City mouse and country mouse make a home

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.

SHE SAID

We're going to my parents' house to celebrate Dawson's first birthday this weekend.

That sounds so weird. Normally, I would say we're going home instead of to my parents' house. But last week, that changed. My parents, who have lived in the same house for 26-plus years on the same property that has been in my dad's family since 1884, moved to a new house.

It was a good move. As the years have gone by and our family has grown to include Bob, Drew and Dawson, the little three-bedroom home on House's Creek has gotten smaller and smaller. Plus, their new house is much closer to my mom's work in Poplar Bluff -- she has made a 45-minute commute (one way) every day for years now. They deserved this move.

But a tiny part of me is sad to lose that sense of, well, home. House's Creek, in rural Carter County, is not only where I grew up, it's where my dad's entire family is based. My grandparents lived there all of their lives, met and fell in love there on the banks of the creek. My extended family, from uncles and aunts to cousins, all live within a few miles of each other.

When my grandparents passed away last year, the family began to break up in more ways than one. It was the right time for my parents to make the move. I don't think there will ever be a right time for my heart to make the move with them.

I am always sad when I think about the different childhood Dawson and his brother will have. I grew up along a creek, on a farm -- catching crawdads in the summer, damming up the creek and floating down it in a feed trough with my brother (I know, how very Tom Sawyer of us). Helping birth calves in the spring, digging post holes for barbed wire fences. Sledding down steep and rather rocky hillsides on an old inner tube in the winter.

There are so many advantages to living in a city. Being able to have pizza delivered to your front door at almost any hour of the day or night tops my list. My children will have the advantage of excellent schools, youth sports leagues and trips to museums. But I still worry that they'll have missed out on something quintessential to their heritage, to their identity even.

I had Bob paint a mural of Current River on Dawson's bedroom wall and am labeling my favorite places along the river -- Water Cress, Waymeyer, Big Spring -- so that my son will grow up knowing the same places I knew as a little girl, even if not in the same sense.

The old saying that you can never go home again hasn't been true for me, until now. It's different for Bob; he moved a lot as a preacher's son. "I wish I had the kind of roots you have," he said to me once.

Roots can be tough, in more ways than one.

HE SAID

Moving around so much created some bittersweet moments growing up. I got to see different communities, meet friends I otherwise would not have met.

But when people ask me where I grew up, it's never an easy answer. Well, I was born in western Illinois, moved to Texas while Dad went to seminary, moved to northern Illinois until my sixth-grade year, then to Southern Illinois until my junior year then to rural -- very rural -- Missouri my senior year of high school.

Saying goodbye to friends as a sixth-grader and high school junior was not easy. Thanks to Facebook, I've reconnected with many of them.

It's not a childhood I would necessarily recommend, but I was always surrounded by a close-knit family. We visited grandparents on some weekends or on vacations. Some of my best childhood memories are fishing in Grandma's boat with Grandma, Uncle Wally and Aunt Doris.

I have now lived in Southeast Missouri for about 14 years. I find this a great place to live and work. Jackson is now my home, and I'm pretty comfortable with that.

Callie Clark Miller is the special publications managing editor for the Southeast Missourian who plans to push her kids down a snowy hill as soon as they are old enough. Bob Miller is the now-stationary Southeast Missourian managing editor. Reach them at cmiller@semissourian.com and bmiller@semissourian.com.

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