The past few weeks have been a lot of fun.
Contrary to the melancholy of a mom with growing children which I’ve shared the aches of in this space, the past few issues, there’ve been some true highlights as well.
I thought of that last Thursday, Aug. 4 as I popped by one of our elementary schools in Oakdale to get the ceremonial “Back to School” photo. Back in the day (ever the overachiever), I would do my best to get photos of varying sites, strategically mapping which campus started when and my plan of attack to beat each bell.
Last week however I settled on one campus and saved myself the stress of traffic filled streets, as families hurried to deliver their precious cargo.
Before getting to Thursday, I must admit I’m a bit ahead of myself in recounting the story. Just a few days prior to showing up to the campus, our editor had shared her joy with me on the July 27 front pages of our three newspapers, the Oakdale Leader, Escalon Times and Riverbank News. Her joy came from the faces and activity of our communities in those particular issues.
“We have kids and smiles on the front page,” she exclaimed. “I love it!”
Her joy was infectious and as I looked at the page she was presenting I couldn’t help but feel the same way.
“No more masks,” I replied, equally giddy. “We can see people again.”
The two of us shared a moment, which I can honestly say in our 20 years of partnership and friendship was truly one of a kind. We (like so many) learned to “pivot” during the pandemic, but man it’s been a minute since we’ve been able to celebrate what drives us for each of you. It’s about so much more than writing the stories, it’s truly about telling them and nothing helps a story more than a photo with faces.
So back to last Thursday.
As I watched the families walk their children in, drop them at the curb or step up to the class list, I thought of how wonderful it was to be transitioning back to “normal.” As a paper and community there was so much missed.
But as the saying goes, “Don’t look back, we’re not going that way.”
As true as that statement is, I fully believe a quick peek back many times can help us better appreciate where we are now.
So the past few weeks I’ve been taking a little extra time to stop and reflect.
Last Thursday morning, I reflected on my first time visiting said campus. Not yet a mom, an eager “new” journalist given an opportunity my education did not support. A transplant, nonetheless, I was driving to show the community at large not just that I could be trusted, but I could do this job in a way they would be proud of.
Taking photos and telling stories, especially with children involved, soon became a favorite thing. Back then the paper was an exciting thing for our students. There was not social media where mom could blast their accomplishments in real time.
Simply put, we (the paper) used to be a “thing” with students and their families. Now, we’re not a “thing” until it hits our social media pages, it would seem. Once that happens our words have the potential to sprout legs like never before and we can see it. This brings its own fun, all be it ever so different, it’s still fun to see.
Yet I digress and really … what’s the point?
Amidst all the things which keep us yapping around town: city politics, school board decisions, lost community members to circumstances beyond our control, it’s just really nice to “see” people and progress again.
Our communities have weathered a lot. Yet somehow we’ve managed to continue on and persevere some tough stuff.
Are the effects still felt by many? Absolutely.
For the purpose of this piece however, I’m just going to live a little bit in that joy that my editor so unselfishly shared with me. The gratitude for our children, who are once again able to sit among their friends and have their faces be seen by their teachers and others.
Here’s to more faces, smiles and surprises on these pages. It’s good to be here again.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.