In mid-February, I got a text from our Bowdoin host student Juan Magalhaes, a native of Brazil, who was spending his junior year at the London School of Economics. He wondered if we’d ever been through something like the coronavirus scare. I told him that we had had no experience with any pandemic.

A few weeks later we were in Florida, and Juan texted to say that Bowdoin had instructed students on study abroad programs to return to the U.S. He wondered if he could stay at our house in Brunswick. I responded “Sure!” knowing that Juan is a totally mature independent young man. In fact, he had spent some time at our house last summer before starting his internship at eBay in California.

Shortly after that communication, another one of our host students Mamadou Diaw, a Bowdoin senior from New York City, texted me to say that the College had closed down. He asked if he could stay at our house. I again responded “Sure!” Mamadou, also one of our host students, is a highly respected student leader on campus. He is so mature that his friends sometimes call him “Papadou.” His family had planned to stay at our house over graduation. As a happy coincidence, Mamadou and Juan had been friends at Bowdoin. They moved in to our house in mid-March while we were still down on Anna Maria Island in Florida.

We’ve been living together as an extended two-generation family since our return from Florida on March 25, and it’s been a blast. Juan and Mamadou are both extremely mature and self-sufficient. They’re both most helpful in the kitchen and around the house. And, a bonus, they seem to enjoy spending time with two people who are old enough to be their grandparents.

We’ve developed a pattern. We all do our individual things with occasional interactions during the day. Tina and I read, do puzzles (crossword and jigsaw), take walks and communicate with our sons and their families. They take their online courses; communicate with Bowdoin friends; talk to current and prospective employers; and exercise (Juan casually completed a 27.1-mile run to make up for the fact that his training while in London for a marathon in North Korea was canceled.)

And then we assemble for dinner. The conversations run the gamut, from politics to religion to philosophy to our families and everything in between. They talk about life at Bowdoin. We tell them stories about life way back in the ’50s and ’60s. We talk about our respective careers, sometimes imparting a few lessons in the process; they tell us about their plans for after Bowdoin. As a bonus, they even appreciate my jokes, much more than my dear wife Tina, who (bless her ever-patient heart), has heard them all..

In addition to being fun to have around the house, these two young men have brought back good memories of living with my two sons (with my former wife) and Tina’s two sons (with her former husband.) While Juan and Mamadou are mature for their ages, they’re young-at-heart enough to enjoy computer games and joking around and watching television shows we’d never dream of watching and sharing YouTube gems. Most important, they are always upbeat, always cheerful, always optimistic — fine qualities for anyone to possess at any time, but especially during these scary uncertain times.

One time after an especially lively dinner, we told them how much fun it was to have them in our extended family. They returned the sentiment. In fact, Juan said, “We keep you young; you keep us wise.” Hmmmm….sounds like a pretty good deal, don’t you think?

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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