12:16 pm

    I love old things too. Flea markets and antique stores, roadside yard sales and thrift stores. Not because anybody taught me any value in old things, but because I like to think about who may have touched those things, what their lives were like, the people who loved them. And there is longevity in old things. Not like today’s things, made to be replaced in a week, but made to last. You are an old soul and made to last.

    • Deena - March 12, 2018 3:30 pm

      Exactly how I feel about old things and Sean, Connie!

  7. Linda - October 28, 2017 12:40 pm

    What a lovely column today. I know you are a Southern man and seem to stay mainly in the South but if you ever get the chance to visit “ Norm’s “ studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts….His paints are right where he left them and you can really feel his presence. I have loved his work since I saw his “Four Freedoms“ -the dad standing over his sleeping children holding a newspaper with a dire headline …that Dad resembles my own Dad so much…
    Bless you Sean….

  8. sarawebervb - October 28, 2017 12:42 pm

    Just beautiful. Thank you, Sean.

  9. Sheron Johnson - October 28, 2017 12:43 pm

    S00000 perfect for you……The Norman Rockwell of words……….Judy is spot on

  10. Donna J. masmar - October 28, 2017 1:07 pm

    I love to start my day with your meditations–thanks.

  11. Jack Quanstrum - October 28, 2017 1:16 pm

    Precious, Passion for all that is good!

  12. Connie - October 28, 2017 2:07 pm

    Wow!!! Just Wow!!!

  13. Sharon Hand - October 28, 2017 2:11 pm

    God is there in the good and bad with His loving arms wrapped around you.

  14. Liz - October 28, 2017 2:13 pm

    Sitting on the porch reading your beautiful essay. I finish, look up and see the fattest, reddist cardinal. That’s how my mama says hi. She liked your essay too.

  15. Pat - October 28, 2017 2:50 pm

    When you do experience “that sign from above”, you never forget it. You KNOW there is a God! So glad you had your experience and I’m quite sure you’ve had more. You seem to be someone who looks for them.

  16. Martha - October 28, 2017 2:58 pm

    The red headed soldier home from the war was a favorite of mine and sorta fitting. What wonderful paintings these are…..was always excited to see what the next Saturday Evening Post would bring.

  17. Laura Green McLeod - October 28, 2017 3:11 pm

    What Old Norm did with pictures, you do with words. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  18. Trina V. - October 28, 2017 3:48 pm

    I definitely believe in signs from above! About a year and a half ago, my brother-in-law died after suffering from Parkinson’s disease for about 10 years. The day of his funeral, his granddaughter (who was 8) asked her mom (his daughter) if we would be going “to the yard or back to that other place” (cemetery or funeral home.) My niece explained that we would go to the funeral home first and then to the cemetery. She asked about Pop. Her mom explained he would be taken to the cemetery too. In her 8-year-old innocence, she asked, “In the back of Daddy’s truck?” This made us all chuckle.The next day I saw a post of Facebook of a casket in the back of a pick-up truck, and I burst into laughter because I knew that was a sign from Danny saying all was good. Only someone with his sense of humor would have sent that particular sign.

  19. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - October 28, 2017 5:07 pm

    If we didn’t care what you think we wouldn’t be reading your bit.

  20. Jan - October 28, 2017 5:37 pm

    Amen! I knew we were kindred souls on so many levels. Now I have proof!

  21. Linda Chipman - October 28, 2017 5:53 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful words and for making me think of my Daddy.

  22. Tallulah Snell - October 28, 2017 10:36 pm

    I treasure all your sharings each morning, but I believe this may be my favorite. Some of my friends call these happenings “God Winks!” I think they are more than a wink!

    • teachenglish67 - October 31, 2017 12:30 am

      I love your name, Tallulah Snell. Tallulah Bankhead was a favorite character of mine. Her voice was unmistakable.

  23. Sue Cronkite - October 28, 2017 11:48 pm

    Another great column. I learned to drink coffee from a blue spotted pot from before the new-fangled percolators. My daddy was a lot like yours.

  24. Peggy Anderson - October 29, 2017 10:31 pm

    One of my favorite Rockwell paintings is the one you described of the lady praying. I always thought my grandmother must have been his model, looked so much like her and what she would do.

