In the summer of 1998, I said yes to a Rebel! Yes…to a first date! Oh, but I didn’t know that on our second date we would be planning our wedding!
Yes, (gasp!) it was just like that!
March 6, 1999, I married that Rebel!
Fifteen years later, I find myself sitting before the computer on the eve of Valentine’s Day wondering what the perfect gift would be for him…and I found it here! You see, we have this rule– since our wedding anniversary is just three weeks after Valentine’s Day, we have to make our Valentine’s gift for each other (and if we purchase any supplies to use, they have to be five dollars or less). This has been a really neat tradition and I have gotten some pretty remarkable gifts made with lots of love. Even the year he “made” me a hot bath! I have some pretty amazing treasures and memories from this special day and over the years he has drafted our boys to help, which makes it extra sweet for this mama!
So SURPRISE to my sweet husband, SURPRISE! I am shouting a great big “Hotty Toddy” for him in celebration of the unconditional and God-given love that we were so blessed with!
This is my Valentine to the love of my life, and there is no better place to share it than here! Now I am going to take a stroll down memory lane and tell you all a little bit about how falling in love with a Rebel changed my life.
Off we go…
My first trip to Ole Miss with Ronnie was a tad bit overwhelming! (Shocker, right?) He had been trying to prepare me for what I was going to see and experience, but he was wasting his breath! There were no words that would have prepared me for what I was going to experience. I was literally just taking it all in with every step we took on campus. With every building, came a memory he would share, and if I have to guess, he may have left a few out! (Wink, wink!) I should note here that pre-Ronnie, I was an NFL and MLB kind of a girl. And when Ronnie told me that he loved college sports more than he liked professional, I was like, “wait, what?” and “why?”
I never experienced university life, so this was hard to digest for me. I really didn’t understand it but it sure didn’t take me long to figure out why Ronnie loved his Alma Mater so much. Ole Miss had the whole package. The campus was stunningly beautiful and I can’t forget Abner’s, oh Abner’s and Handy Andy’s, those were certainly perks along the way! He and his friends showed me the town while we were there. And then of course, as one would guess, the experience of the Grove on game day almost pushed me over the edge of OH MY WORD!
I had been to college campuses and ball games before, but I had never tailgated (or seen anything) quite like this. When we entered the stadium, the atmosphere was amazing. I was almost ready to trade NFL tickets for college tickets– well, almost.
I remember hearing Ronnie tell stories of his days (four years) at Ole Miss and every time, there was something in his voice and his spirit that came alive. It captivated me.
As I got to know all of his friends from there, I realized they all had that something in them too.
I didn’t know that, over the years, I would grow into that too. I wouldn’t have the study days or the degree from Ole Miss, but I would have that something, that love for Ole Miss that he did.
As I watched Ronnie and his father in Vaught Hemingway Stadium drinking the best lemonade in the entire world…game after game, experience after experience, I was becoming a Rebel…I was falling in love.
Fast forward a couple of years to the very first time I saw our firstborn son, Nathan, sitting on top of Ronnie’s lap drinking the best lemonade in the entire world, just like Ronnie and his father, that was the day I knew something was different, forever. It wasn’t just a college or game day anymore…it was generations making memories, by sharing lemonade, chanting “Hotty Toddy” and cheering for the for Rebels every chance we had. I knew then I would definitely trade my NFL tickets any day for this! This was what Ronnie loved, his father loved, my sons loved. This was that something for me! It was a game changer!
Trips to Sardis Lake sitting by the fire and watching our boys fish with their daddy and Pop sealed the deal on more than one occasion.
My sweet husband took much pride in teaching our oldest son his first word play by saying, “LSU…” and prompting Nathan to say, “Stinks!” No joke, nine months old, our boy said “stinks” every time someone said “LSU!” His daddy would grin. Fourteen years later, that hasn’t changed! All of our LSU friends know who not to mess with when it comes to team loyalty!
When Nathan was just a toddler, Deuce McAllister was playing for Ole Miss and the crowd would chant “DEUCE.” It sounded so awesome as it echoed through the stadium. Our son sat there on his daddy’s lap and asked for his nickname to be “Moose” so that one day when he was out on the field we could chant “Moose” and it would sound like the days of “Deuce” in Vaught Hemingway Stadium. At almost 14 years old, every ballgame, at bat or at center on the football field, “Moose” is our chant. I love why we call him Moose!
Our youngest son, Will, was quite the quick learner when it came to cheering the Rebels on! Win or lose, it’s what we choose. He happens to love Marshall Henderson…Oy vey! (Insert big mama grin!) Will makes us laugh, always! A few days ago when the Rebels were playing, he brought me a red and blue marker along with a white sleeveless Under Armour and had me make him a jersey with #22 on it…so I did! And I smiled all the while! He watched the rest of the game with his basketball in tow and his homemade jersey on. Oh and yes, he told me I could never wash it so the markers don’t run off. (Insert another big mama grin!)
College life at Ole Miss gave my husband his roots and ties to love college sports, to love the campus, to love everything about Ole Miss and I didn’t know I would fall in love with Ole Miss too. I didn’t expect to become such a Rebel fan or a lover of Ole Miss but I find myself today very much there. It has been building for years through watching my boys with their daddy and Pop at the games, in the Grove, or even in our living room cheering the Rebels on season to season, sport to sport. There is such a beautiful common denominator at the end of it all, the passion they all possess in their hearts for Ole Miss. I married into it, our boys were born into it and it is pretty awesome.
I’m not sure what the future holds for our family, but don’t be surprised if one day you hear “Moose” echoing in Vaught Hemingway Stadium or if you see #22 with the last name of Weatherly on the back of it running around the Tad Pad making three-pointers! And if you are looking for me, I will be the crazy blonde haired mama with a big fat grin on my face wearing something sparkling sitting right beside the Rebel I fell in love with way back when…
I close today a proud Rebel wife and a mama to three little Rebels, two that we get to take to ballgames at Ole Miss and one that I am sure has a very special “Hotty Toddy” room in heaven!
So, if someone asked me sixteen years ago, “ARE YOU READY???” I would have been like, huh??? But today…well, I think you all know my answer!
Hotty Toddy, y’all! I hope you all have a very special Valentine’s Day, and of course a big Happy Valentine’s Day to the best man this gal could have ever asked for!
– Lori Weatherly is the author of “Facets of Life; What I Didn’t Expect When I was Expecting.” Her work includes sharing her personal journey of child loss through writing and speaking as well as her hand painted, inspirational card line. She has a passion to help others and a most special place in her heart for adoption. Her website is LoriCWeatherly.com.