laura packardI just love football season, don’t you? 

What’s not to love?

There’s the name calling, the obnoxious drunk people falling down in the parking lot before the players even reach for their helmets, not to mention the large grease stains on your best blouse from the fried chicken, and the heartburn from all the pulled pork you inhaled off the back of a pick-up truck before kickoff . . .

I can practically smell the cheap bourbon wafting through the air as we speak.

No, seriously, y’all.  I really do love it, especially college football and tailgating.  See, down here it’s not just a sport, but an all encompassing way of life.  Me, well since it’s my Dad’s alma mater, I’ve been tailgating at UGA in Athens since I was – as my Mom likes to say – knee high to a duck.  So when I showed up at my dorm room at Oglethorpe my freshman year in 1990, I couldn’t wait to experience life, aka football, as a bona fide Georgia Bulldog all on my own.

Thing is; I’m still not sure how I got myself out of there alive.

When I say college football is more of a way of life, I should say it’s more of an offbeat but well-respected religion.  It’s a place where thousands of screaming, face painted, normally sane human beings worship together at the edge of a hundred yards of well kept Bermuda. Fight songs are as sacred as hymns and a Bloody Mary can erase all of your sins from the night before – as long as you remember where you left your car. 

When I was at Georgia, the boys – while they might not make their 7:50 all week – found it somewhere deep down within themselves to rise with the sun on Saturday AM and put on a button down and tie.  The girls put on their best dress that was at least long enough to smuggle in some bourbon taped to the inside of their thigh.  It was absolute chaotic madness; just good ole blood pumping, adrenaline driving, who cares how we feel the next morning, fun. 

I miss those days. Especially since now since I’ve had two little ones and my hips are as wide a field goal post plus a good two feet of hedges from my beloved Sanford Stadium.  Back then, I could eat about five Pimento sandwiches (the ones with the crust cut off), two pieces of fried chicken, and down three beers and still feel good walking down Baxter in my size six dress.  Now, if I eat one piece of fried chicken, I have to fast for a week on Slimfast shakes, walk forty-five minutes on the treadmill and just try not to breathe because I’d rather not unbutton my pants.

The other day I was in a fancy boutique looking for something to wear to a local function. I pretty much had the place to myself, leisurely perusing the racks at the right of the store. That was until a cute young college girl with her boyfriend in tow came in to find something to wear to a sorority party after the next week’s football game.

Some dress must have caught the guy’s eye near where I was standing, because the next thing I know; he’s heading my way.  That was until I heard the sound of a throat clearing and hangers clanging from the other side of the room.

“Those are the big sizes, honey,” she says, and dives into the sample size rack.

Oh, you just wait, sugar . . . I wanted to tell her, but I stopped.  She’ll find out for herself soon enough that the elastic magic of youth fades as sure as a black size 26 pair of 7 of Mankind designer jeans.

Were my feelings hurt? Sure. But I just did what any other self-respecting mom in her forties would have done. I crossed the streets to the nearest eating establishment and ordered a side of fried pickles, some sweet potatoes fries with ranch and a chili dog with slaw. 

I felt a lot better after that. 

I never used to have a problem keeping off weight.  As a child, my nickname was “String Bean.”  Funny thing is, I hated it; absolutely hated it. Now I just might do anything to get it back . . . except train for a marathon. 

I did try it once; the running thing, not the marathon training thing.  That was until I was passed one day by a ninety-year-old man and his 300 lb. nursing aide, and if that wasn’t humiliating enough, a super fat cat and her litter of kittens weren’t too far behind.  And I swear it’s not my lack of sleep talking, but one of the kittens smirked at me as he tiptoed by.

In middle school, my dad used to taunt me every time I reached for a Little Debbie out of the snack drawer.  “That brownie’s going straight to your hips one day,” he’d tell me, happy as a hamster eating his young, all the while inhaling an entire bag of Lay’s potato chips. 

Lo and behold, unlike Wikipedia and a White House Press Briefing, he ended up being right on. And what stunk was that not only did they go straight to my hips and thighs, they then decided to stay for eternity and pucker.    

It didn’t take long for my two new annoying roommates, Estrogen and Progesterone, to “single, white female me,” and I am here to tell you even after 29 years we’re still not getting along that well.  And I’ve tried y’all – I really have – to shake them.  Overnight, my upper thighs blew up into two giant little Debbie Swiss Roll cakes. Not to mention, I acquired two substantially large Oatmeal Crème Pies on my backside. Don’t get me started on the Devil Squares and Pecan Pinwheels because I am starving and some things should remain hidden (so no one else finds them, that is) behind the giant Sam’s Club tub of dishwashing detergent underneath the sink.   

But since life is short, I choose to look at this as one of life’s great lessons. As in never take anything for granted, like your husband loading the dishwasher or cleaning his bodily hair from the shower drain, because you never know when it will up and cease to exist.

So I’ve finally graduated to the “big girl” sizes, and that’s fine with me. It ends up I kinda like my hips and thighs after all. They’ve seen and done a lot over the years since I was as skinny as a string bean. They tagged along while I ate pizza in Rome, drank tequila in Mexico and noshed on fish tacos in Costa Rica. They’ve even helped me birth my two greatest treasures in this world; my girls.  I’ll admit they could be a bit smaller, but what the heck, they sure have been good to me over the years.

As my five-year-old little friend Ella told me the other day, “I’m a cookie dough eater.  So what?”

Now, Ella weighs as much as a 2 lb sack of flour, but I couldn’t agree with her more.  I happen to be a cookie dough eater, too.  I also love Pimento Cheese with the crust cut off, fried chicken, cold beer, Bloody Marys and football. 

It’s just if you see me attempting to jog on Sunday after game day, try and not laugh at me when you blow by me at a casual gait.  Twenty-four years might have passed since I showed up at Oglethorpe in my size six dress, but like your average college freshmen, I still like to have some good ole blood pumping, adrenaline driving, who cares how we feel the next morning, fun. 

Well . . . Every now and then.


Writer’s Note #1: Interesting, though morbid, fact: Tailgating can be traced back to the Battle of Bull Run and the start of the Civil War.  Union followers showed up with food and drink to watch the fighting, yelling “Go Big Blue!” I think I have finally figured out how those enormous turkey legs as big as your head caught on and are now running wild over Disney.

Writer’s Note #2: Don’t hate me because I bleed red & black.  Just keep in mind, my youngest was born in Columbia up the street from William-Brice Stadium. That doesn’t make me a Gamecock, but hopefully it’ll cut me some slack when you drive by my house and see the mighty Dawg soaring in the soft South Carolina wind. 

Happy Football Season, y’all! See you near the battlefield!

Read more What I’ve Learned by Accident