By Sean Dietrich
Andy Griffith. He would definitely be near the top of my list. I can’t think of many things better than Andy and Barney.
Next would be barbecue. In fact, it’s a toss up between Andy and barbecue.
Some of the best pulled pork I’ve ever had was at Tin Top Barbecue Restaurant, in Columbiana, Alabama. If you ever visit, tell them Sean sent you. They will look at you funny and say, “Who in the Sam Hill is Sean?”
Also, I love pictures of my friends. I recently had a picture taken with a buddy. When I saw the photo, I noticed how old I look. And it was a bittersweet feeling. It was a feeling that, perhaps, I need to cut back on carbs.
Laughter from a child. Especially a child who considers you to be their favorite non-parental adult. Like my niece, Lily.
Cowboy hats. I love them. As a child, I admired cowboys so much that I started collecting cattleman hats. My wife says I own WAY too many, and is threatening to have a neighborhood bonfire.
Good T-shirts. They’re hard to find. I don’t want slogans printed on them, or brand names. I just want a plain color, loose collar and I need it to be soft. Maybe a few peanut butter stains on the chest.
Dogs who sleep all day. I love lazy dogs. In fact, you could say that I aspire to be one.
Typewriters, fresh newspapers, the sounds of lawnmowers in the distance, Hank Aaron, Shirley Jones singing “Goodnight My Someone,” John Wayne, and black-and-white photographs.
Garlic, cooking in a skillet. Homegrown heirloom tomatoes. Conecuh Quickfreeze sausage. The fuzzy storyboards from Sunday school class.
A good book. One that’s written by someone who isn’t trying to impress you with five-dollar words.
The color yellow.
Lamps with shades. I am serious about that. I cannot stand harsh overhead lighting. It makes me uneasy. I cannot think of a single moment in U.S. history where life has been enhanced by sterile overhead lighting.
If the Good Lord wanted us to have overhead lights, he would have given fluorescent bulbs to Charlton Heston on Mount Sinai.
Let’s see. I already said cowboy hats.
The Gulf of Mexico, which is not just the gulf to me, it is home. I see the gulf and my whole life comes back at once. The good, the bad and the ugly.
It is here where I became me. It is here where I met the woman who is seated beside me right now. The same woman who is watching a movie on her laptop while I write. Who loved me enough to teach me the true meaning of putting the toilet seat down.
Flour. White. Mixed with lard, buttermilk, salt and baking powder.
Jazz. The old kind. The same music played in the Southland before New Orleans stole Mardi Gras from Mobile.
Baseball. Freddie Freeman. Ronald Acuña Jr. Ozzie Albies. Mike Soroka. Get well, David Ortiz, I’m praying for you, so are millions of others.
Hank Senior. Seventy years ago on this exact night, a twenty-five-year-old Hank Williams debuted in the Ryman Auditorium. He sang, “Lovesick Blues” and “Mind Your Own Business.” Admission was around twenty-five cents. He gave six encores.
Clean sheets, fresh from the clothesline. The smell of fabric softener, but not the kind that gives me a rash.
The JC Penney in Andalusia. The Circle J Western Store in Chumuckla. Priester’s Pecans. The Blueberry Festival.
The sound of a creek. Frogs at dusk. Baked beans. The feeling of warm potting soil in my hands. Did I already say cowboy hats?
A pair of jeans that’s been broken in after years of wear. Granddaddy’s fishing lures. William Lee Golden.
And that feeling when you meet someone you haven’t seen since childhood. You know the feeling. You start to think about how short life is.
As a child, you thought life was going to last forever. But at this age, childhood seems like a dream you had last night.
You’re realizing that you’re closer to the end of your own life than you’ve ever been. And tomorrow, you’ll be even closer.
And even though this thought is sad, for some reason it doesn’t feel that way. Instead, the idea overwhelms you with beauty, art, music, and poetry. It makes you want to write down every single thing you love about life.
So you try. But it’s hard to write these things without seeming corny.
Besides, there is too much to name. You couldn’t even begin to make a complete list. You wouldn’t know where to start. The world is too big, too magnificent, too wonderful, too bright, too whatever.
The one thing you do know, is that at the top of this list, somewhere between hardback hymnals, barbecue, soft T-shirts, old hats and people who show kindness without prejudice, is love. Real love.
The kind that makes you grateful to be alive, even though living hurts. The kind that makes you grateful for good days, bad days, and every day between. For life. For family. For babies. For each other.
And of course, for Andy Griffith.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, the Tallahassee Democrat, Southern Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, the Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.