Precious Memories

This Thanksgiving season I’m thankful for good memories. First and foremost.

Memories I have made with my wife, with my family, with my fishing rod. Memories of happy childhood days, memories of minor triumphs, of people who loved me, and memories involving beer.

Yes. I am infinitely grateful for pleasant memories. Because nothing in this world stays the same, everything changes. Things deteriorate. Health fades. Car warranties expire. Beauty goes south in a hurry. But memories, once they’re formed, don’t change. Some even get better with age.

You can time travel if you pick the right memory. You can surf into the past and remember moments that made you feel strong, encouraged, lighthearted, and alive.

I’m grateful for my memories.

I’m also thankful for good books. You don’t know how immeasurably books have helped me throughout my life. Every guy has his vice. Books are mine. I am an addict of the printed word.

I love all books. Fiction, non-fiction, “Adventure Comics,” spiral-bound cookbooks, Chilton auto repair manuals, farmers’ almanacs, and outdated encyclopedias from yard sales.

And don’t even get me started on bookstores. I can walk into a small, independently owned bookstore, listen to the tiny bell ding above the door, smell the scent of a paperbound world, and my heart turns into bread pudding.

I feel the same fondness for libraries.

Growing up I was an educational failure. After my father’s suicide I did not attend high school. I dropped out of the seventh grade. As a result, almost everything I ever learned—which ain’t much—came from the library.

Today, I am proud to say that my true alma mater is indeed the American library. The old-woman librarian is my professor, the Dewey Decimal System is my roadmap for life, Louis L’Amour and Samuel Clemens are my classmates.

In my modest opinion, the library is the greatest invention given to us by mankind aside from the George Foreman grill.

Something else I am grateful for are the beaches of West Florida. The Ninth Wonder of the World.

My home state of Florida has over 1,197 continuous miles of coastline—that’s a distance roughly three times the length of Nebraska. Most of this coastline is inhabited by old people in jogging suits with Brooklyn accents. But you can still find a private beach if you look hard enough.

It doesn’t matter where you stand in Florida, geographically, you will never be more than sixty miles from the sight of water. Growing up in a place like this does something to you, it changes your biology.

As a North Floridian man, I have saltwater-thin blood and no tolerance for temperatures below sixty-nine degrees. If it snowed, I’d probably die of thrombosis.

I need the Gulf of Mexico. “Need” being the keyword. It is a physiological need. An inalienable need. I need to hear gulls and crashing breakers. I need ospreys and herons and sea oats and alligators and giant skink lizards procreating in my garage.

Let’s see. What else?

Oh, yeah. I’m grateful for baseball. This year the Atlanta Braves won the World Series. Don’t tell me miracles aren’t real.

I’m grateful for greasy hamburgers that ruin your clothes. And ribs. For old photographs of people I love. For good dogs who, when they sense you’re having a rough day, bury their muzzles in your lap and force you to love them.

I am grateful for my wife. She is my liferaft.

I am grateful for mashed potatoes made by hand, for Cheez-Its, old Levi’s jeans, worn belt buckles that belonged to my father, anything Pabst, and the sound babies make when you blow raspberries on their bare bellies.

And I’m grateful for my mother’s old Bible.

The tattered book is covered in Scotch tape and age. The pages are brittle, the red cover is falling apart and held together by only dirt and goodwill.

There is a handwritten note on the inside flap, written in my grandmother’s perfect hand. It was a note to my mother; my grandmother was giving my mother a Bible verse.

“Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee wheresoever thou goest.”

I’ve thought about these particular words a lot during my lifetime. I’ve doubted them. I’ve ignored them. I’ve pretended they don’t matter. I’ve written them off as old-lady-speak.

But I don’t do that anymore.

And I can’t quit wondering: Why did my grandmother choose those words? The King James Bible contains 783,137 words. Out of all the passages in the Good Book, why that one?

Why select a few sentences on fear? Why not a verse on how to be happy, or successful, or filthy stinking rich? Or maybe a cute proverb about little lambs eating ivy?

Well, maybe the old woman knew things. Perhaps she knew that life can make you afraid. Deeply afraid. Paralyzingly afraid. The kind of fear that cripples your nervous system and alters your brain chemistry.

Maybe she also knew that sometimes her offspring would experience this kind of fear. Maybe even her unborn grandson. Maybe.

Either way, long ago I once heard an old woman say that fear looks to the future, but gratitude always looks to the past.

Which is why, as I say, I’m grateful for good memories.

42 comments

  1. Christina - November 8, 2021 6:17 am

    So grateful for your daily dose of goodness and stories, Sean.

    Reply
  2. Lisa K Riley - November 8, 2021 7:39 am

    “Those places where you see only one set of footprints? It was there I carried you.” My favorite interpretation of “I will never leave you nor forsake you” another piece of Scripture on fear, for how can you be afraid when the Lord God Almighty is next to you, and at times, carrying you? I don’t mind when my phone dings in the middle of the night. The likelihood it’s a Sean story makes me not afraid to look anymore.

    Reply
  3. Connie Williams - November 8, 2021 10:11 am

    Fear is simply the unknown. More trips to the library for you, dear Sean.
    Love your early morning posts. They give me hope and help me enjoy wakefulness in the wee hours.

