We’ll just call him Sully, because that’s what everyone else calls him.  Except on those occasions when his mother, as mamas sometimes do, calls him by his given name of Sullivan.

He is in the third-grade and is 110 percent boy.  He is not allergic to sweat or dirt, thinks that shorts should be worn 365 days of the year and thinks the true worth of any elementary student is how fast he/she can run.  In most ways, he is as different from his fourth-grade sister as midnight is from noon.

From time to time, his grandmother, who just happens to be assistant superintendent of his school system, shares a “Sully story” and I can think of no better way to begin a New Year than sharing some with you.

After Auburn lost the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, Sully said to one and all, “that sucks.”  His mother immediately wanted to know where he heard that word.  He told her, “on the bus.”  At which point she reminded him that he does not ride the bus.  To which he replied, “Well if I did I know I would have heard it.”

He went to time out.


Grandmother takes the grand children to Auburn’s aquatic research unit near the beach.  They are raising giant shrimp in cages  Shrimp are being harvested this particular day and a group of Hispanic workers are busy emptying cages and scooping up shrimp.

Grandmother knows a teachable moment when she sees one and ask Sully what do you need to be to do such work.  She thought something like marine biologist would be a good answer.  Not Sully.  His immediate reply was “Mexican.”


The family was in New Orleans to attend a wedding.  Everyone but Sully and grandmother had gone on to a party, leaving them to get dressed and join them.  Mother laid out Sully’s wardrobe, including long pants.

When he saw them, his immediate response was, “What the hell was she thinking?”


It was a very stormy Friday with more bad weather forecast for the weekend.  Sully’s teacher overheard him telling some of his classmates that “For a dollar, I will get grandmother to call off school on Monday.”


Grandmother calls me one day from her car and declares that it stinks to high heaven.  Then she remembers a couple of days earlier when she and Sully were somewhere and he was playing with a very large frog.

She got Sully on her cell phone, told him she was not upset, but wanted to know if he put the frog in her car.  “Maybe,” he said.  And quickly added, “and if you find him, his name is Leonard.”

Later that day grandmother found the well-fried remains of Leonard.


On the way to school one morning, grandmother, Sully and sister get stuck in traffic behind a truck picking up garbage.  Another teachable moment thought grandmother.  She pointed out to her pint-sized passengers  that if you did not do well in school, you might end up on a garbage truck.

“Well, I see they wear shorts,” was Sully’s quick retort.


What better way to say Happy New Year than to remind ourselves about the thousands and thousands of Sullys who attend Alabama  public schools.  In all their honesty and innocence and frankness.  So far, far away from the cat fights, petty politics and busy work that too often masquerade as school.