Last weekend, we went to Auburn for a very special event. It was the final rolling of Toomer's Trees - the beloved oaks that sit at Toomer's Corner. Our beautiful trees had been poisoned by an ignorant, hateful Alabama fan more than a year before, and now they were dying. The University did everything they could to save them and now they were beyond hope. You can see in the pictures how terrible they looked. It was time to cut them down. But first - we were going to celebrate all our memories there with one final roll.
I knew it was going to be an emotional day. I'm sure there are people reading right now who think this is silly.... and to them, I would say, "you just don't understand". Our Toomer's Oaks were more than just "something we roll" to celebrate football games. They were the beautiful trees arching over the official entrance of the University - the corner where our campus meets the city. They were the trees we celebrated football wins under, yes, but we also celebrated graduations and wedding days and elections beneath their branches. There are men who kissed their wife for the first time under those trees... and others who decided that spot would be the perfect place to get engaged. Their branches hold so many precious memories for the Auburn Family.
Rusty and I each threw one final roll...
And that is what made this day even more emotional.
I was already sad about losing our trees and all the memories we'd made beneath them. But then to realize my children, and specifically our little girl Kate, would never get to see them absolutely broke my heart.
So we decided to take her with us - the only way we knew how. We took her little bunny.... the one we bought in Thailand (for our child "someday") and the one that now sits out to remind me of her everyday. We thought that at the very least, we could take a few pictures of her bunny at Toomer's Corner to show her that we were thinking of her and missing her on this special day. And so, we did.
There were a couple of people who asked what the bunny was about (as I'm sure we looked strange!) and they were super supportive and kind when we explained it to them. But after a couple of questions, I could tell my emotions were on edge. I began to feel the sadness set in, and the lump in my throat form. I began to feel even more angry that some hateful Alabama fan had stolen this tradition from me and my little girl. I began to feel angry that adoption takes so long and she wasn't already home. And as I looked around at all the parents with their little girls in their little Auburn cheerleader outfits - sharing this tradition for the first and last time - I felt the tears sting my eyes.
When that happened, we decided it was time to take a break (because really, I wasn't prepared for a full-out cryfest in the middle of the crowd beneath the trees) so the bunny went back into my purse and we walked around campus for a while. When I felt like I had a better hold on my emotions, we decided to walk back to Toomer's Corner. But first, we stopped to snap some pictures at Samford Hall.
While standing there, I looked down and saw two of the most beautiful little Asian girls. "Don't they look Thai??" I asked Rusty, who agreed but shrugged it off. I couldn't help but watch them play while Rusty took more pictures - they were adorable! But I figured I was just assuming they were Thai because I was missing Kate. And besides, I couldn't run up to them or their mom and awkwardly ask, "So... what ethnicity are you?" That's just too weird! So we turned to leave. But then - someone ran up to us and asked if we would take a picture of their group of friends. And that group just happened to have those 2 beautiful little girls and their beautiful momma in it!
After we snapped some photos for them we chatted a bit, and before long we found out - not only were those gorgeous little girls half Thai, but their Thai Mom (Uma) was also an Auburn grad! I was absolutely beside myself with excitement! We have lots of Thai friends in Thailand, but none in America. The next thing I knew it was a blur of us speaking Thai, meeting her little girls, taking pictures, and sharing information. They were excited to hear about our adoption, and even offered to help in any way they could (it turns out that Uma's sister works for the US Embassy in Thailand!) I was blown away!
Right about then some of our friends walked up (Malerie and Kevin Huguley, who adopted a precious little girl from Korea) and within a few minutes we were all chatting and the girls were playing together. Then, as I was explaining everything that had happened to Malerie and telling her how much I'd been missing our Thai baby girl that day, something completely unexpected happened. Suddenly, the two Thai little girls stopped playing, ran over to me, and threw their arms around me! I have no idea how they knew I needed a hug from a Thai little girl that day, but they did. It was all I could do not to break down in tears.
I don't know what the odds are of us running into a Thai family in Auburn that day, but I do know they are slim. Thais make up only around .05% of the US population, so it hasn't been easy for us to meet Thai friends in the US. The fact that we would meet this precious family on a day when I was so heartsick for my little girl was so, so special. I'm grateful they took time out of their day to talk to us (and hug us!) when we really needed it. To me, it was a special blessing. I felt like God was reminding me that He hasn't forgotten about us (or our little girl!)
We love the Huguleys and I was really glad that their adorable little girl was home in time for them to share the Toomer's tradition with. We laughed and joked about what must be going on in her little head. I'm sure seeing all that toilet paper everywhere was really a strange sight to her!
And so, even with all the emotions it brought, we ended up having a great day. And it turned out that the "final roll" brought us just as many precious memories as all the special rolls in the past.
Thanks Toomer's Oaks, for bringing together the Auburn Family like you always have.