What to do with 10 precious minutes

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house (still), work in the same office (again) and somehow manage to cling to their sanity (barely). Older and wiser (she's wiser, he's just older), the Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on everyday issues, told from two perspectives.

SHE SAID: I saw the smoke and immediately thought my steak was surely being overcooked. I mean, this wasn't the first time my little brother's barbecue technique has resulted in thick clouds of gray.

But the thicker the billows became -- I had an excellent view out a window resting on my pregnant behind on my parents' couch -- the more I started to think about the potential for the grill to be on fire. I mean, this wouldn't be the first time my little brother's barbecue technique caught the grill on ... no, wait. That's my dad I'm thinking of.

I glanced around the living room (my parents were out of town on a trip, and little bro and I had crashed their house for a weekend away from The Big City) and started thinking about the things I would grab first if there really were a fire. I alternated back and forth between what Mom would want and then what Dad would want -- the hand-blown glass balls from Germany that have been passed down through generations of the family. The mounted 12-point deer head that my dad bagged on a hunt when I was 9.

About the time I was trying to figure out how I would theoretically wrestle the flat-screen TV out the front door, my brother came rushing in the back door looking for water.

Turns out he inherited Dad's knack for catching the grill on fire after all -- and the surrounding grass. When the grill thermometer went past 700 degrees, he realized he was in trouble. Huh.

By the time it occurred to me there really was a problem, he had it well under control (which is good, because there's no way I'd have gotten that TV out, and I'm not sure about the deer head, either).

It did get me thinking though, especially with the catastrophe facing California: If you had 10 minutes to grab your most prized possessions before your house went up in flames, what would you choose?

My list of easy stuff that couldn't be replaced:

1.) Scoop, Estelle and Fletcher (the cats, although we often debate Fletcher's replaceability)

2.) The homemade steppingstone Drew gave Bob and me as a wedding present

3.) The box of CDs on which are burned every photo Bob has taken in the last six years

4.) The baby's ultrasound images and the baby blanket my deceased grandmother made

5.) My jewelry box (not because it contains anything valuable, but because Bob and Drew gave it to me as a Mother's Day present)

6.) My scrapbooks

7.) Drew's favorite stuffed animal (a big orange gorilla)

8.) The prize book in my collection: An 1876 copy of Poe's Poems complete with original newspaper clippings about Poe as an "aspiring" author.

HE SAID: When my cute and pregnant wife began scratching her 10-minute list onto a notebook at lunch the other day, she listed many sentimental things she'd want to rescue, and I agree with them, especially the photographs. But while she's grabbing old books and blankets, I'll grab the important stuff, like:

1.) Callie's purse. There's gotta be something important in there; the thing weighs a ton. I figure we could live off what's in there for at least a day or two.

2.) My cell phone. I don't know anybody's number anymore. If I lose my cell, I lose contact with a lot of people.

3.) My wallet, which contains my debit card, Social Security card, driver's license and library card.

4.) A set of clothes. I figure if my house catches fire, it'll be while I'm in the shower. My luck tends to run that way.

5.) Two coats. One for Callie, one for me, if it's cold outside.

6.) The car keys. What's the sense in letting our vehicles burn, too? They're worth almost as much as our house, anyway.

7.) Papers. We have a crate with our bills to be paid, important documents, that sort of thing.

8.) The CPU. We have lots of files on there we might need. Plus, if our house is destined to ruin, I won't want to dish out for a new computer.

I hope we never have to face what the folks in California are facing. But if we do, someone's got to be thinking rationally. And since I'm the one with the uncommon common sense, it'll be me grabbing the stuff we need and Callie grabbing the stuff we love.

Southeast Missourian managing editor Bob Miller and online/special publications managing editor Callie Clark Miller have finally hit the big time. An irritated Speak Out caller pronounced their column "mildly amusing" last week. Victory at last. You can reach them at bmiller@semissourian.com or cmiller@semissourian.com.

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