Porch Sitting

My wife had to take anti-nausea medication on our cruise. It made her drowsy. All she did was sleep in the cabin while I explored the ship.

We are sitting on a porch overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay on the first day of autumn. It is one of those accidental porch-sitting sessions where everyone ends up on the porch, but nobody planned it.

I am in a rocking chair, feet up. My elderly mother-in-law (Mother Mary) sits beside me doing the same thing. My wife is sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Our eighty-pound bloodhound wanders in circles, looking for something to chew, bury, or pee on.

Nobody is talking in complete sentences because there’s no need for coherent thought right now. The rules of porch-sitting are loose.

“Lord,” says Mother Mary. “Look at all these mosquitoes.”

“Yeah,” says my wife.


Every porch conversation in West Florida starts out with mosquitoes. It’s our tradition. But once you’ve covered mosquitoes, you can talk about anything.

You can talk about the time when a mosquito flew into your uncle’s shorts and bit him in his unmentionables, so he slapped himself in a place where a man should never swat himself.

Or you can talk about the time Mother Mary got malaria from a mosquito bite and had a high fever, then started singing Broadway songs at the dinner table.

Or you can talk about—why not?—that time Johnny Cooper dared you to eat a live lizard tail when you were in third grade.

Which is what I start talking about.

“So did you?” Mother Mary interrupts. “Did you actually EAT a lizard tail?”

“No, but I pretended to.”

“How do you pretend to eat a lizard tail?”

“I had gummy worms in my pocket, so I slipped one into my mouth and let it dangle, and I pretended to gag.”

“Gummy worms? Did you always carry gummy worms in your pocket as a boy?”

“No ma’am, but God was on my side that day.”

My lizard-eating stunt went down in history. To this day, people still think I actually ate a lizard tail. I can be in the grocery store, or in line at the DMV, and someone will recognize me for this act of bravery and sincerely ask if I forgot to take my medication this morning.

“Look at the water,” says my wife, staring at the bay. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Sure is,” says Mother Mary. “And so calm.”

“I love it when it’s calm.”

“Me too.”

“Remember when we all took that cruise to Alaska? And Jamie got motion sick?”

“I was so sick,” says my wife. “It was awful.”

“I got to see a glacier,” says Mother Mary. “It was great.”

“I didn’t see anything,” says my wife. “I was too busy puking my butt off.”

“Don’t use that word, dear.”

“Sorry. I was ralphing my butt off.”

Mary says, “So if cruises make you sick, why’d you keep going on more of them?”

“I suppose I just kept hoping that the next one would be better, so I gave it another shot.”

But the next cruise was not better. Take it from me (devoted husband, mediocre fisherman, Capricorn, and occasional dishwasher). I have been on multiple cruises with my wife. Each time our boat departed from the New Orleans port, she turned Sea Foam Green then leaned over the railing and…

Goodbye appetite.

I am the kind of person who cannot be around a nauseous person or else I become nauseous, too. Eating lizard tails? No problem. Being around people who vomit? Forget it.

So my wife had to take anti-nausea medication on our cruise. It made her drowsy. All she did was sleep in the cabin while I explored the ship.

It was big fun. I did everything. I rode the water slide a thousand times, I made friends with bartenders. Each morning, I attended the various hobby classes. I learned how to needlepoint, weave baskets, and I did yoga with a bunch of ladies who were celebrating their seventieth birthdays together.

After hours, I would visit the karaoke bar as a spectator. I would sit in the back, watching old men attempt to sing “My Way,” by Frank Sinatra, and “If You Think I’m Sexy,” by Rod Stewart.

But nothing could top the group of white-haired seventy-year-old birthday girls. They wore feather boas, plastic tiaras, and danced to “Rolling on a River” by Ike and Tina Turner. For their grand finale, one woman fell face forward into the audience and lost her dentures in someone’s vodka cranberry.

This was before cellphone video cameras, otherwise I could have made a lot of money.

“I’d love to go on another cruise,” says Mary.

“Never again,” says my wife.

“Rolling on a river,” I add.

My wife says, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to see the Redwood National Park, and Yosemite.”

“Well,” I say, “I think I’d like to see Canada one day. I hear it’s beautiful.”

Mother Mary stares at the bay. “Do you know what? When you are my age you don’t need to travel anymore. My house is my favorite place on earth. And this bay, oh… Just look at it. What could be better than having my daughter and son-in-law right here on this porch beside me? Tell me what could be better? This is gonna be a great autumn.”

“Yeah,” says my wife.


A lizard crawls past me. I decide not to eat him. Just this once.


  1. Elizabeth - September 24, 2019 10:29 am

    I love a good porch sitting event!

  2. Betty F. - September 24, 2019 11:32 am

    Sean- Tell you’re wife to have the doctor prescribe Transdern/ Scop patches. One half patch behind her ear will do the trick. I look at boats and Ralph. With the patch-not sleepy, not sick, don’t start telling the truth ( it’s scopolamine)- and I had a great cruise.

  3. Joy - September 24, 2019 12:30 pm

    My day has barely started and I have already learned two things…..what Ralph means and also that today is National Punctuation Day!

  4. Bob - September 24, 2019 12:31 pm

    Ginger tablets are a miracle cure for seasickness. Try them and you will be very glad you did.

