By Bradley Robertson
Auburn has been my home my entire life. In 1983, at 3 years old, my parents built a home on Terrace Acres Drive and set roots in this once-tiny town. I still remember splashing in mud puddles made by the builders, with the smell of saw dust lingering and a few broken bottles lying around.
I remember visiting Felton Little Park when there was still a merry-go-round, and my father taking us to Sani-Freeze at sunset. We’d sit on a small wall, just tall enough for children to perch, laughing and gobbling down ice cream till the stars appeared. My dad always got a chocolate malt; I was a sucker for the bubble gum ice cream.
I remember once my father taking my sister and me to paint on Samford Lawn. We laid in the grass, the three of us, daring to paint the picture of Auburn etched in our young souls.
On one particular occasion, I recall riding my bike to Toomers Corner for the official “rolling” of the toilet paper after a big win. We had been watching the game at home and my parents filled our ears with shouts and excitement as the game came to an end. All of a sudden I heard my mother, “Kids, grab your bikes, we’re going to Toomers.” And off we went, a parade of three children and one adult, to the center of town to celebrate with our Auburn family.
The feelings and emotions of these days are still on the surface, as if it wasn’t really that long ago. Truth be told, it wasn’t long ago at all.
Auburn is indeed a special place, filled with tradition, fellowship and family, the Auburn family.
From the words of my dear friend Mary Boyd, “We have our own holidays here in Auburn – it’s Game Day!”
This is true. Nothing compares to Auburn Game Day on the Plains. We eat. We laugh. The kids play. We catch up. We spend time together with people we love and people we’ve missed all year.
It is truly a holiday, but what is so ever present that brings us all together? Is it really the football? Is it the band, the crowds, the excitement, the cheerleaders? Do we come for Malzahn or Bo Nix or Aubie? Or is it something sweeter and never changing?
My grandfather, Joe Frey, in 1973, would roll into Auburn on Game Day at 6 a.m. and stake his claim of space by the old Eagle’s Cage. Looking up towards Jordan-Hare, he’d pull out his old tin folding table. He’d open it up, stand it up straight and grin. The rest is history. I can only imagine the rest of his story on Game Day, many years ago. Food, friends, laughs, a good bourbon and coke, family and football, and it all started with a simple table.
I’m pretty sure all of life’s goodness and glory is shared around a table. Football isn’t any different. In fact, I’d claim the football tailgate as one of the most prized hospitality occasions in the country. How genius is it that we take our sacred tables outside and open them up to receive others? This is the South. This is football, and this is the Auburn Family.
Although tailgating looks a lot different than 1973, the tables are still present. We don’t see them of course, nor think of them. They are covered in cookies stolen by little hands, plentiful with dips and finger foods and often decorated with flowers and Auburn décor.
Tables once donned with radios are now the stage for a television.
Today, we are widely impressed with campers, large tents and the famous Tailgate Guys.
For a monetary fee, Tailgate Guys will set up anything and everything you need to tailgate, including your own tailgate banner and name. It is forever impressive.
I joined a table recently on Payne Street. Payne Street is historical to Auburn and is set only a mile away from the stadium. You can hear all the commotion form Jordan-Hare on Payne, and should we win, Payne Street is only two blocks from Toomers Corner.
My friend Mary Boyd lives here. Mary is also an Auburn native, born and raised on Hamilton Road. Her lawn and porch make the perfect setting for an Auburn tailgate.
Mary’s got the right idea. Her favorite dinner table remains on her front porch year round. Can you think of anything more inviting than that? She is a true woman of southern hospitality.
“Auburn is home,” says Mary. “Auburn is comfort. Auburn is roots. This is a town we all share, old Auburn or new Auburn, we are all family.”
Mary is a host to her entire village of Payne Street and beyond. She lavishes over fellowship and community. Mary is always open to sit and chat life on her porch swing, while sipping a cold glass of chardonnay.
Mary is also a fantastic cook. She will prepare an old recipe of her grandmother’s with ease and a polished plate. She can also take an everyday item like bacon, rub it in brown sugar, bake it and have something even more tasty and fancy than before.
When creating tablescapes, Mary is quick yet thoughtful. She gathers up sweet items from long ago, pairs them with new décor, adds in a few snips from her garden, and she has fashioned something lovely and timeless.
“Sharing food around a table is really about giving thanks. It’s about celebrating life and fun events. It’s more than football – it’s love for your neighbor. It’s tradition. It’s just who we are.”
No matter where the table is, or what is on it, it’s the beginning of memories. It sets the stage for laughs and comfort and often, even tears. We share life, we value each portion, and the bonds created are not forgotten. Our tables offer up our own personal stories, stories of greatness, children, time passing and plans ahead.
Perhaps this is why we Auburn villagers are so quick to say “the Auburn family.”
Families share space and smiles. Families tend to each other. Families listen and families laugh. Families create newness and share stories of the past. Families begin and end around a table.