Come Friday evening I won’t be in my usual spot.
This is only my third time in my tenure with the paper that I won’t be found on the field of The Corral with my trusty camera in hand.
Nope. Not this year. This year, I will arrive like everyone else who fills the bleachers each and every year on the Friday before Memorial Day. Tissue in hand, family at my side, I will proudly find my seat in the role of “OHS Graduate Mom.”
I share this as both a heads up, as well as a moment of pride and completion. The heads up comes by way of those who might be tempted to send a text and request a “good shot” of the one you love; save it. The journalist hat will be gratefully left at home Friday night, as I take in the moment like everyone else in attendance.
This year’s graduation is one I knew I’d abstain from covering 18 years ago, when my graduate was born. There are moments in our career when being “mom” is both more important, as well as more valuable than anything our career may provide.
As I touched on last week, I’m still a bit befuddled that it’s actually here. Truth be told a few weeks following that OHS graduation 18 years ago, my son was born. Yes, I covered the 2004 graduation weeks from giving birth. It was my final week of assignments before going off to await the arrival of our first born.
While we joked that I’d take this night off 18 years later, I didn’t actually fathom that I would still be on staff for it to even be an issue; yet, here we are.
Looking to the Class of 2023 is just a bit different than all which have come before. Many in this class I know more personally than those of the past. Some since pre-school, others since “playgroup,” kindergarten, Boy Scouts and yes, of course, Oakdale Gator days.
I can proudly share that some of the best water polo players OHS will lose this year, started when our family first introduced their families to the Oakdale Gators. Better still at the recent Senior Awards Night, one multiple award recipient, who will speak during Friday night’s Commencement Ceremony, would “day camp” as I used to call it with his mom, our family and another family in our early Gator days when we were lucky enough to first use the Aquatic Center. That was a big deal and not lost on us, as those who came before us had long memories of Gator days at the Plunge; we were blessed with this all-new location. Proud of you Tyler and can’t wait to see the big things you accomplish in this life.
Eighteen years of life, thirteen years of traditional education and so many moments in between.
What a ride it has been. What a proud moment we are now upon.
Looking to my son and his fellow classmates, there are many things which make me proud. While the academic achievements and where so many will now continue their education may be what prompts first for some, mine is just different.
Being closer to this class it has been a pleasure to witness what good humans so many of them are. Now you’ll notice I won’t say “all” because that would be untruthful, they are of course teenagers and just like adults some are more shallow, judgmental and less accepting than others. COVID learning did not help this in any way or fashion. Yet the cream does indeed rise to the top and this Class of 2023 does indeed have a number of Classy Mustangs.
Top notch humans is how I see it. Sensitive to a fault at times, yet looking out for one another as well as the underclassmen. Encouraging, kind and humble; oh, how I love the humble.
As I type that I once again think of the aforementioned Tyler. A young man who has seen his fair share of challenges in his lifetime, yet beams as he walks this earth. Proud to have this student and others like him not just represent OHS, but Oakdale as a whole as well.
It’s been an amazing ride, Class of 2023. I can honestly say like many of your parents and family members I am absolutely proud of so many of you. Your four years have been unique and historical and despite it all, you made it. Here’s to all the moments of the past and even more yet to come.
And always remember … as my graduate once told me at the wee age of 4, “Today is a gift mommy, that’s why it’s called the present.”
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.