'Yardstick moments' highlight growth

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Two recent celebrations, the 30th anniversary of the May River Montessori School and the 35th annual Hilton Head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade, were both bittersweet in that they served as life "yardstick moments" for Rose and me.

The Montessori anniversary was also the retirement party for the incomparable Sharon Haag. It brought back vivid memories of parent-teacher conferences, the schoolyard Shakespeare "productions," and the unbounded energy of our little people being released at the end of the school day.

This year's iteration of the local St. Patrick's Day Parade was, by unofficial count, my 19th time to ride in the event. The first year was 2000. Rose and I were pre-children, and I was a new 30-something County Council member.

In subsequent years, I would ride with babies in arms, then toddlers, and now our children are either riding floats of their school organizations or just a little too grownup to ride with "ole dad."

The parade itself has changed over the years. There have been different routes, different staging areas and a different crop of civic-minded folks doing the organizing and the float wrangling.

If anything, the event has become so well organized, that it seems to no longer need organizers or wranglers. You show up, find your vehicle and driver, get in the car, and we're off.

In a way, both of the recent celebrations are a reflection of the growth of our area. Hilton Head Island is mainly built out, but still evolving, but the change is in degree, not of kind. The mainland areas, Bluffton, Beaufort, Hardeeville and Ridgeland, are in various stages of change.

With the planned Jasper Port and the popularity of our part of the Lowcountry as both a tourism and retirement destination, we will see new neighbors and friends aplenty for quite some time.

The celebrations are also a "yardstick" to help us see and understand the growth of our family. At each St. Patrick's or Bluffton Christmas Parade, our children have seemingly changed dramatically, such is the "blink-of-an-eye" nature of a parent's view of childhood.

They are still our beautiful babies, but with each mark of the yardstick, they have become more individual, more complex, more interesting and occasionally more exasperating.

As life, family, careers and generations all begin, then mature, and finally fall away, Rose and I see ourselves in the "mature" stretch along the pathway. We have two licensed drivers among our brood, and college brochures are on our kitchen table.

A couple of weeks ago, I filed for re-election to the House of Representatives. It was also a time for introspection. Have my public service priorities changed? Am I still the same person as that optimistic thirty-something new County Councilman from 2000?

Rose and I talked and talked some more. We finally agreed that I have changed. More mature. More girth. More gray hair. But I have the same reverence for doing the people's business.

Whether protecting ratepayers from V.C. Summer debacle, insuring beach re-nourishment efforts, protecting our environment, supporting pro-business and pro-jobs legislation, or helping strengthen our ethics and transparency laws, I'm still your man.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.

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