The Family That Claimed Me

As it happens, I've spent a long time not belonging to much family. My daddy was a union man, Mama worked at Chick-Fil-A.

Early morning. Belleville Avenue. That’s me in the kitchen, eating bacon by the handful, wearing a coat and tie.

I just got engaged. My future in-laws are throwing a brunch. My soon-to-be aunt, Catherine, cooked nearly fifty pounds of bacon for this shindig.

I even bought a new shirt for this brunch. Also: a coat, necktie, and new belt—one without a buckle.

“You can’t wear a BELT BUCKLE to an engagement party,” proclaimed my future-spouse. “People will think you’re a ‘neck. You need a DRESS belt.”

What could be dressier than a fella waltzing around, sporting a Beechnut buckle the size of a pie-plate?

It would never do.

Earlier that week, my wife carried me to JC Penny’s in Andalusia. She selected a skinny belt not fit for stroping a razor. And a fifty-dollar button-down with a shirt-tag reading: “wrinkle-free.”

I want my money back.

The doorbell rings. Folks in their Sunday best begin to arrive. I’ve never met these people before, I’m not sure they’ll like me. I am sick-to-my-stomach nervous about it because I have about as much sophistication as an empty mayonnaise jar.

Many guests are elderly. Lots of pastel colors. Strings of pearls. Floral hats.

An old woman hugs me. Then another. Then another. And I smell like lady’s perfume in a matter of milliseconds.

Someone invites me to church. Another invites me drinking. One fella invites me to do both.

Next: my future uncle. He’s a small Baptist man, with eyes that shine. He shakes my hand, tells me he loves me.

Then, I meet a fella with a prosthetic arm and a warm face. He hands me a silver dollar and winks. I still have that coin.

I meet ten Flossies, five Roberts, one Mary, two aunt Catherines, a Mary-Catherine, eleven Jims, nine hundred Jameses, the West Boys, a Ben, a Bob, a Bill, a Blake.

And one Bentley.

I meet aunts, cousins, childhood teachers, a pastor with perfect hair. Truck drivers, brick layers, and a beef jerky salesman.

By he end of the day, I’m on the sofa. My wife comes into the room and hands me a small gift-wrapped box. It’s heavy.

I unwrap it.

“What’s this?” I ask. But I can already tell what it is.

“It was my grandaddy’s belt buckle,” she says. “I thought you’d like this since you’re in my family now.”


As it happens, I’ve spent a long time not belonging to much family. My daddy was a union man, Mama worked at Chick-Fil-A.

I don’t know how, but I lost my confidence along the way. And nobody tells you that once you lose self-confidence you may never get it back.

But then, I also believe in second chances. More than I believe in anything else on this cotton-picking planet.

If you don’t…

Then it’s time you paid a visit to Brewton, Alabama.


  1. Cherryl Shiver - January 16, 2017 11:53 am

    You are very, very blessed to be welcomed and married into such a family.
    Second chances,….are hard to come by, old boy the angels are sure smiling on you, but I do believe you know that.

    Thanks for all that you share with us.

    • marsha - April 7, 2017 1:20 pm


  2. Carol DeLater - January 16, 2017 1:59 pm

    Another great share. It’s good you got a second chance. Lots aren’t so lucky. You got a great wife too. When I met my husband (on a blind date) he had 2 brothers and two sisters. I thought I died and went to heaven. Finally a family for ME. Poor me. I was an independent woman who didn’t quit her job when I got engaged. WHAT?? No other woman in his family worked. You are taking a job a man could have. REALLY…I was an office manager at 19 and it didn’t come easy. I have always MANAGED until the day I retired. My husband collects belt buckles. He has shoe boxes full. One to suit every mood, who cares what the occasion. He didn’t buy a dress belt until he needed one for his father’s funeral this past summer. He’s a jeans kinda guy. He had to buy dress pants to go with the belt.

    • Carolyn - April 7, 2017 9:02 pm

      Nice writing, Carol!

  3. Mary Kay lustig - April 7, 2017 9:56 pm

    I cry at almost every article you write. I have 2 friend that I discuss your articles with and she crus also. But it’s a good cry and we look forward everyday to reading your message. Thank you You are the best since Lewis Grizzard.

  4. Carol Longenecker Hiestand - April 8, 2017 2:26 am

    Sean, so where did you grow up? I have been following you since John Blase told us about you. I spent 6 years in south Alabama from age 4 – 10. We lived in Sanford, Opp (Horn Hill) and Dixie (25 miles west of Andalusia on rt 29.) I was just there this past Sunday – Wednesday, visiting the places I remember. We left there in 1958 to move to Illinois. My Daddy was a preacher in Dixie and Horn Hill. Such memories. Had to smile about your wife carrying you to Andalusia. Lord, have mercy, it was a sweet time.

  5. Eileen Snider - April 8, 2017 3:15 am

    Loved your story but in the beginning you mentioned your future in-laws, your future spouse, your engagement party, and later said “my wife”…so did this happen all in one day? Maybe I need to reread it. I’m confused…lol….Thanks….

  6. Martha Odom Byrne - April 9, 2017 2:35 pm

    Sean, you don’t just have a family that claimed you. You also have a town that claims you. Welcome to Brewton, Alabama!

  7. Charaleen Wright - March 22, 2019 4:46 am


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