There are certain moments in life I hope never to forget.
That’s how I felt last Friday night as I entered The Corral.
While I was later than is my norm, a bit disheveled and much out of practice the feeling was indeed the same: home. That’s how it feels when you return to something you were born to do. That’s how it feels when you’re back among the living.
For those unaware, last Friday, May 21 many celebrated the graduating Class of 2021. The “Corral” is the football stadium of Oakdale High School, where graduates from OJHS and OHS are celebrated each and every year.
Last year I missed the “drive by” and all the efforts made by the families and friends of the Class of 2020, there was no need for me on the field for that class and even if there had been, I’d have to have missed it.
One year ago last week, I was bald, tired and undergoing treatment for what I refer to as the fight of my life. Truth be told I still struggle with the word “fight,” yet when I look back at it and the way in which we went after my cancer it was indeed a team of soldiers who helped me through a new and personal battle.
So what does this all have to do with last Friday?
Last Friday, while much looked different than it has in the past, it also felt normal.
Walking onto that field, circling the graduates as I tried to find “the shot,” it felt good. It felt as if we may be headed back to where we once were. Now don’t misunderstand, it was odd to not see the stadium filled with people, but who could complain? We were back in The Corral and the kids were being celebrated as they have for years before.
As I listened to the students give their speeches to the Class of 2021, I felt grateful for so many things.
Grateful for the community of parents who had supported these students through a very uncharted year. The parents, community members and business owners who owned the pivot and created memories for these students which were unlike classes previous to them.
Grateful to see the graduates sitting in their seats, participating in a ceremony which formally closes one chapter and begins the next.
Grateful for the staff and administrators who filled that field, as well as our campuses. While not all are stellar and some proved to be disappointing, these professionals had also weathered an uncharted storm and should be commended for that.
And quite honestly I simply felt grateful to be in the surroundings of all this.
Last Friday was the first time I’ve had my Nikon camera in my hand in longer than I could remember. I was rusty. The shot I was in search of, I knew I likely might not find but it was good to be on the hunt.
As I sat on the curb beneath the visitor stands I thought of how lucky we were to be there. No longer bald, body recovered from treatment and walking among people again. How blessed is that?
For the Class of 2021, I want to say thank you.
I know this wasn’t the Senior (or Junior) year you envisioned. I know you missed out on some things you may have once hoped for. Yet, as the student speakers stated so well, you have learned so much more than the graduates before you. You have learned resilience, you have learned things don’t always go your way, you have learned to make the most of a less than perfect situation and through it all you won – you graduated.
So while on Friday night I may have simply looked like a middle aged lady circling the field with a camera; I get you, I see you and I am proud. For just as you have each learned these lessons, in my own way … so have I. Congratulations and God Bless.
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.