I am a sidewalk fan.
The sidewalk rolls and rocks and bumps and turns and leads and follows and needs explanation. It is tangential but also a vector, it is emotional and familial. It can be measured or not.
Most of all it is emotional. Everything about me and Auburn resides in emotion. As a child Auburn was close to family, close to Alex City, to Dadeville, to my Mom’s Gardner clan. Early in life, later in life, I have worked and slept and eaten and buried and all of the rituals with that family, right there in that geography.
I never enrolled at Auburn, never scheduled a class, never received a credit, never paid tuition (for me). I never lived in Auburn, or even close to Auburn. Not in Opelika, not in Montgomery, not in Dothan, not even in Columbus – though in my youth all roads passed through Columbus, but we will get to that later, if at all.
In my head there is Auburn, somehow not really in the state of Alabama, or maybe it is, but not so much as other places. How to put it: like a place withheld, like a time in youth that sparkles but vaguely, but concrete, reachable, visited and visited upon, an island of clarity and youth in the density, a smell remembered and encountered instantly as if magic on those rare mornings and evenings when I drive into town.
In my heart there is an Auburn “lost”, a place where the A-frame on Wire Road burned in 1972. In my heart are the women lost, but won, from my youthful vantage of weekend visitations. In my heart are the visions of the campus as it was in 1970, when I came, wide-eyed, to sing. Each of us have that secretly-stored first view of places that impacted us in youth, when we were fresh and new and easily shamed.
In my heart there is an Auburn “won”, a place where my niece earned her degree in Pharm, where several kids at my hearth have played football and earned degrees, where I can see improvement on all fronts. And where I can not be very often.
Absence does not reduce passion. I may not be consumed, I may not be enveloped, I may not be there. But know that I am, with all the rest of you, engaged with Auburn, with Auburn sports, with Auburn energy.
I have a bag of stories I will tell. Some will be interesting. Some probably won’t. But each will include something about Auburn and its history and geography and people, all from the sidewalk of my heart.
Because I’m a sidewalk fan.