Paul DeBuff


When I was in high school, my mom decided to move away from the only world I knew—a small town, population 1200—to a town with a nursing program. I was fifteen years old, and off to a new high school for the first time in my life. She was 45 years old, five years divorced, and off to college for the first time in hers.


Mom studied all the time. She was up until midnight, sometimes one o’clock studying. She was back up at 5:00 A.M. going over notes. Between studying and…studying, she worked. She worked in the community college cafeteria doling out mashed potatoes and green beans. I was, of course, humiliated that my mother worked as the lunch lady, and did all I could to hide that fact from my newfound friends.


After a year of remedial coursework to make up for her lack of college classes and two more years of major classes, Mom had her nursing degree. Along with the twenty-somethings beside her, she wore a white suit during her pinning ceremony. She also wore what I thought was a ridiculous smile as she received her nursing pin, a symbolic token of her difficult work there at the college and her reward for what she’d accomplished.


Mom had struggled and sacrificed so much for those around her for a long time, even during her marriage to my Dad. To see her accomplish something for herself, by herself, and gain something that was all her own…I was honored to see her pinned.


So, my mother has always inspired me. Now a popular nurse with the patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, Montana, she also obliged me to realize what an education can do for your life. She had sacrificed so much, and that little piece of paper she received in return meant a lot of things. It meant pride, honor, as well as a better life for her and those around her. I was so proud, and I still am. Will I end up just like that lunch lady slopping mashed potatoes on my plate? I could think of worse fates.


That one there with the ridiculous smile on her face? That’s my Mom.

Euphemism Campus Box 4240 Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240