    Reply
  4. Dean - November 8, 2021 10:48 am

    Memories are made to cherish. I have some but because of health problems I don’t remember a lot. I enjoy when family tells me of things i have forgotten.
    Love your column as always

    Reply
  5. stephenpe - November 8, 2021 10:54 am

    Your love of fishing, reading, the Gulf and libraries are my same loves. Bet you never been to Shell Mound.
    Sometimes I think we are related. Your last three stories are home runs, Sean. Im good for a fishen trip if you are ever inclined. And a great library and that book store.

    Reply
  6. dsis3 - November 8, 2021 11:16 am

    Thanks for the memories! Enjoyed your journey this morning!

    Reply
  7. Keloth Anne ♥️ - November 8, 2021 11:44 am

    Precious precious memories—indeed incredibly wonderful ♥️♥️♥️

    Reply
  8. David Brown - November 8, 2021 12:06 pm

    So Powerful and Appropriate for our times as well: “Fear looks to the Future, but Gratitude always looks to the Past”. Similar to “The Will of God will not take you where the Grace of God will not protect you”

    Reply
  9. Allison Cobb Gilmore - November 8, 2021 12:23 pm

    “…fear looks to the future, but gratitude always looks to the past…”
    Wow! Simple words with a powerful perspective shift to begin my day.

    Reply
  10. Debbie - November 8, 2021 12:34 pm

    Thank you so much for this! It spoke to me and my heart in a powerful way.

    Reply
  11. Paul McCutchen - November 8, 2021 12:43 pm

    You forgot about Hotdogs at a baseball game. Little league to the big leagues, there is nothing better with baseball than a hotdog.

    Reply
  12. Suellen - November 8, 2021 1:24 pm

    I read somewhere a few years ago that Scientists had proven that when a person is raised around a body of water they become physically attached to it. I know I’m misquoting but I hope that’s the gist of it. I was born and raised on the Ohio River and moved away when I was 44 years old. I missed it every day. Thankfully we were able to move back last year when I was 66. It always makes me smile to step outside and hear a boat on the river blow their horn. I know I’m home.

    Reply
  13. Cathy - November 8, 2021 1:26 pm

    Memories are gifts from the past and cannot be taken away. Some good, some not so good but I choose to remember the good and happy times. I love to revisit the wonderful times with grandparents, great Aunts and Uncles, cousins. And anyone who stopped by on Sunday afternoon to join us on the porch. The memories are precious indeed and so were those sweet people. Thank you for starting my day with a reminder of these precious memories.

    Reply
  14. Jacquelyn Fossett - November 8, 2021 1:43 pm

    I am thankful for your column! When my precious friend Joy sent your column to me while I was going through a difficult time-that is when I got hooked on Sean! Then I started reading your column Sean-each morning-to my husband.
    This is how the ritual goes. After breakfast, we head to the coffee maker for the second cup, then we hit the chair and sofa and I ask my husband “Are you ready to hear what Sean has to say?”. We start the day when we hear what you have to say!! Thankful for you Sean and Joy! What a blessing you sent our way!!

    Reply
  15. beachdreamer1 - November 8, 2021 1:48 pm

    “Precious memories, how they linger…” a favorite old hymn of mine. In fact, many years ago I asked my daughter to sing this at my going away celebration! Love your beautiful thoughts Sean. You are indeed an old soul. We share the love of the Gulf. Was so blessed to live at Cape San Blas for 5 years! “Old Florida”…I agree that it does something to you…can’t explain it, just a special love that no matter how far away you are, those special sounds of the gulls and waves, the peace it brings, never leaves. I too am so thankful, too much to list here, and the memories of times past
    Are always there…the good times that bring a smile, sometimes a tear…nevertheless, still precious. Thank you Sean as always for the blessing you bring to us in your words. God bless ❤️

    Reply
  16. Jan - November 8, 2021 1:56 pm

    Love this!

    Reply
  17. Joanna Thompson - November 8, 2021 2:24 pm

    Sean, I read your column every day, and I always enjoy it. It’s generally not my primary source for daily Bible reading, but I want to thank you for including Joshua 1:9. I really needed this reminder today.

    Reply
  18. Susie Flick - November 8, 2021 2:32 pm

    Memories are the fuel that makes us keep going. I am grateful for all I have so far in my 70 years – some wonderful, some good, some heartbreaking, some challenging…but all memories that have made me who I am today.

    Reply
  19. Laura - November 8, 2021 2:38 pm

    Ah, Joshua 1:9. Solid reminder that God is with us always and everywhere.

    Reply
  20. Susan Marler - November 8, 2021 2:43 pm

    Thank you for this, this chilly morning. Think I’ll take my own grateful trip today.

    Reply
  21. Nick - November 8, 2021 2:47 pm

    Thank you Sean! Learning to see and be grateful for all our many blessings — especially life, and new Life in Christ, focuses us on what is truly important.

    Reply
  22. JonDragonfly - November 8, 2021 3:05 pm

    God bless librarians.

