The Big Interview

My phone rings. I answer it.

“Hello,” the young voice says. “Is this Sean Deet… Deet… ”

My last name has always been a source of frustration for telemarketers and non-German-speakers. I help the poor girl out. “Sean Dietrich,” I say.

“Thank you, Mister Dietrich. I’m writing something for my school newspaper and your wife scheduled this interview for us. Is now a good time?”

“I have all the time in the world. Can I ask your name?”

“Oh, shoot. Sorry, yes. My name’s Lindsey.”

“Hi, Lindsey.”

Long silence. The sound of rustling papers. An electric pencil sharpener.

“What grade are you in, Lindsey?”

“Fourth.”

“Fire at will.”

“Um… My first question is, what do you like about writing?”

A very good question. In fact, I have done more than a few interviews, but I rarely get straightforward questions like this. I have to think for a few moments about how to answer. Finally, I say, “I guess I like how it makes me feel, the act of writing, I mean. I can’t explain it.”

She says in a whisper, “How… It… Makes… Him… Feel…”

“I also like meeting new people who I get to write about. I enjoy meeting people.”

“…Meeting… New… People…”

More silence. Followed by paper sounds. The noise of a child clearing her throat. “Are you happy with your life?”

Good Lord. This child is aiming straight for the jugular. She’s asking existential questions that I don’t know if I have answers for. Besides, what is happiness, really? Is this a yes or no question? Or is it a matter of percentages? Is anyone ever truly happy? If so, do they stay that way forever, or only for a few weeks? I mean, I know some who have everything they want—health, stuff, money, family, success, a pasta maker—and they still want more.

“Sure,” I say.

Long pause.

“What about you, Lindsey? Are you happy?”

“Uh, yeah, well, I guess so.”

“But you aren’t sure?”

“Well. I’m happy right now.” She steers the interview toward the most important topic of our discussion. “What are your dogs’ names?”

“Thelma Lou and Otis Campbell.”

“Those’re funny names.”

She’s giving her age away. You can tell a lot about people by how they react to names like Thelma Lou, Otis Campbell, Andrew Taylor, Floyd Lawson, and Bernard P. Fife.

I ask, “Have you ever seen the ‘Andy Griffith Show?’”

“The what?”

“Oh sweet baby Joseph.”

“What is it?”

“The ‘Andy Griffith Show’ is only the best TV show of all time. My dogs are named after two characters on that show.”

“That’s pretty cool. I’ll have to watch it sometime. I thought about naming my hamster Peppa Pig, ‘cause that used to be my favorite show, but it’s not anymore.”

“What’s your favorite show now?”

“I like reading better.”

There is hope for America.

The girl has more questions and we talk a little longer, but she is in a hurry, she has to go to ball practice. She says, “What kind of advice would you give a writer like me about writing stories?”

I am truly stumped. First of all, I don’t have any advice. I am not much of an advice guy. The only times in my life I have ever actually given advice, it didn’t work out well for those who followed it. One guy ruined his transmission, and the other guy lost $1,326 dollars to a man selling black market timeshares. So I quit giving advice.

“I’m sorry, Lindsey, I’m not an advice giver. I think my advice is worthless.”

“Oh.”

More silence.

“What about you, Lindsey? What kind of things would you tell me if I asked you for advice?”

“I dunno. What kinda stuff do you wanna know?”

“Just give me some advice.”

I hear the cogs in her brain turning. It sounds like the whirring engine of a Dodge Charger. Whereas my mind’s motor sounds more like a ‘43 Studebaker on a January morning in Winnipeg.

“My advice is love yourself,” she says. “And don’t let anything make you feel dumb, even if people aren’t nice to you, but don’t be a wimp either, because that’s not being nice to yourself if you’re just being a baby who takes everyone’s crap all the time.”

“Everyone’s… Crap… All… The… Time…”

“And,” she goes on, “I think girls should quit obsessing over them selfs and putting dumb filters on their Instagrams, and people shouldn’t be so worried about what other people think.”

“What else?”

“I would say that if people can’t get a cat or dog they can always get a hamster. I’ve had my hamster for a long time and he’s a good friend, his name is Hairy, spelled with an ‘I.’ And he’s a great one, but he can’t sleep with me anymore because that didn’t work out too good.”

“You sound very happy, Lindsey. You must actually be happy in life.”

She has to think about this for a little bit. “I’m not always happy. But I think the main thing is that you try to make your friends happy and then they can make you happy when you need it.”

“You sure know a lot for being so young. How’d you learn so much?”

“I dunno. I grew up in lots of foster homes after my mom died when I was a baby. It was all pretty hard until I got adopted, but I learned about a lotta stuff.”

Yes. That must be it.

35 comments

  1. Sandi. - February 24, 2020 7:00 am

    Oh, what a hearttouching phone interview!

    Reply
  2. Ann - February 24, 2020 11:13 am

    This is sooooo refreshing and I didn’t see the last part coming…WOW…it’s beautiful 🤗

    Reply
  3. AL - February 24, 2020 11:27 am

    GOOD FOR YOU LINDSAY. AND ALSO GOOD FOR YOU SEAN FOR BEING SO RECEPTIVE AND UNDERSTANDING. THANK YOU BOTH TODAY.

    Reply
  4. Tammy S. - February 24, 2020 11:27 am

    As you quite often do, you saved the most insightful for the last. All of it was the best!! Reread it three times. This one is definitely a keeper!! Thanks Sean. Hope you have a good day with a great nap.

    Reply
  5. Jones - February 24, 2020 11:29 am

    An excellent read and start to the day! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  6. Judy Leonard - February 24, 2020 12:19 pm

    Loved this one!

