The countdown to emancipation

Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.

Julie Carter

It’s a burden he has had to endure – his life chronicled for publication as he grew to manhood.

His mother is a writer so, of course, she has frequently penned his adventures in the process we call “growing up.” Now, another milestone has arrived.

My son is part of the high school graduating class of 2012. There are hundreds of thousands of them across the country, but for him in a small rural school, there are only four others that will stand next to him in a cap and gown this month. It is a fitting close to this chapter in the life of a country boy.

Once he was the little boy with holes in the knees of his jeans, scuffed-up boots and a more than well-worn cowboy hat. He is now 6’ 5” and about to step out of his cowboy comfort zone that was at the end of a dirt road. It is there he learned to ride, rope, weld, and hunt along with manners, respect and the value of hard work.

Like most his age, he has counted the months that turned into weeks and now days until they hand him a diploma and release him into life. He harbors both excitement and trepidation for the unknown. His dreams are as big as he is but the logistics of getting there are sometimes overwhelming.

It seems only yesterday he wandered by as a 5-year old, leaned over and planted his elbows on my desk, cupped his face in his hands and said, “Mom, do you think it’s time for a raise in my alangance?”

“Alangance? What is that?” I asked, knowing he meant “allowance” and amused because he wanted a raise for something he didn’t have in the first place.

Gesturing with his hand he said, “Well, you know. It’s money.” Anyone who has raised a child, and more pointedly a teenager, recognizes the emerging pattern for the years ahead.

In elementary school, he came home upset because some kids told him he was “too cowboy.” He thought he should be offended until I explained to him the honor that came with the title and even if they didn’t know it, they had paid him a great compliment.

In junior high, his life became about sports, hunting, and he transitioned from 4-H to FFA. He quickly learned that the county fair was a good place to meet girls and annually he fell in love with all the reasons to be there – his show animals and the pretty distractions.

High school brought, besides a driver’s license and summer jobs, intensity to his maturing athletic abilities. With that came a mountain of sweaty football and basketball uniforms, never-ending game schedules and the highs and lows of competition. He proudly wore the blue and gold of FFA and never realized how much that part of his life was shaping him for adulthood.  His life moved from season to season without much thought to it ever being any different.

And while I still see glimpses of that little boy in moments he doesn’t even realize, mostly what I see before me is a young man who has retained his hard-headed determination to push forward in life. That will serve him well when he is on the right road and work against him when he takes a wrong turn. Isn’t that what growing up is all about?

He’s the last of the brood to leave the nest so it’s not a new journey for me, but nonetheless, it brings with it the usual reminiscing of those days that brought us to now. And in that, I recognize the inevitable seasons of life and anticipate for him those yet to come.

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarternm@gmail.comVisit her website at



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