DEAR MISS MANNERS: As parents, it is hard to see our children move away to college, but I believe raising them to fly is one of our most important jobs.
As college students form bonds, I see many out-of-state students get "adopted" by local students' families. There is comfort found in an occasional home-cooked meal, a much-needed mom hug or fatherly advice, and perhaps even a holiday celebration when students lack the time or means to go home.
My son was lucky enough to meet one such family. As an out-of-state mom, there is a true comfort in knowing another family is close by to help fill the gap and support my child.
Thank-you notes, albeit genuine, just don't seem to be enough to express the genuine gratitude I have for this family, who have been my son's "home away from home" for four years. I simply don't know what is an appropriate yet affordable thank-you in this situation.
GENTLE READER: As you point out, a parent's job is to enable the child to operate successfully on his own. If you have done this, your child will have written these people an effusive letter and given some thought to how else to please them.
It would be gracious to add your thanks to his, and to add a present, even if he has done so already. Your son, not Miss Manners, is the person who will be able to tell you, after four years of visiting them, what they might like.