Sean of the South

Sean of the South


Words by Sean Dietrich

Illustration by Alex Kirsch 

I’m warning you beforehand, what I’m about to say is going to seem utterly ridiculous:

My mother once told me that I could conquer the world if I ate a decent breakfast. The whole world. All because of breakfast.

See? I tried to warn you.

Anyway, to this very day I’m still not sure how this meal can make conquering the world possible, but my mother never lies.

I remember the day she told me, I was having a devastating morning. I was about to take an entrance exam into the sixth grade. And this was a big deal because earlier that year, I’d failed fifth-grade—which drained my confidence and made me feel about as useful as a white crayon.

But getting back to breakfast.

Mama made the greasiest meal. Three eggs, cooked in fat from a Maxwell House can, bacon, potatoes, grits, and toast hearty enough to sand the hull of a battleship.

I passed my test. I made it to the next grade. And eventually, my confidence began to improve. Thusly—and I’ve always wanted to use that word—I can only assume that breakfast played an important role in my sixth grade success.

Since then, I’ve always believed in the first daily meal. I ate a good breakfast the day I got married. A big one. That day, the waitress kept bringing me plates of pancakes.

“You must be starving, honey,” she said.

I smiled. “Thusly,” said I.

But I was only nervous-eating. Truth told, they weren’t even good pancakes—the blueberries tasted like freeze-dried goat pellets. IHOP, I’m looking at you.

I also ate a big breakfast the day I got fired. My boss called me into his office and chewed me a new nose-hole. He said things so hateful I can still remember them. I quietly walked out of his office before he finished speaking.

I went to eat breakfast. I read the paper, I watched the sunrise. I had one of the best mornings I’ve had in years.

So I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I suppose it’s because I come from country people, and rural people are full of homespun ideas that sound silly to city ears.

My ancestors believed in smearing thick butter on toast, and in farm eggs. And they believed in the sacredness of early hours. They believed in breakfasts.

My granddaddy ate brains and eggs for breakfast. My old man ate potted meat and leftover liverwurst. I eat Peanut Butter Captain Crunch and M&Ms. But it’s all the same.

To my forbears, it was the moment before the day had been written. And nobody knows what kind of day it will be. It was a day without any mistakes in it.

There are lots of possibilities for today. Today could be boring. It could be mediocre. It could be crummy.

Or …

It could be the sort of day that lives in your memory forever. It could be the day on which your whole life hinges. The day when you finally became you.

So, it could fall either way.

You might meet a new friend. A lover. A kid. A feral dog. An angel. A derelict columnist.

See, while I write this, the sun is about to rise, and this seemingly normal morning might actually be a spectacular day in disguise. And if you ask me, you owe it to yourself to be ready. Because once this day happens to you, you’re going to look backward and realize that everything had meaning. Everything.

Your good moments were like swatches of fabric. Your painful moments were little pin pricks from a sewing needle, stitching you together like a quilt. And on your final day, you’ll see this quilt and think to yourself: “My God, wasn’t I beautiful?”

Thusly, you were. And thusly you are. Very, very thusly.