Each fall, millions of parents in the United States face "The Goodbye Year."
This is the year one of their children is a high school senior: the last year when life stays the same for mothers before one of their babies (or only baby or oldest baby) will leave the nest and fly off to college, a job or maybe the military.
For many a mother, this is a hard year, because for 18 years, her identity can be tied into her child's. She is "Johnny's mother," where a great amount of her time is spent doing things for Johnny, including cooking, laundry and errands.
When author Toni Piccinini faced daughter Page's senior year, she felt anxiety and sadness. Page was the oldest of her three children and the only girl.
This year would be full of many "lasts" for Piccinini: They would no longer be a family of five once Page graduated and went to college. The author also realized that she had no idea who she was besides being a mother. Before she had children, she loved to cook. She and her husband had opened their own restaurant, and she still cooked elaborate meals for her family on a daily basis.
But as many mothers know, personal hobbies and passions can become less important as mothering consumes their lives. This is how the book, "The Goodbye Year: Wisdom and Culinary Therapy to Survive Your Child's Senior Year of High School (and Reclaim the You of You)," was born.
While facing Page's senior year full of angst, Piccinini also decided to begin teaching cooking classes to reclaim an activity for herself and make it through the "empty nest syndrome," before she even had an empty nest.
Piccinini's book is not just a memoir, which is why it is so lovely. It's full of humor as she has the wonderful quality of being able to laugh at herself and her family while also sharing touching moments and honest emotions. Plus, it's a cookbook and self-help manual.
"The Goodbye Year" is divided into 12 chapters to represent the months of the calendar. Each chapter tells a personal story from Piccinini's life as a mother while she also shares about her life growing up with what she refers to as one of the first "Tiger" moms. Then she includes a recipe to fit that month and what's going on in the reader's life. Some of these recipes are simple; others are more complex. They range from a dish with rabbit (but you can substitute chicken) to a fruit torte.
After each recipe, Piccinini also suggests an activity to help readers figure out who they want to be once their children have graduated and moved on with their own lives. These range from joining a new group to creating memory boxes for children to helping out at a homeless shelter.
Piccinini is an assistant editor for Narrative magazine. At one time, she owned a "Top 100" restaurant in San Francisco. She now lives in Marin County, Calif., with her husband, and occasionally she has children back home filling up the space she and her husband have converted to an office and man cave.
Although I'm far from the goodbye year, since my stepson is only 12 and my daughter will be 3 at the end of this month, I found Piccinini's book to be charming and full of great advice. It is especially targeted to readers with high school-age children, but if you enjoy memoirs or annotated cookbooks, you will love "The Goodbye Year."
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). She lives in St. Louis with her family.