    Reply
  23. Debbie’s g - November 8, 2021 3:42 pm

    Thankful for Sean this thanksgiving season you keep me on track Love to you and Jamie and love to us all

    Reply
  24. Chasity Davis Ritter - November 8, 2021 3:48 pm

    You covered all the basis of things im thankful for today as well. But you left off one… I’m thankful for that red headed writer from the south who reminds me there are always still good things in the world. Good people, good deeds and kindness if we just keep our hearts and our eyes open. Thanks Sean…

    Reply
  25. Ellouise Pennington - November 8, 2021 4:56 pm

    We are so very grateful for you! I have so much more past that future. I’m happy for it all. Thanks be to God

    Reply
  26. Gayle Wilson - November 8, 2021 5:02 pm

    Amen Sean, amen.

    Reply
  27. AlaRedClayGirl - November 8, 2021 5:19 pm

    Thankful for you, Sean! Gratitude has a way of pushing negative thoughts out of your mind.

    Reply
  28. Ken P - November 8, 2021 5:20 pm

    Thanks Sean. Needed this one today. Especially the verse!

    Reply
  29. Nancy Carnahan - November 8, 2021 5:25 pm

    My husband says he gets lightheaded when he’s away from the mountains too long. Yes, we live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

    Reply
  30. Cindy - November 8, 2021 5:29 pm

    Well done Sean. Sometimes it seems one doesn’t realize nor appreciate what happiness was without reflecting on the memories.

    Reply
  31. Linda Moon - November 8, 2021 6:36 pm

    Time-travelling. I’ve never thought of memories that way, so now I’ll be remembering time-travel as a metaphor for all the times I’ve actually travelled. Like you, I have a book addiction. I’m reading one now that I’ve thought about sharing with you, but only if you promise to return it to my “library”. But, you can keep the other one I gave you. I’m grateful for you, your liferaft, and wonderful memories of you two!

    Reply
  32. Chris Spencer - November 8, 2021 6:40 pm

    Your grandmother’s words came from the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament, chapter 1, verse 9.
    One of my favorite verses and one I have managed to memorize.
    Knowing that God is always with me no matter what I face has gotten me through many dark places.
    It will do the same for you too.

    Reply
  33. Spence Bilbo - November 8, 2021 7:43 pm

    Louis L’Amour and Samuel Clemens. You are definitely a wingman or a wing ding. Read all of L’Amour’s books and most of Clemens. Wrote a high school essay proposing Clemens was the greatest American writer ever, but that was 45 years ago. More reading has changed that. But, Pabst? Sorry, Dude. God didn’t give you discerning taste buds.
    Love your writing, your thoughts. God bless you and your wife and family.

    Reply
  34. Shelton A. - November 8, 2021 7:49 pm

    In a common spirit spirit of gratefulness, I wish you and Jamie a wonderous Thanksgiving.

    Reply
  35. Naomi - November 8, 2021 9:04 pm

    The first time that I saw the ocean was when my Girl Scout leader took us to Panama City in the 1950’s. When we got there, I thought it had snowed because the sand was white. There were no condominiums, houses or fast-food restaurants then. We bought our groceries at the Piggly Wiggly and cooked our own meals at a cabin that we rented down a dirt road. My parents didn’t drive, and they never took a vacation, so the only time that got to go anywhere was when my Girl Scout leader took us. Since those days long ago, I have traveled all over the world, but I have never seen a beach that was as beautiful as the one in Panama City.

    Reply
  36. Barbara Mc - November 8, 2021 9:17 pm

    Guessing your sweet grandmother was giving her daughter a verse to hold onto. The Holy Spirit spoke through your grandma. What a special blessing!🙏💜

    Reply
  37. Cynthia Hancock - November 8, 2021 10:21 pm

    Love this! I am a librarian at the DeKalb County Public Library in Fort Payne. We have all of your books!

    Reply
  38. MAM - November 9, 2021 12:11 am

    Ah, books, and ah, the memories of libraries I’ve almost lived in at times. Yes, I am thankful for memories, and fortunately most of the ones I remember are the good ones. Truly a method of time travel! How do you always nail it everyday, Sean? Thanks for being the writer you are! You bring always the reality of goodness and kindness into our world. We are thankful for your writing!

    Reply
  39. Stacey Wallace - November 9, 2021 4:31 pm

    Sean, I am thankful for you.

    Reply
  40. Anne Trawick - November 10, 2021 2:48 pm

    Yep. I’ll save this one too.

    Reply
  41. Sharmen Oswald - November 10, 2021 7:39 pm

    I, too, am thankful for libraries and librarians. I am an old-lady librarian who has been a librarian for over 30 years. I love that libraries change lives, particularly the lives of children, damaged and ravaged by fear of facing the future because the present is not a good place for them. I can not imagine doing anything else in this life. The library is truly magical. I am so glad that you found the library in your greatest time of need. Thank you for writing about libraries in your post.

    Reply
  42. Kate. - November 12, 2021 1:53 pm

    Thank you for the reminder of the power of the Bible verse. I use to carry that one with me where ever I went. Then my life got better and I gradually forgot about it. I needed the reminder today, so thank you.

    Reply

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