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Mothers are forever part of their children // A MOTHER'S STORY

Recently, as I bid my youngest daughter goodbye after she had spent a short vacation with us, the lump in my throat as I made my way to the airport parking garage was unbearable. I remarked to my husband that it seemed my life had become a series of extended hellos and goodbyes, and I realized at that moment this phenomenon had begun for me as I carried within me that first sign of life.

Intrauterine first kicks became reminders of the day when greetings of momentous proportions would welcome my new little one. Say goodbye to the womb, hello to the world. Mother and child's magical nine-month union has come to an end.

Thus began the impossibility of holding onto each and every moment as the child grows before us. Days fly, some at not the exact speed of others, but they do pass and with each moment the hint of separation is felt within the deep recesses of our conscious.

First the bottle is no longer needed, then baby foods are replaced with adult fare, first steps are taken and once confidence is felt, these precious steps lead in directions other than mother's arms.

Independence creeps into daily activities of the toddler, outside the realm of playpen or crib. Day care, preschool, kindergarten, first grade; all misty-eyed occasions whereby our hearts are silently torn as we leave them at each new door, in another's care, facing a necessary requisite of growing up.

With each separation, however, always a return; cookies and milk, shared experiences of teachers and friends, reports of progress and snuggles with Mom, only she and her child can understand.

However, the return is never permanent. Tomorrow the process begins again, and another silent notch is carved upon the heart once more. Middle school sees teenage maneuvers whereby Mom's ideas are obsolete. There is further separation that borders on anxiety. "Please God, return the child I knew so well." High school, driver's license, first job and friends who blindly lead them further outside the family circle.

Then college, time only for study, parties and further interaction with burgeoning adulthood.

We mothers stand by and observe, still wanting to pat heads, comb hair and cuddle like the old days. Impossible to let go, but we do, secretly sharing our concerns only with God and loyal "mother-friends."

Somehow, as we look back through all the cheery hellos and teary goodbyes, we realize that the constant change that has visited itself upon us has in most ways been for the good. We have become stronger, more adaptable, more ready to understand the plight of separation.

We as mothers should never obscure the sadness of detachment with the hope of reunion. Separation always makes way for the glorious excitement of reunion, and within the reunion is the essence of a mother's reason for existence.

Norma McCulliss is a freelance writer who lives in Clearwater .