Last September, the day before Labor Day, our family worked up a sweat jam-packing two vehicles with towels, pillows, clothes, and enough shoes to outfit a small village in Zimbabwe. Then we proceeded to unload everything and haul it up four flights of stairs to my daughter's dorm room at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.

Since Danielle is our oldest (and only daughter) I knew it would be hard to "let go," but I told myself I would not be a blubbering, lunatic, college mom.

In fact, I didn't cry at all during moving day, but the following day -- Labor Day. Now that was a different story. Even though it was bright and sunny outside, I was feeling dark and gloomy, so I smoothed on sunscreen and hopped on the riding lawn mower. Since we live on a farm and have several acres to cut, I knew it would take a few hours. What I didn't know was I'd be sobbing the whole time!

I didn't even make my first pass around the pond when it hit me -- Danielle wouldn't be around every day. Oh, there would be weekends when she'd breeze in with laundry and food requests, but having a day-to-day daughter in the house to play Scrabble, take walks, and discuss "girl stuff" was part of the past.

I don't know if moms feel the same "gut punch" when their sons go off to college, but the pain is very real when the little girl who let you braid her pigtails every day through fourth grade trades her 12 foot by 12 foot bedroom for a closet-size 4th floor sauna she has to share with a total stranger who could be a closet axe-murderer. [Actually,  Heidi the potential axe-murderer turned out to be a sweet, cheerful, friendly roomie.]

Meanwhile, back on the lawn mower, my tears finally dried as the mower ran out of gas. I dashed inside, took a shower, and got ready for a Labor Day cook-out thrown by our friends Ruth and Roger. Since my husband was still in the barn, I stirred up a batch of brownies to take to the party. Later that night, when we sat in Roger's garage, someone asked me what I brought in the foil-covered pan.

"Oh, those are Depression Brownies," I answered.

"You mean an old family recipe passed down from your Grandma or something?" Ruth asked.

"No, we moved Danielle into college yesterday. I was depressed, so I made brownies." I tried to laugh it off, but the watery glint in the eyes of two "college moms" at the picnic table told me I wasn't alone.

Danielle truly enjoyed her freshman year at college and we liked having her around over the summer (even though she worked every day to help pay next year's tuition). But now it's time to pack clothes, towels, and shoe collection once again and start a new year at school.

Recently my niece Shannon, a high school senior, asked Dani for the top two things she learned about surviving that crucial first year of college.

"Keep your dorm room open. I met my three best friends the first week of school when I was sitting around listening to music and they walked in with, 'Hey, I love that song!' " Dani shared. "Also, don't room with a high school friend, or you won't have the incentive to meet new people."

As a veteran college-mom, I also had advice for Shannon's mom:

Expect to cry a few buckets of tears, but be sure to treat yourself too. Buy a new scented candle, fuzzy sweater, or romance book, and then whip up a big batch of "Depression Brownies" and give in to the chocolate rush. And just remember -- the hug of a loved one and a sinfully rich piece of dessert can get you though almost anything -- even freshman move-in day!

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