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OPINION | Lisa Baker Gibbs: ‘Off’ can be as close as Bentonville and still far from home

‘Off’ isn’t place, it’s state of mind by Lisa Baker Gibbs My Roots Are Showing | May 25, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.

Upon turning 18 years of age, I left the only home I'd ever known -- a two-toned olive green Masonite house on the side of a hill on Miller Road, two-and-a-half miles off pavement and one mile past the boondocks. Mama hoped my "moving off" was short-lived, and that once I'd gone to college, I'd come back not only to our hometown, but to our boondocks. My sights, however, were set on higher and higher education, and when I finished, I landed on paved roads with no whippoorwill to be found.

Funny thing about moving away from your roots -- seems to me, you either want nothing to do with them, or you spend the rest of your life trying to get back to them. For me, I guess it didn't matter much what I wanted. Like the old saying goes, "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl." My roots showed no matter where I was.

Early on, I tried to "overcome" my humble beginnings. Some would laugh at that notion, since it isn't as though I left home and went to Manhattan or Los Angeles. I went to Jonesboro, then Little Rock, then Bentonville. But where I came from, "moving off" -- be it New York or Newport -- was much the same.

With a little age under my belt, I began to embrace what I couldn't hide anyway. I was -- and am, and always will be -- country. A longing grew inside me– the desire to unite the best things about Miller Road with the best things about Main Street. That's one reason I sold my big house and downsized to 864 square feet within walking distance of my office, where I grew cotton and okra, hung laundry and collected rainwater a block from city central. And I began writing about the "country comes to town" journey in this very column, in March 2012. It seems like only yesterday.

And now the next chapter begins, as we have moved off once more into the deep Ozark hill country.

"Where y'all from?" the waitress asked as she seated Trapper John and me in the tiny diner where all the locals go. She knew we weren't locals.

"We're from Bentonville," we answered, "just moved to town this week."

"Good to have you," she said. "We have several folks from off 'round here. Got a couple from California moved in, and a Texan or two."

"Well, we're still Arkies, so we aren't TOO off -- at least, not from where we moved," I grinned.

"Oh no, honey," she said, eyebrows raised. "You're from off. And you'll be from off until you've got five generations of family buried in that cemetery. But it's awwwll right. We're glad to have you. Now, whatcha wanna eat this mornin'? Chocolate gravy and biscuits is the special."

I moved off. Now I'm from off. I'm just off. But I reckon y'all already knew that.

Print Headline: Clearly new here


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