It Took Less Than 20 Minutes on Campus to fall in love.
It was fall of 2004, after attending a Cal/USC football thriller, when my husband decided that our family vacations were going to revolve around college football. As college football fanatics, more importantly, an SEC football fanatics, we left the closeness of PAC12 football and journeyed all the way to Athens, Georgia for a Georgia vs. Arkansas football matchup. It was October 2005, our children, Emily 10 and Andrew 7, quickly were wrapped up in their dad’s passion as we walked the UGA campus, tossed a football around, walked between the hedges, and witnessed our first Dawg Walk. The years that followed on this annual “Raspo Family College Football Adventure” included a trip to Happy Valley to watch Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions, Austin, TX to watch the Longhorns, Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish, and more SEC at the University of South Carolina vs. Florida. Not only was football the pull to college campuses, as our daughter traveled the US to play softball, and even on a trip to Disney World, our kids soon got used to their dad dragging them to a nearby college campus. A few on that list include…The University of Auburn, Iowa, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, as well as, UCLA, Stanford, and Duke.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2012, as my daughter was attending softball camps, pursuing her dream to play college softball, when a friend from Georgia said, “Tell your husband that he has not seen SEC Football until he has tailgated in The Grove at Ole Miss”. Though we were not quite sure what that meant, we booked our trip. It was November 2012, Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt, and we were ready to check it out. As with all of our football trips, we walked the campus the day before the game, attended a volleyball/soccer game happening the same weekend, and found “where to eat” according to the locals.
After a drive through The Square, a burger from Handy Andy, and less than 20 minutes on campus, my son looked at his father and said, “I don’t want to be a Georgia Bulldog anymore, I want to come here." Then my daughter chimed in, “I was going to say that!” It was something magical! We had seen our share of college campuses and both of our children, as well as my husband, were almost immediately drawn in by the City of Oxford and The University of Mississippi. All of this before witnessing our first Walk of Champions, Tailgate in The Grove, or Locking of the Vaught! Fortunately, Emily had met the then head softball coach, Wendy Thees, at an Ole Miss camp back near our hometown in California. A reach out to her, an invite to visit the team in The Grove, and Hotty Toddy, we had a future Ole Miss Rebel! Emily became a Rebel in the fall of 2014. After a year of softball, she chose the Patterson School of Accountancy as her focus, hung up her cleats and joined Phi Mu Sorority. Andrew followed his sister to Oxford in the fall of 2016 and is a sprinter for OM Track and Field!
But our story does not end there…Spring of 2016, Emily told us, “I don’t think I’m coming home after graduation. I love the south and I want to stay here.” My husband looked at me and said, “Let’s go!” In June of 2017, we took a leap of faith, put it all in God’s hands, and we made the move!
In just a few weeks, we will celebrate our second year as residents of Oxford, MS. After almost fifty years as Californians, and although we truly miss our family and close friends, we couldn’t be happier. Nick and I have attended many volleyball, soccer, and softball games—some baseball and basketball, too. We have enjoyed many date nights on The Square, immersing ourselves in the community, becoming Commodores as teachers for Lafayette County, having our kids and their roommates/teammates/friends over for dinner, introducing many of our visiting Californians to a Handy Andy burger, watching our daughter cross the stage as an OM Graduate last May, receive her Masters in Accountancy this May, and of course, watching our son run at the Ole Miss Track and Field complex. Thank you, Ole Miss, for being that “magical” place that brought us all from Modesto, CA to the beautiful community of Oxford, MS.