Thoughts on a Lonely Thanksgiving Weekend

If you are like me, you had some unexpected free time on your hands over Thanksgiving weekend. Usually it flies by in a haze of activities related to family and food but, at least in my house, things lagged a little. Thanksgiving in a pandemic with difficult travel restrictions, quarantining, social distancing and limited group gatherings required some creative thinking, a whole lot of zooming and left my husband and I with enough leftovers for two people to live on for weeks to come. That’s because our family was not together physically on Thanksgiving. What this did, however, was give me some extra time to rethink Thanksgiving, it’s meaning and how grateful I am for what I have.

Like many of you, I saw my children only on Zoom on Thanksgiving. They were hunkered down in their respective apartments, Bob Jr. in Boston and Merrill in NYC, cooking the same kind of menu for their Thanksgiving that we would cook together. I was doing the Florida version with some creative twists.  We had talked of many ways to get together as a family but finally came to the conclusion that the safest way for all of us was to stay apart. It was a difficult decision … and it hurt. Your students were involved in the same kind of decision making pre-thanksgiving and the final solutions probably hurt you a little too. But, as I was sulking a little, I began to think about just how grateful I really am that I had 2 productive adult children who faced a tough problem and chose to act responsibly for themselves, their family and their friends.

Now I would like to take credit for all of that adult behavior, what parent wouldn’t, but I know that is only half true. Because a few years ago, both of my kids went off to BU as freshmen with same solid skills and the same big gaps in maturity that most freshmen present with when arriving on campus.  And I am eternally grateful for the joy I received watching each grow and learn and become passionate about the world and their place in it while they were there. The skills they used to keep us all safe during Thanksgiving are the same skills they refined on a daily basis in all their experiences at BU.

I know this semester at BU has been a tremendous challenge for everyone involved.  Keeping a campus of 30,000+ students, professors, administrators, and support workers safe in a worldwide pandemic, while delivering quality education and residential living has proved to be a challenge for many universities this year. But here we are at the end of the semester, that dreaded exam time during the holidays, and we are still going.  And just because it wasn’t the semester the students wanted, or expected, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful one. To live with the rules…the testing, the social distancing, the limited gathering, etc. … the students had to step up and be the big kids. They had to make good choices, be responsible to themselves, their professors, their friends, the administrators, all while trying to expand their minds, their relationships and their worlds in all the ways a great university demands.  And they did it!  How do I know? Our testing numbers suggest that our student, superstars all if you ask me, did exactly what they were supposed to do, and have now made it to exams. And soon they will get some well-deserved time at home.  Time that I am sure you will all enjoy enormously. There is nothing more fun for a parent than seeing the progress your student made in a semester. Wait for the minute when they present a thought as their own that you have been trying to instill in them for years. It’s hilarious and wonderful.

So I am truly grateful to BU this year. We are all safe and healthy, thanks in no small part to a great BU education. I am grateful for all the work of the Dean of Students’ Office, and all the deans, professors, administrators and support staff who spent hundreds of thousands of hours figuring out how to deliver Boston University safely during a pandemic, and who will continue to refine and rethink what a larger research university is and should be in today’s confusing world. Last semester was interrupted, this semester was challenged, and next semester is still to be determined, but BU has managed to keep moving forward and took us all with them. I am grateful to be a small part of that, and even more grateful for the amazing students who chose to be a part of BU this year. They have benefitted in ways you will see for many years to come. BU parents, be proud of them, their accomplishments this semester were hard earned and well deserved. They are the big kids.