It says a lot when newspaper deadline pressure is easier than being off work.
It’s how I felt this week after having Beckett home from boarding school with two exchange students from Guatemala for 11 days (and nights).
In mid-August, as we left Beckett at his new home away from in Virginia, the concept of our son not laying his head at home each night was unimaginable. A new normal full of emotions was ahead. The house was quiet. Life slowed down a lot. The typical shuttling of the teen to and from different places grinded to a halt. The frustrating conversations about bedtime, hygiene and respect were less frequent. Parenting changed without question, but there’s plenty of it still on multiple levels each day, as we migrate through this adjustment period without him home.
Since we have become accustomed to him not being in the house a lot over the past three-plus months, it’s now an adjustment when he is home. Due to travel, boarding school schedules include longer breaks around holidays than most schools. Thanksgiving would be an example, as he was out of school for 11 days and the dorms closed.
The length of the break was our only concern when Beckett asked if two foreign exchange students from Guatemala, Diego, 16, and Eduardo, 17, could stay with us. In the end, any concerns were muted by word these two may not spend Thanksgiving with a family. We were excited to show them our area, and these boys turned out to be a blessing. This year’s Thanksgiving will always be remembered as the year we had the two Guatemalan foreign exchange students with us.
We had many memorable conversations with Diego and Eduardo during their stay with us. I learned a lot about Guatemala culture and education. Diego and Eduardo were excited to be in the states and study at Beckett’s school. In fact, Diego particularly wants to return on scholarship and finish high school in the states. He wants to go to college in this country and he says the best way to ensure that’s affordable and possible is to be an existing high school student in the states.
On the way home from school, I told Diego and Eduardo about Beckett’s little brother, Carson. The boys were not familiar with Autism or special needs. I did my best to explain Carson in simplest forms. It was interesting to observe throughout their stay how interested they were in Carson and seemed to enjoy his sense of humor. Though Carson is incredibly shy and introverted around just about everyone, he’s especially reserved around people he doesn’t know. Over the course of the Guatemalans staying with us, he became more comfortable, even watching some of a World Cup game with them in the living room.
A nice moment occurred the last night they were with us. Carson likes Sriracha hot sauce on spaghetti. Carson got up, went to the fridge and put it on his spaghetti. Before he did, he faked like he was guzzling it at the table. Diego was giggling while watching him. Carson was returning it to the fridge when he made me fake it too, like he was squeezing it in my mouth. We had a good laugh, and he went back to his dinner. Diego thought it was hilarious. Before he left, Diego told Pam, “I really enjoyed getting to know Carson.” It was so great to hear they connected with Carson being nonverbal.
When it came time to head back to school on Monday morning, Pam was emotional. It’s always sad for Beckett to go back, but this was more so about the exchange students who expressed their gratitude in meaningful ways. A strong English speaker, Diego had no trouble conveying his appreciation. A man of few words while he was with us because of his English struggles, Eduardo clearly prepared some remarks. Eduardo spoke more on this occasion than any other time combined during his stay with us. A line that stands out, “I know what this meant for you, I will be forever grateful.” In his blunt fashion, Beckett, putting his arm around his friend, said, “man, Eduardo, how long did you practice that? I am serious. You did great.”
After some pictures, we were on our way back to school. It had to be with mixed emotions for Diego and Eduardo because they were to leave the states a few days later to return home. It was a quiet ride with all three teens doing their own thing.
Once we got to school and unpacked, it was time for me to hit the road home. It surprised me Diego and Eduardo wanted to get a few pictures with me before I left. They did the same thing with Pam, but I figured it was just because she was the pretty American mom who doted over them during their stay. It hit me at this point. Both boys expressed their gratitude again. I told them we would never forget them and thanked them for making new Thanksgiving memories.
After hugs with the boys, I was about to get on my way when Beckett dropped in the room to walk me out. As he’s prone to do, Beckett prides himself on keeping things real. He evidently has made summer plans to travel to Guatemala to visit with his new friends. He questioned why everyone was so sad, saying, “It’s not like you all will never see each other again.” As an adult with some perspective, the reality is we will likely never see Diego and Eduardo again.
If that’s the case, I know we will never forget them.