An experience like none other

Elaine Luddy Klonicki, Columnist

My daughter Jenny is sick with the flu today and we’ve been going through old photos, trying to find a baby picture suitable for her Senior Breakfast in May. The pictures will be enlarged and put on display so she and her classmates can guess who’s who.

She’s pre-selected several, from which I get to choose one. She’s already nixed my favorite, a photo of her at two-and-a-half, wearing a pair of inside-out white tights on her head as if it were a headpiece from the Cinderella ball. (When she was little, she never missed an opportunity to “costume” and pose for the camera.)

Looking at the images, I’m amazed at the tricks our memories play on us. With some pictures, I can remember every detail about the moment they were taken—the feelings, the clothing, the events of the day. With others, I don’t recognize the people or settings at all.

Maybe it’s our age—my husband, Gary, and I are both turning 50 this year. But that milestone seems to pale compared to Jenny’s upcoming graduation. She’s our youngest, so we’re almost done with this parenting thing. Well, the school pictures and school lunch part, anyway. We know from our experience with her older brother Doug that parenting doesn’t end; it just changes shape, morphing from management to consulting.

We’ve already begun saying our goodbyes, starting with our last CASL soccer game and tournament in November. Between the two kids, we’ve covered quite a bit of North Raleigh territory over the years: Gymcarolina, West Popular Library programs, Pierrette Sadler Danceurs Studio, A.E. Finley YMCA day camps (when Clay, alias Gonzo, was there!), Raleigh Parks and Recreation workshops, Kamp Kanata. 

At Camp Oak Hill, Jenny will be graduating from camper to counselor this summer, if she gets the job. In the fall she’ll be a freshman at East Carolina. We’ll be empty nesters, which terrifies me at times. But I’m also ready for the next stage: to focus on my career. In fact, February is a month of professional milestones for me. This is my 20th N&O column, counting the guest columns I wrote before “Box of Chocolates.”

It’s been an experience like none other for me, exciting and rewarding. I’m grateful to Dan Holly for the writing opportunity and the chance to make so many new friends. But my run is up; new community columnists are coming our way. And as sad as I am to go, the timing of my “commencement” feels right. Because my book All on Account of You: A True WWII Love Story ( has just been published. After a rough spell, my mom is feeling better, and we’ll be able to do local book signings together as planned.

The book, which is the true story of her life, centers on the year 1942, when she was an aspiring fashion designer in New York City, and my father was a 90-day wonder stationed on a Navy ship in the Hudson Bay. It includes my mom’s letters home to her family, and more than fifty of my dad’s love letters. He pursued her for a long time, and the letters—romantic, funny, and inspiring—are the main reason he won her hand.

Although my column is ending, I won’t really be gone. I’ll continue to submit stories to The N&O now and then, and to other local and national publications as well. It took me quite a while to find my real passion, writing, but now that I’ve found it, I can’t seem to stop.

See ya around!

This article first appeared in The News and Observer, February 23, 2007

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