The Line in the Sand : The Fate of Kuwait and Beyond : Learning to Live in the Desert : It's a Mother's Nightmare. And It Makes Her Wonder.

Thanksgiving dinner always ends the same way. Donna complains that it took 14 hours to cook and only five minutes to eat. "This is the last year I'll do it," she says. And everyone laughs.

But this time she paused after her little joke and took it all back. "No, I'll make Thanksgiving for Marc when he comes home," she said. "I'll make it next year and I'll make him another for the one he missed."

This is all so hard. War is waiting to grab her son, like a troll under the bridge. Some days, Donna wishes the fighting would simply go ahead and begin.

"It's as if someone told you you're going to have a toothache," she said. "You say, OK, I'd just as soon get it over with."

Of course, that is crazy, too. This would be a war almost beyond belief, she knows. Tanks in the desert. Germs and gas. It would be terrible.

The multinational force would be in constant confusion. How will they know the good guys from the bad? she asked. They all have Russian-made or American-made weapons. They all have similar complexions.

"I think the only ones everyone will know to shoot at are the blond-haired, blue-eyed ones, like my Marc," she said.

It is a mother's nightmare. And it makes her wonder. Surely, there must be mothers in Iraq who also want this horror to end. "Maybe we could all march on Saddam Hussein together," she said.

Mothers know: "Roots and wings, that's all you can give your children. Teach them where they came from--teach them what they'll need to know to be on their own. From the very beginning, you're teaching them how to leave you."

That is what Donna has tried to do, although she is not sure she taught her Marc quite enough. The line in the sand is like a crack across her heart.

Does he know that what must be must be? Does he know the gifts of love he has given his family? Does he know that the sleep ahead is immortal?

"I prepared him for his first day at school. I prepared him for his first romance that went bad. Should I be preparing him now to die?"

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