One Night in Mount Juliet

MOUNT JULIET—I am doing a book signing event tonight. Which is a fancy way of saying that I’m using a Sharpie to deface the property of innocent people.

Right now Tennessee is cold, biting, and everyone is wearing jackets. I shake hands, give hugs, sign books, and continuously run my mouth with everyone I meet. This is slowing down the line, but I can’t help it. I’m a big talker just like my mother.

And tonight I’m hugging necks from all over the Southeast.

One of the first necks I hug belongs to a guy from Sopchoppy, Florida. He is cheery and has a long beard. And we are discussing the finer points of underpants. Seriously.

He tells me he has recently discovered a new brand of cutting-edge undies that are built for comfort. We talk about these underpants in great detail. And before we say goodbye his exact parting words are: “You’re gonna love the underpants, man! They’re awesome underpants!”

So the literary event is off to an excellent start.

I hug the necks of Stephani and Jacki, two sisters who grew up with a mother that forgot to put E’s on the ends of their names.

I meet Randy and LaTresa, a talented husband-and-wife musical duo who give me copies of their albums.

I run into my friend Matthew, who brought his sweet mother. If I am not mistaken, Matthew is wearing orange-and-blue Auburn University plaid. Which hurts my Crimson heart a little.

I see my pal Rob. Rob is a real author with a bona fide career. For some reason, call it misfortune, he has believed in me from the early days. One time he even drove all the way to Alabama just to see me perform. That was back when I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, after much practice and a few years of trial and error, I still have no freaking idea what I’m doing.

I shake hands with Mark, who came from Virginia. I asked why he drove so far. He said, “I love to drive, dude. And besides, you look just like my brother, he died last month. And since I can’t see Lucas, I thought I’d see you.” Then he asks for a hug.

One woman came from Franklin, Kentucky. Her first husband died, leaving her and her eleven-year-old son behind.

She says, “You wrote a column especially for me once. Do you remember that?”

I do. About a year ago I wrote a story that took place when I was her son’s age. It was about how after my father’s funeral my mother took us to Branson. It was the worst period of my existence, but somehow, because of my mother, the sun shined for a week in Branson.

The woman shows me pictures of a cute little boy standing beside his late daddy. “That’s my sweet son,” she says.

Two ladies traveled here from North Carolina just to bring me some Chili Cheese Fritos and a stuffed squirrel for my dog.

I meet another sweet couple from Luverne, Alabama—not far from my home. Both of whom say to me in unison: “We just wanna know if you’ve ever eaten at the Chicken Shack?”

Have I? Does a fat dog squat? The Chicken Shack is where God lives.

I meet an older couple from Northern Illinois. A teenage girl from Minnesota. A young man who moved to Tennessee from Mobile, who is so homesick he can’t see straight.

Then comes the Baptist minister, Wayne, and his wife. Wayne’s father used to have a church in Geneva, Alabama, long ago. And I get excited because I actually know where this church is.

“Hey,” Wayne goes on, patting my shoulder, “I just wanted to tell you that I love you. And I mean it.”

Not many Baptist preachers have told me this. And to be fair, I haven’t always deserved to hear it. We get our photo taken together and I threaten to visit Wayne’s little church in Maple Grove someday. He says, “I’d be tickled.”

To my knowledge, I have never successfully tickled any Baptist preachers.

At the end of the line is a man named Randy. He’s a nice guy. Red beard. He’s from Gallatin, Tennessee. By the time we shake hands the bookstore is empty and about to close. Randy has been waiting a few hours and I feel terrible about that.

“I’m an undertaker,” Randy says. “My grandfather died when I was fourteen, and that’s when I first got into the funeral business.”

He tells me that the director for his grandfather’s funeral took Randy under his wing. And that was that. Randy has been doing funerals since before he was old enough to drive.

After our conversation, I apologize to Randy for making him stand in line so long.

He laughs. “You call that a line? I’m a funeral director, man. You haven’t seen a real line.”

Then he digs into his pocket and hands me a lapel pin with the Tennessee flag on it. He says, “Remember us when you’re on the road, because Tennessee appreciates you.”

Tonight, my wife and I are highway bound for Mississippi. Then comes Alabama and Georgia. I do not want to forget the people I have met in this little bookstore on a cold Tennessee evening. Which is why I have pinned the state flag onto my jacket, and am wearing it over my heart.

I am also wearing some extremely cutting-edge underpants right now.

34 comments

  1. Allyson - March 1, 2020 7:24 am

    You have a gift for storytelling. Thanks for making me smile on yet another sleepless night.

