Since before our son was born, Mrs. Blackwell and I have been the recipients of incredible generosity.
There were baby showers, thoughtful cards and gifts dropped off by friends and acts of selfless generosity. And, since he joined us, there's been no shortage of folks offering their help and time with Master Blackwell.
|"OK, so, 'moving' means what exactly?"|
To be on the receiving end of an onslaught of goodwill can be a bit overwhelming; there really is no way to adequately say thanks.
This notion dominated my thoughts yesterday as Mrs. Blackwell and I shared an afternoon with friends to say goodbye. We're moving about 450 miles north, leaving my home of the last five years and the only home Mrs. Blackwell has ever known.
Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois.
Since I first learned I'd be moving here, those two words have provoked strong feelings in me and when I first arrived in 2007, it was far from love at first site.
My first impression was forged in part by being led through some of Carbondale's more notorious student housing operations. One leasing agent felt I might be in the market for a kitchen floor sporting a two-foot-wide hole with a view to the basement below. So, I can be forgiven for not falling in love right away.
I'd been hired at the Southern Illinoisan newspaper and that, quite simply, was the only reason I was here. At the time, Southern Illinois was a pit stop on my way to big time political reporting, or so I thought.
Ultimately, I believed Southern Illinois meant paying dues.
But, as I slowed down and began living in the present, I actually made a few friends. So began the erosion of my desire to leave.
In my job as a reporter, I was fortunate to meet the folks who lead, govern and work to breathe life into this region. Through these folks, I witnessed the fierce pride and sense of ownership Southern Illinois inspires in so many.
Through my job I also met my wife and, before I knew it, Southern Illinois meant home.
It meant tailgates before (and often after) Saluki football games. It meant Sunday afternoons spent with my wife's parents in West Frankfort, enjoying the quiet of the country and the calming sound of a light breeze weaving its way through fields of soy.
It meant hikes through Giant City Park, or Fern Clyffe Park, swims at Cedar Lake, beers in small, frozen mugs at the Midland Inn and afternoons spent at wineries with friends.
|The wineries, in particular, will be missed.|
Southern Illinois meant that anytime I needed to go somewhere, I probably had to drive, but getting to my destination often meant passing through some of the most beautiful country imaginable. (Anyone who has driven near Alto Pass at sunset knows exactly what I mean.)
Now, my mind defines Southern Illinois largely through the people I've met here. I consider myself fortunate to an indescribable extent to have lived here and, along the way, made friendships that will last the rest of my life.
To me, Southern Illinois now means friends and family and, no matter how far Mrs. Blackwell and our little guy go, this will always be true.
My son's birth certificate shows he's from Southern Illinois and, thanks to each and everyone of our friends here, that's a beautiful thing.