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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Maybe we should all shed a tear for others

I heard her before I saw her.

My daughter, who had spent a week in the woods, at camp for the first time, was having fun, and from the bellowing sound of her laughing voice everyone on that end of the county knew it.

When I rounded the curve and got a look at her, I laughed too.

I guess if I were honest, I was searching for some sign of homesickness. I suppose I thought I would see relief in her eyes that I had come for her at last and we were on our way home.

But Saturday morning what I saw was a grubby little girl with wild, unkempt hair, scratched and bruised shins, sun-browned skin and an ear-to-ear grin.

Instead of Cosette from Les Miserables, I found a wild child; the lost sister of Romulus and Remus.

Talking to her counselors and the friends she made during her week in the woods, a new picture of my child emerged. I learned that the girl who runs from bees at home doesn’t hesitate to take out a spider, bare-handed, and that she is fearless in the water.

When the rains came and flooded her campsite, soaking her sleeping bag and washing away the letter she had written to me, it didn’t dampen her spirits.

When a bat flew down and landed on the rock beside her, instead of shrieking and running away, she stood silent and still and the two exchanged a long look before it flew off into the evening sky.

In a small way the little girl who came home with me wasn’t the same child I delivered to the camp the weekend before.

When we were ready to leave she took me over to meet her favorite counselor, a young man named Will. As I chatted with Will, I learned that he wouldn’t be working at the camp anymore this summer.

He is off to join the Marines.

Will teased that boot camp would be a breeze compared to spending a week in the woods with a bunch of 9- and 10-year-olds. He told me his brother, his twin, is already serving. While he stood talking to me his hands were busy with the children who, reluctant to say goodbye, were still clinging to him, climbing on his back and legs.

When we turned to leave, he grabbed my daughter’s camera and snapped a self portrait, striking a comic pose.

As we drove away, my daughter sat quietly in the back seat, her face turned to the window. I glanced over my shoulder and caught her wiping away a tear.

Saying goodbye is hard.

Now, I can’t stop thinking about the young counselor. I watched his face as he talked about enlisting, touched by the youth and confidence that painted his features.

It is the same way my daughter looks when she talks about going back to camp, eager to face her fears and conquer the world.

And, I think about his mother.

I can’t imagine how it must feel to watch your sons walk cheerfully into preparation for war, a war that is already under way. I’m sure it hurts.

Then, when I got to work Tuesday morning, there was an e-mail from another woman. At the end of the note, she added a postscript to say she had read the column I wrote about sending my daughter off to camp.

“They grow up so fast,” she wrote. And then she added these words: “I just took my son to the airport yesterday; on his way back to Iraq after two weeks of R&R.”

Now, I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed of tears squandered on a child who was safe and secure, spending a week at camp, when there are other mothers’ children – and other mothers around the world – who hold back their tears.

Women with a real reason to cry.

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