Today, I watched as the new Hillsdale freshmen class said goodbye to their parents at convocation. After hearing my classmates and friends give their advice to an anxious group of new freshmen, I tried to imagine what had been going through my head as I had said goodbye to my mom just two years ago. I can see it now, just like it had been yesterday, clearly in my mind. My mom, who had decided to come with me all of the way from CA to settle me into college in MI, was in tears. As the embarrassed new freshman that I was, I realized that I was one of the only students who wasn’t crying. I was embarrassed because I was not in tears over leaving someone whom I was close with, because I hadn’t thought that I would miss my mom too much, and I was almost glad that I would have time away from my parents to be able to live on my own. Now, looking back onto that memory, I can tell that I have changed substantially. Change in the very best sense.
Over the course of my freshman year, my pride was challenged. I was no longer the super-star on the basketball team. No longer was I the talkative girl in AP Gov who had always seemed to know the answers. Nor was I still the girl with the biggest family. Coming to terms with this situation showed me that I had the opportunity to rebrand my name at this school. I started to understand that it didn’t matter where I came from, whether my family was large or small, whether I came from a close family, or a broken one, whether I was popular or socially inept in high school. What did matter was my willingness to learn, and how I treated the people with whom I came into contact. I realized that this small change in scenery–I still was in the United States of America, everybody spoke English, and many people had similar Judeo-Christian beliefs–was large enough to erase the connotation of my name. Through this experience, I was able to start empathizing with other people who had had to leave their homes and create a new one.
During my sophomore year, I really started to miss my mom. I noticed that I really wanted to be like her in many was. Throughout my childhood, I took the sacrifices and the Love from my mom for granted. I expected her to drive me places, to cook me incredible meals, to buy me clothes and shoes, and to be there for me whenever I messed up. But, because she had never said “no,” and chosen herself above me, I never expected anything different. I was not the only one who was blessed enough to receive her attention and care. Seven other people in my family received the same amount of sacrifice and Love–my six other siblings and my dad. Outside of the family, with the remaining time or energy, she always had tried to act justly, and show Jesus’ Love to others. These qualities, because of their physical absence from my life at college, vividly stood out to me in my memories.
It was not until after I came back from my months in Spain that I realized how difficult it must have been for my mom to acclimate herself to another country, with a different language and overall way of life. At least I had moved within the US when I went to college. But my mother had to adjust her lifestyle in a completely different way. She valued the things which really mattered–the way she valued her faith and her treatment of others–and let everything else fall into place. She created a home with her husband, in which she has served tirelessly and endlessly, always making sure her loved ones have everything they need, and even much more. She realized that cultural norms, or following the mob, really comes last in the priority list to making her family feel loved, and ensuring that they know that their Creator Loves them even more than she.
Today, as I watched the new Hillsdale freshmen class said goodbye to their moms at convocation, I envisioned my first goodbye to my mom. At that point, I could never have foreseen the amount of knowledge I would have gained from two whole years at Hillsdale on my own, and even more invaluable lessons from my adventures in Spain. I look back to that moment and laugh at my ignorance and pride. But I also glance at my progression in my relationship with my mom throughout the years, and smile. Boy, I am so lucky to have a mom who has loved me and will continue to love me forever. Now I know that our reunion over Parent’s Weekend will be overflowing with emotion, and I can’t wait to embrace the blessings which will fall upon our relationship.
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Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches 5th grade English and History as well as 11th grade Spanish III at a Great Hearts Academy in Glendale, AZ. In addition to teaching, she coaches JV girls basketball and is a writing tutor for The Classical Historian Online Academy. Jessica recently played basketball professionally in Tarragona, Spain, where she taught English ESL and tutored Classical Historian writing students. In 2018, she received her Bachelor's degree in English and Spanish from Hillsdale College, MI.