Nothing feels as bittersweet quite like that time in our lives when our children graduate high school and fly the nest.

We celebrate their victories and accomplishments, cheering them onto the next phase of their lives with tears in our eyes and a happy yet somewhat heavy heart, as we recognize all too well that life will be forever changed, along with the family dynamics as they pack up their rooms for college and proceed along their path to adulthood. And as the years passed, I wrote my congratulations to the young adults in our community. However, when both my boys graduated in 2005 and 2008, it affected me directly, so I wrote each time about this poignant passage of time and what we had to look forward to without their everyday presence.

Since then and around the closing of the school year, someone from time to time will remind me of those columns. So, I've decided to share again a vignette of what I wrote when my youngest graduated, which talked about our soon-to-be-empty nest. And as I did for my firstborn's graduation, I again mimicked writer Erma Bombeck in her heartfelt column about kids growing up called "No More Oatmeal Kisses," which was first published in 1969.

"Once again, I find myself thinking about Erma's column as I imagine our soon-to-be-quiet home. I'll walk by the laundry room and see his football jersey still hanging on the rack after it was washed for the last time, instead of rolled up in a stinky ball on his bedroom floor. Friday night lights, which previously meant watching football games under the bright glare of the stadium lamps, will take on a new meaning of perhaps the glow of candlelit dinners with friends. There will be no more dishes scattered everywhere and pillows will remain just where I've placed them without him or one of his friends divebombing the couch.

"I realize that we raise our children to fly the nest and to become adults, yet the result is bittersweet. It is a tightly packed bundle of emotions that at times manifests itself in one rather large lump, which is hard to swallow. I know that lump will be with me when they play "Pomp and Circumstance" during the graduation ceremony. I'll be there with family at my side and longing for just one more day with my high school kid. I'll be wishing for one more time I could call him out of PE, just so we could trek into the City for lunch in North Beach after his dentist appointment -- after all, his pediatrician once said that life's lessons are learned outside of the classroom as well.

"We learned that it takes about 25 minutes to get to downtown San Francisco when the bridge is clear at midday. I wish I could sit in the stands for one more game and cheer the team on to another victory. I wish I could celebrate his achievements, all of them, all over again. Alas, time marches on and this is the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one, which I welcome with open arms. I'm forever grateful that I've had these wonderful years with my children. Yes, even the smelly laundry and scattered dirty dishes, because it meant they were still under our roof.

"Erma wrote in her column that when kids grow up and leave, there no longer will be a chaotic household and the frustrations that it sometimes brings; 'Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?" And the silence echoing, "I did." ' "

Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- alamo@hotmail.com.