This past weekend, Mitch and I traveled down for the Georgia game and our annual tailgate. The tailgate started nine years ago in a dorm room in Berta Dunn Hall. Ann, Laurie Beth, Caroline and I were sophomores and roommates in the ADPi hall, and we wanted our parents to come up and help us participate in the beloved tradition of tailgating before what is always one of the SEC's most anticipated games: the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry (Auburn/Georgia for the uninitiated). That day we set up shop across from the theater building at the top of the hill that every Auburn student dreads.
That first day was filled with wonderful fellowship and, of course, delicious food. Laurie Beth's dad is a catfish farmer and provides some of the best fried catfish you could ever ask for. Seriously, I (and now Mitch) spend 364 days waiting for the one day a year that we get Mr. Donny's catfish. We lost the game that day, but we started a tradition that will continue for years to come. What started out as a small tailgate with our parents has turned into an event that rivals a wedding reception. The following year we relocated behind the Fisheries building and have been there ever since. It is always a wonderful time to reconnect with friends, to reminisce about prior tailgates and to celebrate being part of the Auburn Family.
We flew all the way from New York for this one day. That's how great it is. We could not get to campus fast enough, and the day did not disappoint. As always, when we arrived with our contributions, the table was already set and filled with food and drinks. Best of all, the oil was already being heated for catfish and french fries. Laurie Beth and her parents have taken the torch and organized the tailgate pretty much every year for the past eight years, and they always do a fabulous job. They are gracious and giving hosts that get there at the wee hours of the morning to ensure a wonderful day for everyone at the tailgate. Mitch and I spent the day talking and laughing with old friends, hanging out with our families, holding new babies, cheering on the Tigers, going hoarse from cheering and rolling Toomer's Corner. The game was incredible, and I was so proud of our team! They love each other, and we love them. It was about as good of day that you can have on The Plains (only to be topped by the Saturday three years ago when I tailgated with a new diamond ring on my finger and a husband-to-be by my side. Mitch had the foresight to pop the question the night before with our friends and family in town).
There is something electric about campus on game day. I experienced this feeling as a student, and it has only grown with time. I don't quite know how to explain it, I would say it is some mixture of the excitement you feel before a first date and the comfort you feel with an old friend. There is nothing else like it!
Sunday morning before Mitch and I left town, we had a little walk around campus. These walks are so special to us because we started our relationship walking and talking around campus. We admired all of the new buildings and decided that, while they are wonderful, we wouldn't have changed one thing about the set-up while we were students. And besides, it gives us a chance when our children go to Auburn (because they will) to use the phrase "You don't know how good you have it. When we were here...."
I am so thankful for Auburn and the part it has played in my life. While I love Auburn football as much or more than the average fan, that is only one small reason the place is so special to me. I love it because it is where I grew into a woman, where I found a deep relationship with God, where I made lifelong friends, where I found the profession that I love, where I finally got 'sisters', where I made mistakes and learned to pick myself back up, where I saw what loyalty looks like from the Auburn Family, and where I fell in love and found the man of my dreams. It is such a special place, and it truly is "The Loveliest Village on the Plains."