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Graduates and Gratitude
Mommy Musings 5-29-24

It was a big week for us “mommas” in the 95361.

Truth be told it was a big week for moms all over. As graduations from pre-school to college kept many families busy.

As the space I titled “Mommy Musings,” I feel as if I would be remiss if I were to go without penning a post-graduation piece.

While neither of my two donned a cap and gown this past week, sitting through the Class of 2024 graduation ceremony did catch me off guard with some unexpected emotion.

Walking toward the Corral last Friday night, I could not help but be hit by two realities which were unexpected. The first being the fact that this time next year my youngest will walk onto the field just as her older brother did and graduate as a Mustang. Then the realization of how many of the Class of 2024 I’ve known since pre-school and Oakdale Gator days, yet somehow, we were here: graduation.

I’ve spent a lot of years walking onto that track and sitting to the side as the “newspaper lady.” This year, while I was indeed working, I sat proud of so many of the “kids” who walked before me.

The gift of being the small-town newspaper lady and living in the community you serve, is absolutely in knowing those faces and the personalities which pass in front of you come graduation day.

Knowing the struggles as well as the victories so many of those students and their families have faced. Yet here we are, the day which sets them free to branch out to where their heart leads them and a promising future ahead of each of them.

Ironically just a few days before, I sat with a working mom who had just opened a new business in Oakdale. As we spoke her toddler twins ran around us proving to be every bit of “boy” and the three-and-a-half-year olds that they are.

As the interview wound down, so too did one of the twins. Both mom and I quickly recognizing one was ready for some nap time.

While mom and I acknowledged this verbally, up he climbed into her lap. Sprawled across her legs, thumb in mouth, as his other hand began twisting his hair … night night time.

Looking at this image, I found myself quickly becoming a bit envious. Without sounding like an “old mom,” I wondered if she knew how she would miss this someday. I found myself wanting to text her so many words of wisdom and experience after I left. To encourage her to sit for those moments as much as possible. To hug them and hold their hands more times than not. To stop and read books, have tickle fights and eat ice cream spontaneously.

Mostly to hang in there, as time is a thief, which we never know fully until we are on the other side.

So last Friday as I sat watching so many of these Mustangs walk before me, I thought of their five-year-old selves. Their chubby cheeks, bright eyes and their little bellies hanging over their swim suits.

But here’s the crazy part, the true part where you’re so caught up in a moment and emotion and God just suddenly shows up.

Just as I was gathering myself together, looking for the shot for some favorite families and preparing my recorder for the speeches, I got the real treat.

The most beautiful Grace Miller approached the stage to grace us all one last time with her beautiful voice by singing the National Anthem. I’ve known Grace for a handful of years and never escape a performance of hers with a dry eye, her voice is truly that of an angel.

Standing with the rest of the crowd, proudly looking to the flag and listening to her sing, another voice was heard behind me. Proudly joining her in song from the crowd and just to the left behind me was long time farmer and well-loved community member Tony Rodin.

Equally as loved and special as Grace are undoubtedly the Rodin family. Tony’s daughter Antoinette is a dear friend. Her four boys - gems. The family had gathered to cheer on the youngest of the four graduate as well.

So, as I sat in the melancholy of what was, I was also treated to the joy of what will be. The pride and love of this grandfather was undeniable.

The duet of he and Grace singing through my two simple ears - no words.

Now here’s to you Class of 2024. You have proved yourself resilient, adaptable and unbreakable. Life will take you many places. Things will be hard, rewarding and my prayer for you all - memorable. Yet as you go out and forge your own trail, please remember, there is indeed no place like home and no matter where life takes you, this community has your back. Cheers.


Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 209-847-3021.