  25. Simple Thyme Prims - October 30, 2017 1:15 am

    New subscriber, so happy to have found your site. Yes the signs are small, and everywhere. My father passed almost a year ago, I saw him today, the words came into my mind, everything will be fine.

  26. Marion - October 30, 2017 2:49 am

    Thank you again.

  27. Cheryl Dula - October 30, 2017 10:15 am

    I saw the “Norman Rockwell” exhibit in Washingto in DC and felt the same way. I could have spent more time taking in the beauty around us as he saw it. I too believe in the little signs and sometimes they speak to me from your column. On those day I thank you.

  28. Susan Barfield - October 30, 2017 4:17 pm

    Wow. Just wow. Thank you.

  29. Kim O Washington - November 1, 2017 6:56 pm

    Yep God is always getting our attention if we let him and our folks are right there with him egging Him on as if God needs it. Beautiful minutes of connections in our everydays.

  30. Sam Hunneman - November 3, 2017 12:10 am

    Busy weekend. So glad I caught up with this one. Old Norm… yes indeed. Could use a whole lot more of his way of looking at things these days.

  31. Kay Chisholm - November 28, 2017 9:43 am

    I like to buy little things at estate sales. I think about how this little silver bell or baby shoe was important to someone. I don’t like to see things tossed away that were important. To someone.

  32. Melissa Mikkelsen - November 28, 2017 10:39 am

    My grandmother died when I was about 20 and it was absolutely devastating to me. We were at the cemetery and I was crying so hard I thought they were going to have to carry me to the car. All of a sudden I saw something that floored me. There were three butterflies that went by, two beautiful ones and one that flew crooked dropping and wavering in the air as it went by. It was a huge big glaring sign there in the cemetery where we were burying my grandmother across from her identical twin and that twins husband, who had limped since he was a child from the polio that twisted his leg. There is no doubt that God is there and that love never ends.

  33. Diane Rinaldi - November 28, 2017 12:16 pm

    Thank you for, daily, making my day better! ??

  34. Gloria - November 28, 2017 1:29 pm

    As always, you touch our hearts

  35. Deanna J - November 28, 2017 1:36 pm

    Your blog is a special part of my day! Thank you!

  36. Deb Bettis - November 28, 2017 8:10 pm

    I also have a Norman Rockwell compilation book, Sean. Every once in awhile, I pull it out and look at life through Mr. Rockwell’s eyes. And that is a very good thing! My Granny Viola used to keep an old coffee pot on the back burner of her stove, too. I loved looking at it, when I walked into her country kitchen. She also had one of those pretty clocks with a glass dome, that sat on the fireplace mantel. I would sit for hours, just watching the light reflect from the glass. Old things are wonderful. Now I am turning into an old thing, myself! Thanks for sharing your memories. They nudged mine out of the back corner of my mind!

  37. Brenda - March 12, 2018 10:39 am

    Norman Rockwell said he painted life as it should have been. I have a large book as well and have purchased some of his paintings at his museum in Vermont. He’s a favorite for sure.

  38. Debbie Moseley - March 12, 2018 11:43 am

    You are definitely my “Norman Rockwell” the way your words paint everlasting images in my mind. Your stories are my God Winks every morning and I love and appreciate every one of them! ❤️❤️❤️

  39. Carolyn Kelley - March 12, 2018 12:07 pm

    Love this❤️

  40. Linda Carullo - March 13, 2018 7:07 pm

    Norman Rockwell saw things the way they were supposed to be and he once said. “ All I need to paint is an old man, a child and a dog “
    I hope that one day Sean, you take a trip to Stockbridge, MA where “Old Norm” lived and painted. His home has been preserved and his paints are right there where he left them. His studio is well worth the trip.He used local townspeople for his subjects…..
    As far as signs…..I see them almost every day and when you really look for them you realize there is no such thing as coincidences….the synchronicity of things is unmistakable.
    A quick one – my Aunt Connie never forgot my birthday – 4 months after she passed, I received a dollar bill as change with the name Connie written across it in black bold letters on my actual birthday…..
    Of all the dollar bills in circulation. 365 days in the year. How many names are there ?
    You just have to believe.
    Thanks, as always for your writings….


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