Sunday, September 26, 2010

At Heart

I love Auburn. I don't mean just the university, although I certainly love AU. It's a complete package. Auburn, the city; Auburn, the university.

I love Auburn and I have for a long time.

I'm sure my own "Tiger Walk", if I may borrow that name, began before I was even born. Mom's family is from DeKalb and Jackson Counties in rural northeast Alabama. Her brothers were members of Future Farmers of America and used to visit Auburn with that group. Her dad's brother eventually became a professor of horticulture at Auburn.

I'm not sure of other family connections to the university, or the town, before my birth, but afterward, Auburn was to become my family's home. In the early '70s, Dad was stationed there with the AU Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp program. That lasted a few years, then Dad received orders and we moved away.

When Dad retired from the military, he and Mom decided to go back to Auburn. They loved Auburn and we had family there. They also knew Auburn had good schools. And they wanted us kids to be well-positioned to go to college one day. (Auburn was at the top of my list. I recall telling friends in Nebraska, about my plans to go to college at Auburn as we threw my AU frisbee.)

Auburn had been a great place for a kid in preschool and first grade. (As a child, I didn't sit and ponder these things; I just loved my teachers and enjoyed my friends and had great memories.)

When we moved away, Auburn was still part of a me, as reflected in my schoolhouse art (see at right). Not that we could watch the team play football often. But I had that frisbee. Mom and Dad left the Auburn plate on the front of our station wagon and the Auburn decals (see below) on the side windows (including an "A" zone sticker for my Dad; who knew the zoning system had been around that long?).

Moving back to Auburn in 1980 was like a homecoming. Yes, as a teenager changing schools - especially at that dynamic time of entering junior high - there were challenges. But our family had some roots from living there before. My grandfather's brother was still teaching at the university. Some of my friends (and a teacher) from my days at Grace Methodist's preschool and Dean Road Elementary School remembered me.

Fast forward to 1986. I became a full-fledged member of the Auburn Family. I was finally an official part of campus life, not just a town kid making his way to the computer lab or library from time to time.

Haley Center. RBD. The Eagle's Nest. Momma G's. Toomer's Drug Store.(Remember Mac Lipscomb?). Glendean Drugs Sani-Freeze. Jordan-Hare: towering daily; rambunctious on game day. Rolling Toomer's Corner.

Some of the great landmarks are gone, like the Kopper Kettle, Glendean Drugs, Sani-Freeze and the Tiger and War Eagle theaters (not to mention the "rocking chair" theater). Some of them have changed: a new student union; a coffee shop in RBD; the university, years ago, repealed unrestricted access to the observation deck on atop Haley, day or night, to enjoy the view.

But the town and the campus remain beautiful, comfortable, energizing.

Yes, Auburn, the town, and Auburn, the university, have grown and changed over the years. But at heart, they are still the same.

At heart, they are still home.

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