Stranded in Hyde Park at Thanksgiving

The quarter system makes returning home for the holiday difficult.

By Eliana Pfeffer

On television, Thanksgiving is always considered the family holiday—the time of year when you get together with all of your relatives, especially the ones you don’t like and therefore don’t usually make any effort to see during the year. It’s the time of year when you sit down to eat turkey that you don’t like and cranberries that are too sweet and look at the pumpkins and corn on the table and wonder if they were leftovers from Halloween.

It is one holiday we don’t celebrate in my house. My father is British and doesn’t support the so-called “colonial rebellion” anyway, my mother has a violent dislike of turkey, and my grandparents are usually traipsing about a completely different country—so I’ve always spent my Thanksgivings sitting at home and sleeping, or sitting at home and reading, or sitting at home and watching a movie while flicking paper airplanes at my brother. It’s a lovely, lazy day.

After coming to college 815 miles away, I’ve begun desperately wishing for that holiday—for a nice evening spent with my family, sitting and talking and sharing and smiling. An evening replete with home-cooked food and pretty chandeliers lit in the dining room and fuzzy slippers on my feet in place of shoes because I’m home. And this is how Thanksgiving should be celebrated, right?

Only until you look at plane fares, that is. With winter break just around the corner, I can’t really afford flying home for such a short weekend during which the price of airplane tickets skyrocket. My parents are in a similar predicament—my father, for example, would love to have me home for the weekend, but a roundtrip ticket would mean five hundred dollars he couldn’t spend on sending me to visit my grandparents a month later. Despite this, campus practically shuts down for the national holiday, which seems odd, since many of my friends in Chicago face the same predicament and either can’t or won’t bother going home. Instead, we split up into groups and walk around Hyde Park, the college town that isn’t, hoping that we’ll be invited over to a friend’s apartment, hoping not to have to spend the evening sitting at house tables with dorm-mates pretending that dinner with friends is the same as dinner with family.

Frankly, I don’t understand why the University of Chicago, much like the University of Denver or Carleton College, couldn’t start the academic year a few weeks earlier in September and be done with Autumn Quarter by Thanksgiving. It’s true that we’d have an inordinately long winter break, but this wouldn’t be entirely unheard of among the collegiate community. It’s not like I’ve done anything particularly fantastic with the two summer weeks that I have left when all of my high school friends have already started school. After all, most of my employers haven’t been willing to keep me on, especially since they have a new crop of fall semester interns to train. And there’s no reason why summer break has to be of any specific length—my cousins in England have shorter but more frequent vacations during the year, and they seem perfectly happy with their schedules.

Furthermore, by enabling students to escape Hyde Park completely before Thanksgiving, the University would save money on heating the dorms during the month of December—something that would, perhaps, improve the financial situation of the University as well as please those Green Campus Initiative people.

Perhaps then the University would have enough money to begin yet another beautification project.

Eliana Pfeffer is a second-year in the College majoring in Law, Letters, and Society.