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Cofield on Oxford — It's All Over Now…

Sandi Murray, and husband Craig (BBA ’82), prepare to leave Cole, their second freshman, on campus, and take the long trip back home.

Except for Mom’s tears and the freshman’s promised studying and a whole bunch of football Hotty Toddys, the semester-by-semester rite of an Ole Miss family’s passage has been again renewed. Taking your young boy or little girl to Oxford and leaving them there to be young men and women, guided by the upbringing you provided, the best you knew how for 18 years. A million maybes are about to get found out. They’ll be changed kids by Thanksgiving.
They wave and as the last glimpse of your mom’s love and dad’s “thundering velvet hand” fade around the corner, the wanderlust of what just happened sets in. If life is a party, it’s one you now intend to attend. But don’t forget, you promised to be promising.
A touch of home is just the ticket to get this new life off to a smooth start, but not the parents – too soon, too close to home. Just across campus, and from just across town back home, are a handful of Ole Miss newbies. You graduated kindergarten and high school together. Now y’all are about to turn yourselves loose on The Square, like it was Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras, which does come later, but not just yet. A great Oxford memory is about to unfold right in front of you.
Ole Miss students making memories, right off the Oxford Square, at Double Decker Festival – Photo from The Avett Brothers

First things first, forty from the ATM. Mama didn’t raise no fool, but neither did Grandma. Three Square bar tabs in the first 24 might earn me more than a hangover. Second things second, music on and almost dancing through some personal party preparations. Now dressed, the “here” text having come in, out the door you go. Hotty Toddy! A short way to go and you can’t wait to get there.
Out the convenience store door comes your father with their coffees. She didn’t say much as they rode around a little for a minute, then stopped to make joint travel preparations. Now Yoknapataphaw rolls by with its ease. Their minds roll over the memories. She is proud in her heart and vows to be joyful. But, as the first of many county line signs comes into view signaling their departure, it is a tearful farewell.
The Square welcomes all comers and here y’all come. The friendships, the laughs, the Hotty Toddys, the good times are the stuff your lifelong memories are about to be made of. As the high fives start the night off in the magical Oxford Square air, her long night begins. They are leaving you in a place they love, and that helps, but it’s not enough. Her lips quiver and then tighten, along with her eyes. She lowers her head a bit and cries. A few tears of joy, but moreover, tears of melancholy for the rite of passage of Ole Miss parents, and their little boys and girls.
Brothers Quinn and Cole Murray, a junior and freshman, pose for one last photo before the parents go, and Cole begins building a lifetime worth of Ole Miss and Oxford memories.

Last things last, she has a long way to go and a short time to get there. Dad’s key opens the front door to a house with one less heart beat of love there within contained. Less by one, but missed a thousand fold. The sounds from down the hall now belong to a dorm hall. But old sounds are soon replaced, a couple of weeks later, by the ring of the newest text from Ole Miss. Her lips tighten and she cries the tears of an Ole Miss mom’s joy at her kid’s dependence and words, “Almost out of clean clothes, coming home!”
John Cofield

Courtesy of John Cofield, a hottytoddy.com writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, “Col.” J. R. Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well. Contact John at johnbcofield@gmail.com.


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