Thursday, July 21, 2011

Goose Turns 30, and I'm Getting Old

My daughter Meredith turns 30 in a few days. I have a hard time with that statement. Goose is 30? No way. Way. The child who arrived while I slogged through graduate school in journalism at The University of Texas at Austin is now five years older than I was when she was born.

Did you get all that? I have a nerdish way with numbers, dates, etc. Sorry. To simplify, I was not-quite-26 when she was born. Now she’s 30, a graduate of this same university along with her older sister. I work a couple hundred feet from where I was attending classes back then. If I could impart one piece of wisdom to you who are on the road, as the song goes, it is to never be surprised at how things turn out. Savor the trip, folks — good, bad or just plain ugly.

When Mere was born in Austin, we lived in one of the final houses on Guadalupe Street where it tails off north of town. That used to be the boonies, near the end of the bus line. Now, well, those who live here know. The boonies are miles away in all directions. They tore down the old Brackenridge Hospital where she was born, a squat, red-brick building just west of I-35 near downtown. I used to tease Mere that she was the building’s demise.

I rarely call her Goose anymore, she being 30 and all. I have a hard time explaining why I started calling her that in the first place. It just fit when she was a wide-eyed baby examining the world. Then my mother shot a photo of her being chased by an actual goose at Teague Park in Longview. My artist dad turned that into a colored-pencil sketch entitled “Wild Goose Chase,” which now hangs in my house. Thus are sobriquets born and legends made. Mere is still scared witless by geese. I’m not crazy about them either, at least the chasing kind.

That’s just one thing we have in common, along with a love for books and writing. We walk alike, as anyone watching us coming down a sidewalk can attest. I have had people say, “That must be your daughter” after watching us both walk, feet splayed to the outside, a slight bounce to the gait. Folks say we look alike as well, though she’s obviously much cuter than me. We’re both short with brown eyes. I once had brown hair; now it has turned gray or turned loose. Her hair was once purple. I think she has outgrown that phase, save for Halloween, one of her favorite events.

Mere is a naturally gifted writer who has a great day job at a museum but really lives to fill empty spaces with words. She had her first poem published at age 8, sent in by her big sister Kasey, who fibbed and told Teen magazine that the author was 13. The poem went:

Hand in hand across the beach
Looking for something out of reach.
The moonlight shines upon the sea
Looking for something called destiny.

These days she writes a blog about horror movies and another that covers all types of entertainment and is part of a popular Austin blog called Badass Digest, sponsored by Alamo Drafthouse. Her piece on that site is called Borders Line and covers all sorts of genre. Google it some time. Parental-advisory warning: Some times she uses words not often found in family newspapers, or in this blog. It’s a generational thing. But her style is breezy and crisp, her ability to rattle off plotlines and character names is phenomenal, and I’m thrilled she semi-stole her blog title from the old man.

One of the most enjoyable exercises of my adult life was when we watched an advance screening of “Charlie Wilson’s War” together a few years ago, and each wrote separate reviews for the Lufkin newspaper. Hers was better.

Like me, Mere makes no money filling her space. She does it because she has to write, or her world doesn’t feel right. I know the feeling. That is why I continue writing a column each week, 29 years after I first started. Several featured a wide-eyed toddler with a goofy nickname. I was then and am now a proud father of all my daughters.

But this one is for Mere. Happy 30th, Goose. Love, Dad.

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