Ciao'd on my son's first day of his high school junior year. It's still August.

This is the season when mothers mourn. Little ones start nursery school and bigger ones enter high school. The biggest of them take the exit ramp from as it was to as it will be. College.

Starting this week, mom bloggers will write about these rites of passage. Facebook posts will leak emotion.  The rawest and sweetest words will come from the mothers whose college-bound children will be sleeping in their beds one night and gone from them the next.

It's a song sung in the round with variations on a theme. “It seems like only yesterday I was:
In labor.
Playing tooth fairy.
Watching bobbleheads lacrosse.
“Helping” with middle school math. Enter the tutor, the first of many.
White-knuckling it through drivers’ permit practice.
Staying up half the night waiting for him/her to walk in the door safe and sober (or at least pretending to be). THANK YOU UBER.
Weathering the bullets-to-my-heart hormones.
High-fiving when the college acceptance email came.”

Our children ghost us in our dusty diaries. Page upon page of glimmering memories, worries, hopes, and dreams. Laughter and tears. Angst and joy. Life at its largest.

At the end of the day, mothers learn we have little control of who and what those babies will become. When my son was an infant, I would sit in his nursery and consider him as he slept (the MOST beautiful baby of them all).  I twirled my mother wand and proclaimed he would be this and that. That was 4.0+ GPA, athletic full-ride to a D1 college or at least to one of the UCs, gallery-worthy artist, filmmaker, tech titan, richer than the 1 percent, [insert your wish here]. I wanted everything that for him. Stupid, those thats.

Light-speed years later, this is what really counts: healthy, happy, hard-working, kind, polite to others (except me, sometimes) regardless of age or walk of life. Brave enough to take chances - some breathtaking, others bonehead - and responsible enough to know the difference. All this this not all the time but (fingers crossed) most of the time. Mothers, can I have a show of hands that it’s the this that make us most proud?

My son doesn’t take the exit ramp to his future for another two years. He’s still on the shoulder of the road and, though I want to keep him there, I know it’s just a matter of milliseconds before he speeds off.  

I’m feeling for you moms out there with college-bound and gap year kids. Here’s a special shout-out to the ones closest to me: Aida, Mary Ann, Lynn, Kristi, Jocelyn, Teal, Diana, Nancy.

When your kids come home for college break, chances are they’ll ask you to cook them a favorite dish. Food is home. But for now, how about something for you? Maybe a comforting macaroni soup?  When I make this soup, my son chops the vegetables for me. At least for the time being.



If you're making this soup ahead of time, don't add the pasta until you reheat it. Otherwise, mush may ensue.

Serves 4

¾ pound ground turkey, preferably thigh meat
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
One 14.5 ounces can chopped tomatoes
2 fresh thyme sprigs
8 cups chicken stock
1 ¼ cups uncooked small pasta such as orzo or tubetti
2 cups fresh baby spinach or arugula

In a medium bowl, mix together the turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper. Shape the mixture into small (about 1 ¼-inch-diameter) meatballs. Place on baking sheet; cover and chill while you prepare the soup.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the thyme sprigs, and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions until it is barely al dente. Drain and reserve.

Add the turkey meatballs to the soup and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach or arugula and cooked pasta and simmer until the turkey meatballs and pasta are cooked through, about 5 minutes more.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and serve with Parmesan for passing at the table.