Change is inevitable.
As I’ve collected more years under my belt, I’ve come to empathize with the “old-timers” that used to frustrate me when they scorned change, lamenting any single innovation or new building as the city grew from a one-horse town to a bustling little community.
Why the sudden burst of empathy?
The Oakdale Leader building, the place I’ve affectionately considered “home” for more than 25 years, has finally sold. To be fair, when it went up for sale, I didn’t panic. I didn’t think it would sell in this market. The building is oddly shaped, most definitely haunted (the best part), and it would take a crane to remove the antique letterpress printer that weighs as much as a semi-truck and deserves to be preserved in a museum.
But against all odds, the building sold and I was speechless.
No, in reality, I almost started crying and the flood of emotions cascading across my heart were enough to topple an elephant.
And why was I so bereft over this particular change?
Even though the building is drafty, the air conditioning system fails at least once per summer, and we all have a spooky story or two about the resident ghosts, there’s comfort in the familiar.
The thing is, even before I was an Oakdale Leader reporter, I was coming to the Leader to have my grandparents’ newspaper, The Mariposa Tribune, printed.
My late grandmother and I would pop into the Leader office early in the morning before heading to the printing press and after our print job was complete, we’d head back to Mariposa in her trusty truck.
I was usually covered in newsprint, dirty and sweaty, but we always stopped for a milkshake on the way home.
My memories of that time with my grandmother are unparallel.
Same as my memories in the Oakdale Leader building.
The actual newspaper business will continue on — we are not closing our doors — but the reality is that a move is likely.
The Powers-That-Be are eyeing a smaller space to accommodate the smaller work-force.
But the new building won’t have the memories, spirit, character or charm.
It won’t house the echo of Christmas parties, birthday bashes, inappropriate laughter, the smell of home-baked goods, shared tears over heartbreak, or the countless stories recounted over morning coffee or tea.
It will simply be an empty space, devoid of everything that made the Oakdale Leader office feel like home.
That’s why I’m sad.
I may not show up every day to the office, but there isn’t a moment that I don’t consider the building — and all the people in it — my family.
I don’t know what the future holds. I can only hope the new owners cherish and appreciate what we love most about that funky building.
Including the ghosts.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.