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I've joined a new and growing minority. In fact, in New York City, we are practically a majority (about 47 percent), although nationally, we stand at 27 percent.

We're the people who live alone.

Now, in my case, I'm not really alone. Every night when I come home, I am greeted by the most faithful friends any girl could have: Judy, Molly and Irving A. Estrich. My dogs. Whoever does these counts doesn't include them, proving only that they are probably not dog owners.

And my children tell me they will be back -- at least for visits. But they both have "homes" in their college dorms.

Which is, of course, as it should be.

I am incredibly proud of both of my children. They don't especially like me to write about them, so I'll leave it at that, but they are both fine students and fine people.

I know how lucky I am. I have friends whose kids haven't made it that far, who end up in rehab instead of college, or who never manage to leave home at all.

It is the way of the world, the way it should be, that our children grow up. If we've done our jobs right, we spend their childhoods and teen years teaching them to do just that -- to grow their wings and use them, to develop their independence and self-sufficiency, in short, to leave.

But it still stinks. It's still unbelievably difficult and painfully emotional. That's just it.

I know what I'm supposed to do. Be graceful. Keep busy -- and not just working, which is what I tend to do. Remember old hobbies. Think back to all the times when I thought if only I had a little time and space for myself. Now I do. I'm definitely not supposed to make my kids feel bad for leaving me, and if either of them is reading, they should just stop. It's fine.

When my children were younger, I remember thinking one day that if only I could just freeze it right there -- stop time and stay the youngish mother with the youngish children who couldn't even imagine an empty nest. But there is an old Jewish lesson about that, a lesson that tells us that, really, we would never do that; no loving parent would ever want to deny their children the challenges and opportunities, the life, of growing up. Even if it means they leave. Even if it means we grow old.

No, I understand my part. I'm writing now to those of you who are younger, whose kids are still at home, who are still lucky enough to be in what I will always think of as the "wonder years" of my life.

When you're there, everyone tells you how fast it will go, but you don't believe them. When you're stressed out and sleep deprived, when your kids tell you how everything you do is wrong, when you feel unappreciated and unloved -- and every parent does sometimes -- it certainly doesn't feel like it's going so fast.

But here's my report from the other end: It does go fast. Terribly fast. And the older you get the faster it goes.

So enjoy. I wasn't looking forward to joining my new club. But I am grateful for all those "wonder years" and for the wonders that being a mother has brought to my life. And I can't wait till they come home.