I went down to Auburn for the game yesterday. Had a great time; Auburn let the game be more interesting then they should, but took care of things in the second half to cruise to a 38-7 win over Buffalo.
Except for a brief visit in 2005, this is the first time I’d spent any significant amount of time in Auburn since I moved to Huntsville. It’s only been two years. It might as well have been twenty, because I hardly recognized the place. Roads are closed, new buildings are being constructed, and lots of activity is taking place. There are two giant buildings downtown that weren’t even in sight when I was there.Everything has changed so much.
It felt strange, walking around Auburn. I saw four wonderful years of my life staring back at me as thought I had walked away from something unfinished. Almost like there’s some studying that needed to be done or a party to go to. As I walked around campus, in spite of how much had changed, I noticed how much had stayed the same.
I saw a black bike parked outside Cary Hall and a freshman cursing because he has an 8PM biology lab and is missing Babylon 5. As I walked down towards the Extension - my dorm complex for my first two years at Auburn - I walked past a very familiar parking space and make note of all the changes. On one side of the complex is a brand new building that wasn’t even there when I lived there - it was a parking lot. The Village Kitchen - the place I ate so many meals - is now gone as well. But I only saw that for a second.Then I looked closer and saw a sophomore struggling to carry his laundry and books to the laundry room so that he could study while he waited for the dryers that never seemed to work quite right. As I stood in the stadium, I could almost feel the junior within me; with two of his fraternity brothers within him, drinking smuggled-in alcohol and talking at length about what Coach Tuberville was doing wrong at the half.
During my time at Auburn, I was a frequent poster on the computer message boards of the school newspaper, the Auburn Plainsman.I remember one particular thread when discussing as we often did the endless administrative corruption that we were so fond of. We all saw the ghosts in the cupboard and then congratulated ourselves on being smart enough to see them. The topic got onto the perceived lack of alumni involvement in anything other than athletics, and I remember saying then that “having a piece of paper entitles you to only care about football.” And as I walked around Auburn yesterday, I came to understand how completely wrong I was.
It’s not that we as alumni don’t care about our alma mater. It’s not a lack of caring, but a different perception. We don’t see the problems that students see because we don’t see Auburn as the current students see it. We see Auburn as it was for us. We see Auburn through the wide eyes of a freshman trying to find a room in Haley Center with only five minutes until class. We see Auburn as hanging out with friends in Foy, or band parties at fraternity houses, or late night study sessions and trips to coffee shops. We know the bars as they were for us (The Blue Room, Finks (before it was whatever it is now and before it was Tigris), etc). Our memories have glossed over any problems we faced to leave only the perfect image of four wonderful years.
We see Auburn as a football game with friends on a warm autumn eve under a sky of orange and blue.
I still miss college, and I miss Auburn. But more, I miss the Auburn that was for me. Maybe that’s why it hurts when I go back and see how much things have changed. I have this image in my heart of Auburn as it was when I drove down in August of 2000. I guess it hurt when I went back and saw how much it has changed. Auburn is moving on without me. And it hurts that, no matter how much I want to, I can never go back.
“The arrow of time points in one direction only.”