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Finding Family in Oxford and the University of Mississippi

Bonnie Brown | Guest Columnist 

Hello!  I’m Bonnie Brown.  I was born in Ohio, actually southern Ohio—and really just across the river from Kentucky.  So, I feel at home in my southern setting.  I am a Mississippian by choice.  So glad I found my permanent home in Oxford back in 1972.  I love Oxford!  What’s not to love? It is pure Southern charm wrapped up in a picturesque setting complete with an old-fashioned town square.  People are welcoming and kind.   

I immediately loved Oxford. Yes, it was small, but there was Neilson’s, a Big K, Fred’s, a very small Kroger, and Sneed’s Hardware, as well as the iconic James Food Center, all very adequate for my small-town life. I was delighted when my children had that musical Southern accent and truly delighted that my grandchildren have an even more pronounced Southern accent. In fact, my firstborn granddaughter Piper told a story when she was four about her little pre-K friend who hurt her feelings and she “cried and cried and cried” drawing out those unmistakable Southern vowels as only a Southern Belle can. 

Oxford has certainly grown from a small village into a bustling destination, a tourist attraction.  It’s a shame that this nasty virus has derailed or altered many of those attractions—Double Decker, Oxford Film Festival, our much-loved sporting events.  But what it hasn’t altered is the feeling of community, neighbors helping neighbors.  And I love our Mayor Robyn Tannehill’s mantra “We are stronger together!”   

My career at Ole Miss began within weeks of my arrival and ended in 2016.  Through the years, Ole Miss provided my husband and me with employment, my children a college education, and now our two older grandsons are attending Ole Miss.  We were surrogate parents to many, and our extended family has grown through the years.  They come in all colors, from all backgroundsand we are so proud of each of them.   

Reflecting on my work experience, it is so sad to me that college students have to deal with a pandemic as part of their college experience.  When I was still mentoring students on campus, I had two rules: (1) Everything in moderation and (2) Don’t do stupid stuff.  I always elaborated on these simple rules.  Everything in moderation, even the fun and good stuff.  And if there was any question about what was “stupid stuff”, let’s talk.  Now students are having to self-assess before they leave their dorm room or apartment by determining if they have fever or any other COVID symptom.  They not only have to keep up with their phone, laptop, keys, Student ID, books, but they now have to remember to wear their mask and take along their hand sanitizer.  If I were still working with students, my list of rules would have to be expanded.   

September is almost here and as we all know, fall is the month of change.  The temperatures moderate. We start to change our wardrobe, our daily schedules, and begin planning for the holiday season.  But summer’s last events have included wildfires burning out of control, hurricanes, and yes, the number of COVID cases have increased significantly. 

I look forward to offering my thoughts and sharing my experiences in this column.  I’m far from perfect.  I’m judgmental, I speak too frankly, I always want to “fix” it—whatever “it” may be—rather than listen and help with a solution.  I’m bossy. I’m too demonstrative. I could never be a good poker player because my expressions and body language betray me. I’m often disapproving when I should be encouraging.  I’m a human mess! As we all are. 

 

Bonnie Brown is retired from the University of Mississippi as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC), a program that awards scholarships as well as provides mentoring and leadership training.