° empty

We are saying goodbye to our last rebel

So it has finally arrived. Today my youngest child leaves for college — today, not next week, not after the Christmas holidays or even spring break, but today. I guess I never really thought today would come, that somehow magically only her brother and sister would leave and go to college and Emily would just acquire her education without leaving me. Now I know that isn’t true and today is that day.

Thursday she will move into her dorm room, and Friday her roommate will move in and classes start next Monday. She is all packed and has been for about a week. Graduation gifts are packed up, towels are washed and folded and pictures of friends have been picked out to decorate the new room. And for the third time I will help decorate a dorm room and be all happy for my excited freshman, impart words of wisdom about sleep, eating correctly, studying and how to do the laundry, and inside, my heart will be breaking.

Trying to be excited about taking your child to college is almost an oxymoron. The nurses place this tiny, squirmy, helpless baby in your arms when they are born. You are told to take it home, feed it, love it and above all else protect it. And you do. For 18 long years you walk the floors, fight illness, try to instill right from wrong and above all else — provide protection. Then one day you are supposed to drive up on the college campus they have so gleefully chosen and unpack them and their belongings and simply drive off. What kind of protection is that?

No matter what people tell unsuspecting new parents, raising children is a difficult job. There are moments when the love you feel for them is all-consuming but it is still a difficult job. Then in the blink of an eye your child who is not old enough to legally have a drink is old enough to vote and go to college where people tell them silly things, such as “you’re a grown-up.” Whatever.

Luckily for me Emily is attending Ole Miss, where her brother and sister attended and where you can find me and our family and friends on home football game days. Under a large oak tree in the Grove, straight off sorority row, Matthew and his fiancée, Lizzie, me, Holly and Parker, whenever possible, will gather for fun and food. People ask me all the time if it is a lot trouble, the truth is sometimes it is. It’s better now that the children are older and can help more. In preparing for tailgate season I always have some favorites that we keep year to year and then I try to add a few new things to the menu.

So in honor of my newest Rebel, here is a recipe we will be adding to our tailgate menu this fall.

Baked Mexican dip

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped seeded peeled tomato

3 tablespoons chopped jalapeno chiles

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup half and half

3 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes

1/3 cup sliced canned black olives

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Press the excess moisture from the spinach. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Sauté until tender and stir in the tomatoes and chilies and cook for two minutes stirring frequently. Drain and spoon the tomato mixture into a bowl. Stir in the spinach, 2 cups of cheese, half-and-half, cream cheese, olives, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper.

Spoon the spinach mixture into a baking dish and bake for 35 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese and serve with tortilla chips.

Christina Hall writes a column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.