MyStoryYourStory: Audible only by hearts once broken

�Here, penciled in inches up a doorframe, these little marks mark the growth of a child, impatient to get on with it, a child stretching his neck in a hurry to leave nothing here but an absence in a doorway.� North of Alliance, Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate

This week across America, millions of students, fresh out of high school, are heading off to college.

Dutifully, parents fill vehicles with suitcases and crates, backpacks and bedding, electronics and appliances.

Fighting back tears and swallowing hard, they wonder where the time has gone.

Here is the baby they brought home from the hospital 18 years ago. Now, a towering six feet, his eyes squinting in the mid-day sun, he says, �Please, don�t cry, Mom.�

Can this be the toddler who took her first steps on this very sidewalk they now travel? Today, a standout center sailing away on a basketball scholarship, she consoles, �Don�t worry, Dad, I�ll be home for Thanksgiving.�

This is the preteen who played pranks just to see his mother scream and told jokes only to hear her laugh. Trying to dismiss air saturated with melancholy, he quips, �Hey, Ma, how many parents does it take to send a child away to college�.�

All packed and not so ready to go, a father removes his ball cap, brushes sweat from his brow and wonders if he prepared his child for all the lessons ahead.

A mother bites her nails as the countdown continues to an empty bedroom and a blank place at the table. With a sense of urgency, she frets over what wasn�t said and wonders, �Is this the right time?�

Gone are the days she cozied up to her parents� loving embrace. Vanished are the times he wanted to spend with Mom and Dad, instead of friends. Absent is the sense they are all safe and sound under one roof.

Setting out over hills and dales, tunnels and thoroughfares, the mood, heavy as deadweight, hangs over these caravans of families.

Parents wishing they could turn around and roll back the clock.

Younger siblings taunting and teasing as they egg on shared rivalries.

Sending children off to college is a reckoning with one�s own mortality. As our children grow older, so we grow older.

Embedded in this journey, we wrestle with our need to be needed. As children become more independent, they�re dependence diminishes.

Throughout this journey a reliance on trust and a battle with fear comingle. We want to believe our children are prepared, but we worry anyway.

Actually, this is not so much a sending as it is a passing. Audible only by hearts, once broken in the same manner, is the collective mourning of mothers and fathers of first-time college students everywhere agonizing over letting go.

Even though parents will see their sons and daughters again, they know from this day forward, it will never be the same.

2011 � Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, her columns took five first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamonpaula@gmail, follow her blog at my-story-your-story.blogspot.com and find her on FaceBook.

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