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The last time past the castle

February 19, 2011

Later this month, my daughter, is going overseas, way overseas, to visit a college campus for a program she applied to almost on a lark.

This is the same little girl who used to light up like the morning sky if I said I’d take her to the McDonald’s with the indoor playground in the dead of winter. She’s the same little girl who became quite put out when she found out she’d have a little brother rather than a little sister like her friend had. And whose anger evaporated when she held him in her arms for the first time just a couple hours later.

This is the same girl who stood next to me and sang at the top of her lungs when we went to the U2 concert together, and who looks at me with bemused annoyance at any of my plethora of off-color remarks. Fortunately and unfortunately, she’s also the incredible young woman who’s just now starting the most exciting part of her life, her hard work paying off in ways she never imagined.

I used to take her to swim practice and drive through some of the higher-income neighborhoods. She called one of the houses there “the castle” and loved to drive by it. Every Tuesday and Thursday I’d pick her up after work and take her to the pool. Then I’d go to Panera and eat dinner, drink coffee, and write until practice was over. Then, most nights, we’d drive past the castle.

Because of the crush of homework, college applications, scholarship applications, and some other things, I drove her past the castle last week. Considering graduation’s less than four months away, I was a little melancholy when I told her, “This might be the last time I drive you past the castle.”

These are the moments that are most meaningful, bigger than any big idea. They’re real and tangible, and they actually happen.

As someone trying to write fiction, I know my work will be an escape and, I hope, carry some social relevance, as well.

But the pretend battles between good and evil are unlikely to be as poignant as the last time by the castle. That’s what really matters.

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7 Comments
  1. February 19, 2011 12:51 pm

    Chris, I didn’t know you had a daughter graduating this year. My son is also graduating high school in June. Even though it’s felt like a lifetime at times over the years, it is surprising to think only 18 years ago they were dependent on you for everything.

    I liked your point about the small moments creating the connective meaning both in life and in a story.

    Thanks for blogging.

  2. February 19, 2011 1:25 pm

    When my first daughter went away to college, I would awake with a homesick awareness of her absence so intense it frightened me. She’s long returned from there, and law school, married, and God-willing, starting a family of her own. More memories will come, but Chris, you are wise to treasure this you write about. Thank you for reminding all of us to do the same. (And on her first visit home, go past the castle!)

  3. February 19, 2011 1:27 pm

    P.S. First visit home from college, of course, next year. Unless she’s remaining in FL for that. 🙂

  4. Chris Hamilton permalink
    February 20, 2011 1:38 am

    Lara, one of the really cool things is when they turn out right. We did a good job. She did an enormous amount of work, but we helped her be in position to do it. That’s a gratifying feeling.

    Tricia, I’ll be lucky if she’s home twenty minutes the first time she comes home, what with friends and all.

  5. Susan Berry permalink
    February 21, 2011 3:13 pm

    Ah! McDonald’s. I can remember mom saying that when I was little, she could never drive past a McDonald’s without me popping up from the back seat pointing out the arches and wanting to stop.

  6. Chris Hamilton permalink
    February 21, 2011 11:11 pm

    Same was us, until one day when I asked if my daughter wanted to go to McDonald’s and she made a face like I’d just acknowledged her in front of her friends…

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