    Reply
  2. Sandi. - March 1, 2020 7:26 am

    I so thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, Sean. It was almost like standing nearby in that Mount Juliet bookstore watching the various people hug you and talk to you as you signed their copies of your books. Each person seemed genuinely interesting and unique. I wish you had asked someone to take a big group photo of all of y’all together so you could share it online! Safe travels to you and Jamie on your book tour.

    Reply
  3. Marileen and Joe Knisley - March 1, 2020 7:34 am

    Oh wow, we missed this, obviously don’t know what’s going on around us in Tennessee. Would have driven from Northeast TN to hug you. Not to mention my husband needs to know about that new underwear(not in an awkward way). We will check your schedule to see where you’ll be. Truly love to read your work, it makes us feel at home!
    Knisleys in TN

    Reply
  4. Cathi Russell - March 1, 2020 10:34 am

    Sean, you do make me smile! Safe travels to you & Jamie.

    Reply
  5. Bernadette Wyckoff - March 1, 2020 11:36 am

    Once again Sean you made me smile and chuckle just a bit….by the way may I ask what color are those awesome underpants…bet your lovely wife is the only one that knows the answer to that one. Y’all enjoy your journey …while I enjoy your writings every morning with my coffee. Hope to stand in line to meet you one day. If you’re near MARLOW .AL. Co rd 9 & 28 MUMChurch always has hugs and mugs(coffee) waiting for you!!🙏💞🙏

    Reply
  6. nana2caleb - March 1, 2020 11:37 am

    Thank you for the story and the smiles! Travel safe, have FUN!

    Reply
  7. Cynthia Harmon - March 1, 2020 12:57 pm

    My daughter, Stephanie, lives a stone’s throw from Mt. Juliet. (notice that I did not forget the e at the end of her name, ha ha.) I have seen more ads for men’s underwear lately, so I have an idea of the brand. Seems strange, but we’ve been seeing ads for women’s underwear for a long time. Your turn. My other daughter, Rebecca, and I will be seeing you in a couple of weeks in Huntsville. Can’t wait. I read you every day and listen to your podcasts. Lots of love to you and Jamie. Take care as you travel.

    Reply
  8. BJ Smith - March 1, 2020 12:57 pm

    How can we find out your tour schedule for Mississippi?

    Reply
  9. Connie Havard Ryland - March 1, 2020 1:06 pm

    You are one of a handful of authors who can make me cry and laugh simultaneously. Have a lovely trip. I have to check your Alabama schedule. It’s time to see you again.

    Reply
  10. Jan - March 1, 2020 1:18 pm

    I love you Sean, even though the remark about Auburn orange and blue hurt just a little bit! I have some Alabama fans in my family but most of us have orange and blue blood running through our veins… Looking forward to seeing you soon!

    Reply
  11. bkr - March 1, 2020 1:22 pm

    I promise I laugh and cry at just about all your stories! I am so excited to be seeing you in Meridian MS! I’ve been at your shows in Gardendale (on my birthday in 2018) and in Aliceville Al in 2019 (not on my birthday). I would be at your show in Trussville this month but it’s my grandson’s 13th birthday and he will be at our house (we live in the sticks) camping and fishing with his buddies so we have to stay home and cook and stuff. But I was sooo happy when I heard you were going to be on Meridian! See you Monday night!

    Reply
  12. Elizabeth - March 1, 2020 1:40 pm

    Does a fat dog squat? Classic!!!

    Reply
  13. Linda Daughtry - March 1, 2020 2:19 pm

    There’ll be a museum at the beach one day with exhibits of all the gifts people give you: including those underpants!

    Reply
  14. theholtgirls - March 1, 2020 2:50 pm

    Sean was in Southaven on Mar. 1 @ 2pm at Books-A-Million. If I were not still quarantined after surgery, I would have been there. Sorry we missed him!

    Reply
  15. Robert Clark Bowling - March 1, 2020 4:22 pm

    Sean! When and where will you be in Georgia? Would love to meet you. By the way, I’m a retired Methodist preacher.

    Reply
  16. Linda Moon - March 1, 2020 5:28 pm

    There’s an actual author who wrote books about Underpants. Maybe that guy in your line could’ve marketed his awesome underpants stories and saved some of your time for other talkative fans and followers. I’ll be waiting in line to see you soon. I love you, Big Talker! And I mean it, even though I grew up Baptist and still know and love a few of their preachers!

    Reply
  17. Nancy Rogers - March 1, 2020 6:13 pm

    Saw you last year at the Methodist Church in Ozark, Alabama and looking forward to seeing you on March 18th in McDonough, Ga. Love you, Jamie and your dogs.

