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Looking for (Momma’s) Love on the Left Coast

And the Auburn sandwiches with the way they taste, they knock me out when I'm down there...

There’s a lot of hard work involved in keeping up your Auburn chops when you are an alumnus living on the West Coast.

Don’t get me wrong: I love California. There’s almost endless sun, a laid-back lifestyle, and people don’t look at you funny if your ideas move away from the herd.

Living the good life, West Coast style, could make any good Auburn girl forget the second line of the Auburn Creed: “Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.”

But then the sun keeps shining and turns the grass brown, all your laid-back friends turn flaky, and even your most radical ideas pale in comparison to the spacey hippie who asks you if you believe in cosmic alien love. Far out man.

It’s enough to send me flying back to the grindstone to keep my “Auburn-ness.” It’s an ongoing project with me, trying to keep up with Auburn and be an Auburn woman, even thousands of miles away.

My friends must all think I’m a complete oddball. I find myself going out of my way to smile at strangers, trying to reenact Hey Days of years past. I even mumble ‘War Eagle’ in response to a good report.

Those Auburn commercials a few years back (Man with Auburn umbrella sees other man with Auburn umbrella. Instant reunion.) really happen. I’ll say “War Eagle” to anyone in orange and blue – even if they turn out to be Broncos fans.

Recently I began a quest to find a sandwich to sate my craving for Momma G’s. I know there’s no way I’ll ever match it, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I do it for the experience.

I have systematically visited each little sandwich shop in the college town where I live, wading through their prerequisite rituals – places where at least a dozen college students toil over your sandwich, yet no one seems to get their order in less than 20 minutes. It makes me feel connected to the old days.

Alas, no one does steamed sandwiches, but then again, no one is like Momma G’s.

My hard work even extends to that most sacrosanct of Auburn activities – watching football.

Actually getting to an Auburn game on my non-profit wages would take an act of Congress, so I resort to toiling at least an hour a day during football season, soaking up every Auburn football article I can find. Then I bug everyone with the minutiae I dig up.

Which brings another problem. There’s a general lack of college football love in my section of California. I’m too far north for USC or UCLA, and too far south for Cal. No one here “gets it” except my Canadian coworker who misses the land of hockey. So we bug each other with our minutiae. Bless him.

But I’m faithful. On fall Saturdays, my roommates know exactly where to find me – bleary-eyed, on the couch at 9 a.m. for those 11 o’clock CST starts. Yelling at the TV and wishing I could be there. Paying extra to watch non-conference games online. It’s kinda sick really, but it’s my way of keeping up the tradition I started back when I was an Auburn freshman – no leaving until the alma mater is played — that I can no longer fulfill because of the distance

And somewhere in the back of my head, as I travel and go about my work as a missionary, the Auburn Creed is there, tumbling around and counting off the qualities I want to embody. I do hard work. Check. I believe in human touch. Check. My spirit is not afraid. Double check.

Hokey as it sounds, Auburn men and women don’t just matriculate. I believe that they become imprinted with all the good qualities – the honesty, the hard work, the sound mind – that Auburn asks of them. By no means are any of us saints, but I like to think there are lots of us out here in the wide world, trying to maintain school spirit and stay connected with the Auburn that gave us so much.

Now if Momma G’s would just expand that franchise…

Lauren Nelson graduated from Auburn in 2002 with a degree in journalism, after foolishly trying her hand at engineering.

She now works as a missionary, traveling worldwide to spread love. In 2009 she started Hope Ink, an online magazine that focuses on justice issues, missions and the arts.

Momma Goldberg’s painting by Carol Floret. You can buy it at Auburn Art.

About Lauren Nelson

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