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An ode to my daughter on her 23rd birthday
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Life gives us moments forever etched in our minds.

It was 23 years ago today that a baby girl came into the world and changed my life forever. I realize 23 is not a milestone birthday, but this one occurs on column day, so I decided I would write about it.

I remember Dr. Thomas Jenkins commenting as she made her debut: “Look at those shoulders, Harris; you’ve got yourself a linebacker.”

About five seconds later, he corrected that to “cheerleader.”

Ashton Elizabeth Blackwood has very petite shoulders and while she was only a cheerleader in her elementary school days, I have enjoyed being a cheerleader for her.

Just two months ago, she walked across a stage at the University of West Georgia and became a college graduate. A few weeks later, she got a job.

A friend and I were talking the other day over lunch about children growing up. There are moments when the words or actions of your offspring make you realize your work as a parent is pretty much done.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ll never stop being her daddy, but you see those signs that they are ready to fully take the reins. You see the poise and confidence that has become a part of their adult personality. The trouble is sometimes you see this and in the same moment flashback to a time when the shy little girl clutched her daddy’s hand tightly and hid behind his leg.

My mother grew up in the Great Depression and I think that influenced her love of a good bargain. I don’t know if that is in the gene pool, but her granddaughter loves to brag about a treasure found at a discounted price. It’s one of those subtle reminders that while her paternal grandmother died when she was just 6, she made quite an impression on her only granddaughter.

I thought about Mama on graduation day. She would have found a bargain-basement dress and would have been there front and center. I made sure I wore a coat and tie because Mama would have wanted it that way.

Folks now try to tell us 50 is the new 30 or 60 is the new 40. Fortunately, 23 is 23. While there are many things during the past 23 years I would like to do over, I’m glad we don’t have to revisit growing up.

I have to give credit to her mother and stepfather, who had a tremendous influence on Ashton. However, there are those moments when I see actions or hear words that are a clear indication this young woman is definitely mine. She has a way with words and has her old man’s sense of humor.

So there it is, an ode to 23. The next chapter in this chronicle of a life is likely to be a big one, perhaps the one that involves white lace and promises. I need a little time to prepare for that one.

I wrote this one without shedding a single tear. The next one promises to be a gusher.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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