    Reply
  18. Shelton A. - March 1, 2020 7:00 pm

    Only a talented writer could draw so many people from all over into TN. Safe travels and God bless.

    Reply
  19. Terri - March 1, 2020 7:39 pm

    I have paid for my non-existent ticket to see you in Georgia, SO EXCITED!! I totally expect a hug. Does the price of my ticket include an intro to your lovely wife? Too much to hope that the dogs are there… Love you much Sean.

    Reply
  20. aleathia nicholson - March 1, 2020 8:52 pm

    Mt. Juliet has grown by leaps and bounds since I moved to Nashville in 1968. My good friend lives there and she makes real fig preserves from scratch. Let me know when and if you come to Nashville. I’ll take you to BI-RITE grocery store so you can buy some TOE Jam…..Tangerine/Orange/Elderberry….also if you’d druther, some FROG Jam-Fig/Raspberry/Oranges/Ginger. This is the truth as I spread it on wheat toast for breakfast every morning.

    Reply
  21. Melanie - March 1, 2020 9:01 pm

    Sean I envy you. You are doing exactly what you were born to do. ❤️

    Reply
  22. Melanie Levy - March 1, 2020 9:39 pm

    Will you ever come to Louisiana? North Louisiana…specifically Ruston…home of the La Tech bulldogs…i dont think we play Alabama—well…we did once and my son (also named Sean) caught the winning touchdown and they beat Alabama 29-28 (i think…it was a long time ago and numbers dont stick in my brain). I would stand in line to meet you!

    Reply
  23. Barbar - March 1, 2020 10:54 pm

    Barbara

    Reply
  24. Nancy M - March 2, 2020 12:52 am

    Looking forward to your visit in Montgomery!
    “Cutting edge” underpants don’t sound very comfortable!

    Reply
  25. Chasity Davis Ritter - March 2, 2020 2:38 am

    You always make me smile even when I cry. Hope you took a picture with Mark too. Sounds like it was a blessed evening with new friends all around.

    Reply
  26. Roy Parker - March 2, 2020 3:20 am

    We visited Mt. Juliet the last time we went to Nashville. Beautiful community. Hope you got a chance to enjoy it. Great article. Thanks.

    Reply
  27. Tom Dean - March 2, 2020 1:57 pm

    golly bum…that was so dang good. Roll Tide. Can’t wait to see you next week Sean…

    Reply
  28. Tammy S. - March 2, 2020 3:55 pm

    As a home-grown Tennessee girl, I loved this!!! Live in NC now but pass through Mt. Juliet every time I go home to see my parents. It’s a stopping point for my husband and me. If it had not been a “Jack-weekend” I would have stood in line as long as it took to shake your hand and thank you, and your wife, for the smile you bring to my face every morning. Jack is our grandson and we have him every other weekend, Friday-Sunday. Hope to meet you all one day to say thanks in person. Come to think of, maybe we’ll bring Jack along. Until then, thanks Sean!!

    Reply
  29. RR Girdler - March 2, 2020 4:46 pm

    Modern day Lewis Grizzard, thanks to Pastor Wayne and Andrew for turning me on to you Sean!

    Reply
  30. Lisa Martin - March 4, 2020 3:03 pm

    You are finally coming to Thacker Mountain Radio! I can’t wait to see you! I hope you will be signing books there too!

    Reply
  31. Beth Ann Chiles - March 4, 2020 10:26 pm

    We were so very excited to actually meet you in Mt. Juliet, hug your neck and talk awhile. Your attention to each and every person who came to hear you speak and sing was so moving and truly a gift. Thanks for being the amazing man that you are!

    Reply
  32. Pingback: Two Ladies from North Carolina in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee - It's Just Life

  33. Geno - March 11, 2020 7:19 am

    I hope all of your Mount Juliet friends came through last Monday night okay.

    Reply
  34. Lisa O’Connor - April 6, 2020 4:50 am

    I was there at the book signing in Mt Juliet. It was a last minute decision and I am so happy I did. I admired you and meeting you was like meeting an old friend. I met your lovely wife. I told her she was just as famous as you. She shook her head and waved me off. You have immortalized her in word. She is famous. I had never been to a book signing and did not know what to expect. I love your writing and having met you, I read with a new connection. I got a hug around the neck from this guy. He seemed glad that I was there! Keep writing, I’m invested now! Last but not least, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” was excellent. You took us on a journey with you. In a time of uncertainty in our world, you helped us believe a little more that everything is going to be ok! Lisa from Nashville

    Reply

Leave a Comment