The Foreign Service Journal, December 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2020 83 Donna Scaramastra Gor- man’s articles have appeared in Time magazine, News- week , The Washington Post , the Christian Science Moni- tor and The Foreign Service Journal . A Foreign Service spouse, she has lived in Amman, Moscow, Yerevan, Almaty, Beijing and Northern Virginia. Formerly an associate editor for the Journal , she is currently posted in Moscowwith her husband and four children. A t the end of February, I flew from Moscow to the United States. The plan was to squeeze in a quick visit with my parents in California before heading to Atlanta on business. But on my second day in Atlanta, it became clear that airports were going to start closing soon. My boss—another Foreign Service spouse—and I decided to fly out on the next available flights rather than stay and risk getting stuck, away from our families at post. One FS parent of a college student candidly recalls the initial days of COVID-19 and shares her experience and that of other families navigating today’s unprecedented circumstances. BY DONNA SCARAMASTRA GORMAN ting that I hadn’t gone to see him before going to Atlanta. I’ve had some bad experiences as an FS mom: We’ve survived stitches and seizures, broken bones and breakups, and even the infamous “Edamame Up the Nose” emergency room incident of 2010. But this seemed worse somehow. There was a deadly disease jumping international borders, and I was leaving my son to face it alone. When my plane finally took off, I watched as the little computer image of a plane flew across the map on the seat in front of me. The digital plane flew over Northern Virginia, where my son was now waiting in limbo, and I wanted to cry. It was a sickening feeling, know- ing he was down there somewhere, and that I had made the decision to leave him there while I flew home without him. I felt very alone in my sadness and worry. COVID ON CAMPUS How FS College Kids and Their Families Are Managing the Uncertainty I was waiting at the gate in Atlanta— it was spooky, as I was almost the only person there—when my oldest son called from Virginia with the news that his university was adding a week to spring break while they tried to come up with a plan. “There’s no way they’re going to reopen,” he told me. “I think I should fly back to Moscow now.” But I told him not to. After all, we didn’t know for sure that his school would move online. This was at the very beginning of the pandemic, when the situation was even murkier than now. If he flew back, he’d risk not getting back to school when classes resumed in two weeks. Better, I told him, to wait it out at his girlfriend’s house and go back to school when it reopened. And anyway, I pointed out, if it didn’t reopen, we could just use the education allowance to fly him back in a few weeks. Still, I had an impending sense of dread, and found myself really regret-