The Present


By: Connor Lenahan

I was told I would love it. I was told I might cry when I got it. I was told that it would set the bar unassailably high for future gift giving. I was told it was an amazing gift. I was told many things. To call my Christmas gift from my girlfriend, Laura LaBrecque, hyped would be a hilarious understatement. This gift was built to be a true wonder from the moment she set her plan in motion. She just didn’t know that there would be difficulties along the way.

Laura and I wanted to exchange gifts before we left to our homes for the winter holiday. This meant that unless the gifts were being exchanged on or before December 19th then plans would need to be made. I gave Laura her gift, a Polaroid camera, early so she could use it before flying home. My gift, however, looked as though it would creep ever closer to the deadline. I had no problem with this – after all, the gift would traditionally be delivered on December 25, so anything early was awesome. The deadline came and went with a heartbroken Laura. The gift was not placed in the mail quick enough to get back to her, and me, in Boston before we parted for the snowy months. I assured her this was no worry and had her forward the gift to my home address. Surely this would be good.

I came to find in the days following that the present was being held by a very familiar face – one of my best friends, Maurice Watson Jr. He had the gift at his house in Philadelphia and invited me to come hang out and get the gift. Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors including traffic concerns, necessary “all hands on deck” status at my house, and a late notice of the trip I never did get to go to Philly. I told Laura that I was excited to see Mo but would catch him in Boston a week later (coincidentally, tonight). She told me that she needed me to go to Philly. This is when I started to figure things out. We tried to see if Mo could scramble to overnight the package with the gift to me in time for Christmas morning. Due to numerous unforeseen issues, and again short notice, the gift was not under the tree on Christmas. I told Mo that it was fine as I would see him in a few days. After all, it wasn’t as if the gift was time sensitive. Laura was heartbroken on Christmas morning until she saw my reaction when she disclosed what the gift was.

Pictured above is a Boston University Basketball jersey signed by every member of the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams, the women’s basketball coaches, and Maurice. I was drop jawed. This was a transcendent gift. Laura’s explanation of her inspiration almost brought me to weeping tears. She told me that every athlete needs their jersey, and she thinks I am a part of the time as does everyone else. It would only be right that I had the jersey to make it official.

Let’s get real for a second here. I have been able to accomplish an unbelievable amount of things in my life in an unfathomably short amount of time. I live a blessed life through and through. I have been lucky enough to challenge myself and succeed in many different areas. That said, for as much as it was and is a dream of mine to, say, announce for the BU Men’s Basketball team, that doesn’t come close to what is the true number one on my list – being able to play sports competitively. It would be one thing to play little league, another to play high school basketball, and another entirely to play college basketball. I love our teams here at Boston University because they have made me feel like I was right out there with them, hitting threes and blocking shots, for the past year and beyond. That welcoming atmosphere along with the ability to announce for some of my best friends has brought me as close to the court as possible. But, even with this in mind, there is still a small part of me – one I don’t like to dwell on often – that will forever be angry, sad, and curious about what could have been. I never got the chance to see if maybe I would have turned out good enough to actually play for BU in real life. The chances of this being possible were and are incredibly small but I never got the chance. I never will. It’s a what if that will last forever. I will never be an athlete because of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. I’m an optimist, but I’m not blind or dumb. It sucks but it’s true.

Or is it? See this is why this gift meant so much to me. This is why I stared at my phone for what felt like hours in speechless glee and then the jersey itself in a similar trance when it arrived at my house yesterday. Laura told me about how this gift came to be. She was in contact with Sarah Hope, one of my favorite people alive who happens to also be a starting combo guard for the Women’s team. Sarah helped Laura collect everyone together to sign this jersey. They all went out of their way to back up Laura’s message: Every athlete needs their jersey, we’re giving you yours.

I would give anything in this world to be on the court tomorrow at point guard for Boston University when they play Holy Cross. It won’t happen, but I wish it would. But that’s not what I take away from all of this. What I take away is that even while there’s a dime sized part of my brain that always wonders what could have been there are two teams full of people, along with the greatest girlfriend alive, who all view it as what it is. While I’m thinking about what I would give to take off my shooting shirt and check into the game all the guys and girls look at me sitting at the desk waiting for me to do the same thing.

I remember over the summer talking to a few of our athletes. The idea was brought up about how it is to go through college as a regular person. I have first hand experience with the world athletes live in and it is stunning difference to how the people I live with spend their daily lives. BU athletes have a different perspective on college by design. When I had raised my hand to indicate that, well, I could shed light on what it would be like to go through BU as a non-athlete Eric Johnson responded by saying plainly that I basically was. They all looked at me like I was. It didn’t “feel” like I belonged, I just belonged. This moment, a thirty second line of speech delivered outside of an dorm building, remains one of the best moments of my year and of my collegiate experience.

I’ll say it yet again, I’d give anything to be an athlete, only I don’t have to. I already am one in the eyes of those that matter the most to me here at Boston University. That’s all that matters. Thanks to some of my best friends and the most incredible girlfriend I could ever ask for I can make it official. That’s why this was special to me. This is the best gift I could have received. This put to rest all those questions and doubts and what ifs that have been swirling for decades. This was a life changer.