This past month my eldest daughter turned 18, she is officially an adult. When I turned 18 in Montana 33 years ago, the drinking age was 18. So besides being able to vote, I could also walk down to The Mint Bar and have a ditch (the Western term for a whiskey and water) or a Rainier beer. And I quite often did. Though to be fair, since I already had a beard and was living in Montana, going to a bar was something I had already been doing for awhile anyway. But at 18, I was official.
Times have changed and the Midwest isn’t Montana. But for that, Montana isn’t really Montana anymore either. Now you turn 18 and all you get to do is vote… and get a tattoo. That is what my daughter’s friends and cousins have done, that is what she is planning to do. I think I would prefer that she went to a bar and had a whiskey and water. But so it goes.
My daughter has grown into a smart and interesting young woman. When she was 2 or 3, my mother-in-law summed her up perfectly in a christmas card she sent to family and friends: “a tiny mite with a mind of her own.” And so she remains.
At no point in her life has she wanted to be told what to do. It is a trait I admire… but also one that leaves me to worry at times. Since that kind of stubbornness and contrariness is an ingrained Hinton trait, I know the darker side of that tendency. I point to myself and my brothers and say, “sometimes things work out better if you are willing to jump through hoops.” But since it is not natural to learn from other people’s mistakes, she will have to learn things on her own.
Growing up in a house of boys in the West, a world of sports and drinking and fighting and the outdoors, having only daughters has always been… a delightful challenge. One I am continually thankful for. That my two daughters have turned out to be smart, interesting, well-balanced, and beautiful is… a delightful gift I am also thankful for.
When I turned 18, I had biked to Canada and been to Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and California. That is it. My daughter has been to Europe twice. She knows so much more about the world and things than I ever could have at that age… at twice that age. But that is yet another way the world has changed.
18 years goes by quickly. When she first entered my life I was a skinny, young man of 33. My hair was thick and my beard still red. Now I am planted in middle-age. I promised myself when she first came into my life that I would try to pay attention every day and take nothing for granted. I hope it has made a difference in her life that I have tried to do that. I know it has made a difference in mine.
In the fall, she will head off to college… something she has been wanting to do for a long time. She has been ready to be her own person for years. And so she is. She loves talking about politics and current events and music and literature… and occasionally, though reluctantly, theology or religion. She is more than ready to take on the world. So in the fall, I will need to let her go.
But for this summer, when she is around… not doing the thousand things that occupy her time, I will continue to work on paying attention, to taking nothing for granted. For if 18 years have passed so quickly… how quickly will 3 months?