Last August marked 17 years since making Oakdale home. Next month will mark 16 years since claiming the same by way of employment with the Oakdale Leader.
In truth, it’s all still hard to believe. It still feels like 10 years ago. Why 10? I have no idea. Something about 10 just seems more real and tangible when one reflects back.
However, recently, as I sat in the company of a new community member and listened to the reasons “why” he and his wife had chosen Oakdale, I couldn’t help but recognize how so much of what he shared resonated with me. The little things which once prompted puzzlement and are now part of everyday (Oakdale) life.
The simple things like bumping into people at the grocery store and catching up on their kids, parents, families and even pets. It’s been a long time joke around the office that when my story file begins to dry up, I just need pop in to SaveMart and I’m sure to come out with two stories minimum.
In speaking with the new community member, he mentioned sitting in Cahoots a few years back and marveling over how everyone seemed to know one another. As he marveled at this notion he shared his desire to be a part of “that type” of community.
That really is community isn’t it? A place where people congregate and truly live versus exist or just sleep before hustling elsewhere to live their lives. That’s the uniqueness of this small town, still a somewhat hidden gem.
Granted, the population has doubled since the movers first brought my things into town. We have more drugstores, eateries and yes, even stop lights. Yet somehow despite all of this the familiar and the friendly remain intact.
Following that interview I peered through town a bit different for 24 hours. Challenging myself to recall the uniqueness of the 95361 in the early months of my new residency. On the day I chose to do this, fate made sure I witnessed a few things which indeed are uniquely Oakdale.
The next morning, I drove by the school district office a bit past 8 a.m. and spotted Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone as he completed his self-appointed duty of sweeping the sidewalk surrounding the district office. Marc has done this for years. We spoke about it once and he shared he felt it was his duty to uphold the same standards he expects from his campuses, being prideful of their environment.
Later that day, I found myself in a local coffee shop and sure enough crossed paths with two people I hadn’t seen in a while. One sharing stories of their endeavors since leaving Oakdale High School, the other a grandmother sharing stories of her grandson. That same morning, I myself shared coffee with a dear friend whose father, as well as aunt were both the doctors responsible for delivery of my two children.
Remember, I’m not “from” here, as many natives used to once like to remind me. Yet 17 years later, I don’t know that I could be anymore imbedded and proud to be a member of this uniquely wonderful community.
Later that night I sat in the Oakdale City Council Chambers for my once a month Monday night school board meeting. Typically speaking, it’s the same core group seated in the audience month after month. It’s rare that we’re joined by a large cross section of community members. Well, with exclusion of the families who come to watch their children lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each meeting. A sweet tradition, which guest speakers often mention they find refreshing and a true testament to the leadership of our district.
On this Monday night however, I remained in my “out of towner” mindset and was really treated to something special. Board member and former educator Barbara Shook did the honors of introducing the four elementary students. Four chosen students ranging in grade from kindergarten to third grade. Simply put, she got a lively group abundant with both words and personality.
As the adult audience chuckled at their innocence and board member Shook managed their energy graciously, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate. What a treat and a blessing to be a piece of such a moment. A moment where adults in what might seem a serious setting are reminded of the innocence and wonderment which makes this life so special.
As I drove home that night, I thought back to that community member and the opportunity I afforded myself to look in for a change. To truly be present in what makes this place so special.
Oh true, with growth has come mischief and mayhem, that’s a given. Yet amidst it all, I still catch smiles when picking up donuts at Moss Rose. I’m still greeted with a beaming smile and “how have you been?” by Sunny at Oakdale Dry Cleaners and I still enjoy the delay of my day by hearing someone share a story I just “must hear.”
And therein is what makes this little piece of California so unique. It is indeed those little things that truly add up to a lot. As the saying goes … Only in Oakdale.
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 847-3021.