  5. Ala Red Clay Girl - September 24, 2019 12:36 pm

    No bay here – just pasture, cows, horses and a few wayward chickens. Still, it is enjoyable sitting on the porch watching life unfold.

  6. Sallie - September 24, 2019 12:53 pm

    I love porch sitting on my swing looking out @ my brown grass. Heat wave here in Alabama🙄

  7. T.C. - September 24, 2019 12:59 pm

    yep, if it’s watching a morning sunrise, or an evening sunset, or listening to the noises of the night, or just eating a sandwich at lunch time, or after a big Sunday dinner. I can’t think of anywhere as relaxing as sitting on a porch.

  8. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - September 24, 2019 1:07 pm

    My old family home has a front porch that my family has sat on for years. The only view is of the cars passing by with most everyone waving. Thanks for the memories your story just evoked.

  9. Bobbie - September 24, 2019 1:38 pm

    Such a nice way to start my day. Thank you Sean. I don’t have a porch anymore…I have a patio. I’m so thankful to have it, but it’s just not the same. I’ve had many porches during my lifetime…my favorite was the screened porch overlooking the Gulf at Cape San Blas. Oh, the sunsets! Unbelievable!! Next favorite was the one in the mountains in North Georgia…the one the bear destroyed one night. A lesson learned there…don’t feed the birds, or anything else! I can picture the three of you on your porch. Sean, do you really know how blessed you are ? Really? Savor those porch times…good memories made there.
    God bless you.

  10. Shelton A. - September 24, 2019 2:55 pm

    Hard to believe you got away with eating the lizard tail. Everyone I know who has been to Alaska has loved going there. When Jamie lifts her head from over the rail, she might get lucky and see a whale (take her on an Alaska cruise-she’ll thank you later by swatting you in a place you’d much prefer not to be swatted). Tell her it was my idea.

  11. Linda Moon - September 24, 2019 3:31 pm

    I sat on my front porch yesterday evening and watched the sky ’til the first star lit up. My view overlooks hills and valleys, but no water. It was just me …. so no conversations going on. Thank you for sharing your conversations from over there in West Florida! Mother Mary was right….sitting on a porch with bay views or starlight on the first day of autumn is about all we need. My family was right down the road enjoying their own first evening of autumn, especially the regular nightly porch-sitter!

  12. Chris W. Spencer - September 24, 2019 6:32 pm

    I have my ticket to see you this coming Thursday night, September 26th, in Aliceville, Aabama. I am looking forward to it after being a fan for these last couple of years.
    I hope to get to meet you, shake your hand and get you to sign my copy of your book for me.
    The Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise I’ll be there. Take care and may God continue to bless you,
    Chris Spencer
    Echola, Alabama

  13. Ann - September 24, 2019 10:57 pm

    She has it…there is no place like home!!…..lizards and all😉

  14. Robert Chiles - September 24, 2019 11:37 pm

    You couldn’t pay me enough money to go on a cruise. But go see the redwoods and/or the Sequoyahs. They are fabulous. And you don’t have to go on a boat.

  15. Barbara Holmes Kelly - September 25, 2019 7:50 pm

    I hope this message can get to your Mother-in-Law Mary. I grew up in Brewton and went to school with Mary. Our families were not socially connected but in Brewton, in that age, everyone knew everyone. I watched Mary and Jim be sweethearts all through high school. They fit well. We were all friends in a small school. I can visualize Mary, your Mother Mary , looking just like her Mother , Mary. Southern lady will sweet words for all. Her dads time spent in tHE Big Store downtown. Their beautiful home on Belleville ave was not envy in my heart but set a dream in my heart to someday have a beautiful home too. ( and I have). Her parents were always kind to me and my family. My mother, raising 4 children alone, worked in town and was known as a good lady. They treated her that way too. Sean I’m glad you are who you are and can write your hearts thoughts. Sounds like you were gifted ,by God, with the perfect wife and family. Barbara Holmes Kelly

  16. Joe Patterson - September 25, 2019 8:38 pm

    Thanks again

  17. That's jack - September 26, 2019 1:01 pm

    Porch sitting , one of my favorite past times. We only have a small one, but still enjoy it.

  18. Edna B. - September 26, 2019 6:00 pm

    Your Mom in law is right. There’s really no place like sitting on my little porch with my dog Pogo. You folks have a wonderful day sitting out there. Hugs, Edna B.

  19. Estelle - October 8, 2019 4:01 am

    Most new houses don’t have porches. I grew up in a house with two porches. The one on the front went half way round the house. The one at the back was an L shape and ran the length of the kitchen and the small part of the L was along one bedroom. The front porch had a swing. I remember getting up at 5:00 am each Sunday to sit alone on that swing and read and enjoy my home. I don’t have many memories of my childhood but that one stands out. Then air conditioners came and people didn’t porch sit much anymore. We lost something there. I have a swing in my backyard but I’m out there alone except for my dog. People just don’t sit outside anymore. What a loss.

  20. Denise L Gunnels - October 17, 2019 3:06 pm

    I used to work with a group who always smoked on our porch at the office. I don’t smoke. It was a comfortable place with benches, etc. One afternoon a co-worker came to me and said, “Come on, let’s go smoke.” I replied that I didn’t smoke which she knew very well. She said, “It’s not about the smoking, it’s about the porching.”


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