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Add one more to the big box of memories
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The people who make tissues will get some of my money this weekend. I'm going to try not to cry, but I know I will.

My little girl, Ashton Elizabeth Blackwood, will graduate from high school.

There is a part of me in disbelief that the little baby to whom I once gave her first bath is about to venture out into the world.

Last Sunday at church, she marched in with other high school graduates. For the first time, I saw her in a cap and gown, with braids and stoles of honor around her neck. The church orchestra played "We're Marching to Zion" and I cried. That used to be a bath time song. Before she could stand on her own, I used to hold her up and sing it as she marched in place and splashed water all over me.

This time, the water was splashing down my face.

You don't need a DNA test to see that she is my child. She has worked for the past year as an intern with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. At 18, she can shake hands with a business leader and look them in the eye with the poise of a much older adult.

We deeply love each other, but I would like to go back to those moments of childhood when her daddy could do no wrong. I'd like to hold her hand and help her cross the street.

But now, she doesn't need my hand. She's confident and independent, which makes me proud and scares me to death at the same time.

I work with people who have young children and I often tell them to drink in every moment. It seems like the blink of an eye and I was watching her first moments of life. Blink again and she's an infant sleeping on daddy's chest. Another blink and we're doing gymnastics or at a T-ball game.

A year ago, we went to buy a beaded prom dress that was tailored for an attractive young woman. We're not in the girl's department anymore.

She has already cast a vote for president and has a touch of her daddy's love of politics. Also in her plans is a career in journalism. It's that DNA thing again.

I have great confidence in her and the future she will carve out for herself. At the same time, I want to wrap her in some protective layer that will keep her from hurt, temptation and disappointment. But then, I realize that all of those are the sandpapers that shape our lives, just like joy, laughter and great memories.

It was six years ago this week that I married again and became the stepfather to three young people who are all now in their 20s. I love them too, but there is only one that I have watched from the moment of birth and is my own flesh and blood.

I love you little girl, and I don't care if you're 18 or 80, you'll always be my little girl. I can't put you back in the box of treasured moments, but I can look inside it and see the ones that I so deeply treasure.

I hope when I look there, I might see that you've already visited.

Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column runs every week in Sunday Life.