"So far away ... doesn't anyone stay in one place anymore? It would be so fine to see your face at my door."
The words to that song stuck in my head as I overheard two women talking about their kids. One is living in North Carolina after having found a great job in the medical field. Another lives in California where she found employment, and really loves the Pacific Ocean at her door. Another child resides in Columbus, Ohio, the nearest to his parents, yet a busy schedule keeps him from too many family visits.
My heart ached a little as one mom fought back tears, saying how she missed her kids and the finances just weren't there to visit them as often as they'd like. Facebook, cell phones and Skype have made it easier for her and her husband to stay in touch with the kids, but we all know that doesn't replace throwing your arms around them when you both need a hug.
A cohort and I often talk about the "essence" of our kids now that they are grown and live away from us. The "essence" can be a warm embrace, a familiar scent of perfume or hearing that great laugh of theirs.
In person, you can feel when things are right or wrong with the kids. Not so much behind a computer screen.
We prop ourselves up with the knowledge that we did the best we could raising our kids, even through the worst times when doors slammed and they hated us for a day or two. It's hard to parent any kid through high school, and four years of college is a long time for parents to hold their collective breaths.
Yet when they have really flown the coop, it often happens in a rush of a rental truck and we are left with the tennis trophies and old FASFA forms, wondering what happened to 18 years. Once they go off to college or enter a career out of high school, they are no longer ours to keep.
Today, the job market changes daily, almost as quickly as those text messages on our phones. And our kids have to chase their dreams - sometimes to the farthest reaches of the country and the world. There aren't many companies that claim histories of more than 100 or even 50 years.
It's as if someone hit the delete button too many times in our economy. Kids graduating college today will work no longer than a few years at a job before moving on two, three or more times to other employment. The skills they need today are much more technical than just 10 years ago..
In 1973, when I graduated from high school, jobs were plentiful, malls and new neighborhoods were being built and working in the bustling retail industry came with the pride of offering personalized service.
Today, there's no one in the dress department to hunt another size for you from the dressing room. If you want to know how much something costs, there are automatic price scanners throughout the stores. You never have to talk to a human throughout your shopping experience.
We are so far away ... from a lot of things that used to be. Time to move on - and sing a new song.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.