For four years, I lived at 306 E Magnolia Ave, Auburn, Ala. 36830 (I left out the apartment number). In fact, when Google Maps started offering street view, you could see my car in the parking lot. For four years, I lived there, listening to the bells chiming the hours of the day from the Methodist and Catholic churches, hearing the sirens from the Auburn Fire Department firetrucks wailing past my window or the 3 a.m. train as it cruised by blaring its' train "whistle." For four years, I lived with that racket, but despite those annoyances I got to experience something else in that time period:
I got to walk through Toomer's Corner every day.
I can still remember the walk to campus vividly in my head -- walking out my front door and through the parking lot of my apartment complex, taking a left onto the sidewalk and beginning the sloping incline at the Catholic Church, which ended in front of the Methodist Church. Then I would cross over Gay Street past the restaurant that to this day I have never visited. Continuing on, I would then make my way past several shops or boutiques and then under the small trees outside the Episcopal Church. I would then look up to read the time and temperature on the Compass Bank marquee. Finally, I would come to a stop at the crosswalk at the corner of College and Magnolia, and there across from me stood those oaks.
However, at the time, I did not care much at all for those trees. In fact, one of the most notable and celebrated landmarks in Auburn I regarded, in certain moments, to be an inconvenience. On game days returning from Jordan-Hare Stadium, the only thing on my mind after a win was to beat the crowd to Toomer's. Not to be the first to start the festivities of hurling toilet paper into those trees. No, I wanted to make it through the intersection and get back to my apartment. Then on Mondays, when the cleaning crews would come out and power wash the toilet paper out of those trees, sometimes I would have wet toilet paper land on me or stick to the bottom of my shoes. I would sometimes curse those "damn idiots who threw that crap paper into those damn trees, just ridiculous."
I'm sure quite a few of you have stopped reading and are questioning my fandom. I can assure you I am as true orange and blue as the next Auburn fan. While I could write up some long-winded explanation and flash my Auburn passport as some vain attempt to prove that I am an Auburn fan, I'm not going to do that. Nope, instead I'm going to tell you exactly what those trees represent to me.
And by that, I mean those oaks mean so much to so many people, they are everything to me. So many past individuals have stood under those trees or walked by them -- both young and old, man and woman all filled with hopes, dreams and aspirations. Around those trees, celebration and transitive joy took place. Songs of victory were sang under that canopy. Lives were lived, memories were shared and pride in a team and institution was experienced.
So much happened there, and I walked by that spot every single day for four years. That place will still be there, but in our hearts it will be different. Toomer's will never stop being a special place, and I am assured of this. How? Because I have been there and so have you, and because we still have those wonderful memories and thoughts of those oaks and the experiences had and shared around them, they will never truly die.
If you can make it to Auburn this Saturday, I wholly encourage you to do so. When you get there, go stand next to the oaks, close your eyes and remember what they were and not what they have become. Remember all the fans and students and alumni that have also stood there. Remember their passion and love for all things Auburn. Remember the great times you had there and imagine the experience of other people's experiences, as well. Remember every single triumph, victory and loss. Remember everything they stand for past, present and future. Remember our Creed and sing our song. Remember every little thing you can and never let it go.