I almost didn’t write this.
I’m chuckling and shaking my head as I type that first sentence, recognizing it’s become a bit common … yet there it is.
I always seem to greet Friday with, I don’t need to write a column for next issue (as a thought) which somehow over the weekend transforms to “I must write a column about this” and then subsides by Monday.
Welcome to the brain of a columnist … or at least this one. And while there is a current (actually a few) community topic I really want to hit on, I’m letting my “cool” set in a bit before putting words to observation.
This morning however, deadline day of all days, I realized … it’s the first week of school.
Yes, for those without young ones, fair warning, come Thursday morning the streets of Oakdale will once again be filled with cars of irrational driving people certain that their cargo is more precious than anyone else’s and we must all get out of their way.
Sound snarky, a bit brash? Perhaps. But if there’s one thing I know for sure, our streets, not to mention school sites are bananas come morning time from about 7:20 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., then repeat in the neighborhood of the 2 o’clock hour. I know this not only because I have my own precious cargo, but also because each year I’m put to the task of the “must have” back to school photos. With six schools total just in our city limits and a fierce determination to try and pop by more than not, I’m here to tell ya it’s quite the task.
Not at all complaining, so please don’t misunderstand. It’s always fun to find that “great shot” of the parent holding hands with their little or a parent wiping tears as they watch from the sidewalk, but it is a geographical task as the ants (aka cars) fill the streets in abundance.
This year is a bit different for our family, which may be how this snuck up on me so quickly. My baby will be a high school junior, while my oldest is now a graduate with his own car, schedule and life as it so goes.
Our days of shopping for lunch boxes and backpacks are now behind us. My days of grocery shopping for fun/healthy stuff to fill said lunch boxes, also gone.
Now with my baby inches from her final years of traditional education, I pondered this the other night. The house empty as she was off at a sleepover and her brother off with friends … just me.
This is what the “empty nest” feels like, I thought. As I looked around our big empty home, just me and our two dogs I tried to envision what life will look like for me (not them) in two very short years.
Truth be told, if my vision could be transferred onto a television screen all one would see is static. In true squirrel fashion my brain went in a million different directions. Oddly, as it did, none of the images looked nearly as satisfying as the ones of the past 19 years.
I tear up as I type that. That’s the funny thing about parenthood. It truly is the hardest job, yet the rewards really overshadow all the tough stuff (friends are good at reminding us of those). Years ago, as my lifelong girlfriend’s brother became a father for the first time it was amazing to watch his face as he held his newborn son.
Our conversation was simple. As he shared with me the joy he never knew he could feel, I responded to him with words I still feel hold true.
“It’s a funny thing, right?” I said. “You put it off for when you’re ‘ready,’ yet when the time comes you can’t help but think, why didn’t I do this sooner. You just can’t explain it, until you’re in this moment.”
So now, as I offer you all a fair warning of what’s to come on the streets as you may be navigating to simply get gas or go to the grocery, the other cars are carrying that inexplainable precious cargo.
While I can’t and won’t offer reasoning for poor or rude driving habits, I will offer this to those drivers. Take a minute, take a breath, put your phone on silent for a moment and savor those car conversations, because I promise you this; the day will come when you sit in silence and as welcoming as it may be – it’s also a bit lonely. Love on that cargo, support that cargo and for the love of God; listen to that cargo. They have some of the best words you’ll ever hear.
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.