    Reply
  7. LeAnne - February 24, 2020 12:20 pm

    Wow! I love this. Thanks, Sean!

    Reply
  8. Amy - February 24, 2020 12:27 pm

    Beautiful story! Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  9. Edna Barron - February 24, 2020 12:38 pm

    I’d love to see her published article. I agree, this is heart touching. God Bless this little one. You have a wonderful day, Sean. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  10. Rhonda G Caldwell - February 24, 2020 12:43 pm

    Wise for her young years. She gives good advice.

    Reply
  11. Terri - February 24, 2020 12:47 pm

    Oh my word! I truly wish I could read her interview. God bless her sweet self. Love you much Sean.

    Reply
  12. Nukhet - February 24, 2020 12:58 pm

    WOW! thank you for this!

    Reply
  13. Dianne DeVore - February 24, 2020 1:24 pm

    Another good one to start my week, Sean!! This little girls is already wise beyond her years. Thank you for sharing her with your readers.

    Reply
  14. Anne Arthur - February 24, 2020 1:33 pm

    Thanks for writing this one. Great wisdom.

    Reply
  15. Sarah Johnson - February 24, 2020 1:40 pm

    I’m in my late seventies and could not have given such a great answer to your questions Sean 🙈🙈🙈🙈

    Reply
  16. Maria - February 24, 2020 1:57 pm

    Bless her sweet, sweet heart.

    Reply
  17. susufl - February 24, 2020 2:16 pm

    I love Lindsay! I need to print her advice and put it on my mirror to see every day. My friends and I do the same thing with sharing “happy!”

    Reply
  18. Connie Havard Ryland - February 24, 2020 2:25 pm

    You are the master at thought provoking, heart stabbing, beautiful “last sentences “. Thank you for sharing. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  19. James Walter Sturges - February 24, 2020 2:34 pm

    POW!!

    Reply
  20. Phil S. - February 24, 2020 3:08 pm

    Lindsey is one sharp young lady. She may become our first female president. You could be her VP (at about age 86).

    Reply
  21. Lori - February 24, 2020 3:10 pm

    Pretty cool kid, love her perspective,
    And, I love that your interviews are a two-way street…”Everyone’s…crap…all…the…time…”
    Have a great day!

    Reply
  22. Sue Riddle Cronkite - February 24, 2020 3:33 pm

    Be interesting to read her paper when it’s finished, wouldn’t it. Sounds to me she’s a real writer in the apprentice period.

    Reply
  23. Ala Red Clay Girl - February 24, 2020 4:21 pm

    “There is hope for America.” With children like Lindsey, this is so true.

    Reply
  24. Linda Moon - February 24, 2020 5:23 pm

    I enjoy the act of reading your writing, Sean…. and I enjoyed meeting you and Jamie for the first time last year. I’ve known and taught lots of fourth graders who sometimes had a hard time learning about a lotta stuff both in the classroom and from life itself. Thank you for answering Lindsey’s straightforward questions! I think we ALL can learn a lot from Lindsay!!

    Reply
  25. Wendy - February 24, 2020 5:33 pm

    And now I’m crying from reading your post..again. Before I read them, I prepare myself to cry because I know I’m going to every time, thank goodness there always tears of happiness! I’d love to know how this young lady does on her paper as well!

    Reply
  26. Dean - February 24, 2020 7:45 pm

    I enjoy your stories so much. Hopefully Lindsey will become a writer some day

    Reply
  27. Janet Mary Lee - February 24, 2020 11:12 pm

    Loved the circle of interviewer/interviewee..perfectly subtle. And your great last line. I also loved the little hamster drawing!! So full of life and love!! You are…something else!! 🙂

    Reply
  28. Barbara - February 25, 2020 12:06 am

    I learned so much from you and Lindsey. Thank you. On a side note, in 1960, when I was 10, I had a hamster named Harry. ..

    Reply
  29. Judy - February 25, 2020 2:19 am

    Lindsay is mature beyond her years. Her advice was spot on! Thank you, Sean, for another wonderful column.

    Reply
  30. Tricia Brunson - February 25, 2020 5:17 am

    This is precious. I love it. Never stop writing or listening to people. Well done.

    Reply
  31. Mindy Thompson - February 25, 2020 6:32 am

    Out of the mouths of babes…. (I laughed out loud at “Everyone’s… Crap… All… The… Time…” which means I loved it!) On a side note my husband and I had a Jack Russell dog named Bandit. His previous owner had returned him so he was already named but if he was not his name would have been Ernest T. Bass. As Barney would say he was nuts.

    Reply
  32. MermaidGrammy - February 25, 2020 2:40 pm

    Just think what you could do to help some sweet child like this. Adopt a child out of foster care; or try fostering. You and Jamie have ‘way too much to give to keep it between just the two of you. Go Adopt A Child or Two!!!

    Reply
  33. BRUCE KELLMAN - February 26, 2020 4:50 pm

    I’m with you Ann! 💔❤️

    Reply
  34. Steve "Gus" Winfield - March 31, 2020 4:43 am

    So I have to tell you about a gerbil named “Crunchy”. Belonged to my neice who was 5 at the time. Her & her sister were gone for the night & my brother & his wife had adult company. Cocktails were involved. Crunchy had this plastic ball he could get inside & roll all around the house. My brother loved it. Crunchy’s running all over, bouncing off walls & table legs & guests. Finally into the laundry room, out the back door & across the deck. A while later someone discovered the ball split into 2 halves in the back yard. Uh oh.
    The last we saw of him.

    Reply
  35. Mary Hicks - April 2, 2020 12:51 am

    So heart touching. Thank you again, Sean. God bless you and Jamie.

    Reply

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