Every year I take off from work so that I can come to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to watch the Little League World Series (LLWS). Since my parents live here I stay with them, in my old room, and it is always a lot of fun because I love baseball. It is also a lot of fun because I get to see my Uncle Rich for the first weekend (of LLWS) which is great. This is a week that has become full of traditions for me; traditions especially family traditions, are important.
The entire trip is a tradition now. I didn’t cared that much about LLWS while I lived in Williamsport, though I did enjoy seeing my extended family for the week. Since I’ve moved, maybe a year or two before, I did enjoy going to the games as well so after I moved I started taking a week vacation to come up and watch and to be with My Aunt and Uncle and Cousins. As the kids got older they started to have jobs and soccer practices to go to so now it’s just my Uncle who comes to visit but that is enough it is still family that I don’t get to see often and I’ve always been close with my uncle. My Uncle, my father and I go to the greatest breakfast in the world at *REDACTED* on Saturday (the only day it is open for breakfast this way). My Uncle and I always go to The Mountaineer Tavern (a wonderful local establishment) for lunch one of the days that I am up which is a nice tradition.
However, my favorite tradition in all of this is the night that Richie and I spend sitting on the deck smoking cigars and shooting the shit. Normally we’ll talk about cigars for a while then we’ll talk for hours about movies; he’ll talk about older ones that I’ve usually never seen and I’ll talk about newer ones that he should check out. They are always good and fun conversations but tonight was different in the most wonderful way:
The 20:00 game was a long one so it was nearly 23:00 when I asked Uncle Richie if he wanted a cigar tonight, I knew that he was leaving early tomorrow morning so it was my only chance to keep the tradition alive. He looked at his watch and saw the time. He looked at me and I am sure that I saw the no on his lips turn into a yes, maybe he saw something in my face and knew how much I enjoyed our conversations, maybe he realized that this was the only time we’d have this year to do this, or maybe it was a little of both. Either way he said sure we can smoke one. We get everything around and head outside onto the deck. I have a new Shuriken cutter that we use (it is amazing if you like cigars I cannot recommend it highly enough). We start off talking about the cutter and move quickly on to cigars. He tells me about some he has smoked, we both agree that Obsidian cigars are very good, and he again tells me how much he liked the ones that I brought last year. We linger on cigar preferences and what not for a while and move on to movies. At this point I am very pleased. It is a perfect night, clear skies and just a little bit chilly. The conversation is good and free flowing and delightfully predictable. Cigars, check; movies, check. Tradition at its finest. He recommends that I watch “Body Heat” (which annoyingly isn’t available on Netflix instant streaming) and I ask if he’s seen “Taking Chance”. I warn him that he’ll cry if he watches it, and I explain the plot of the movie. We then go down the path of movies that make us cry (or at least tear up). We both agreed on “Field of Dreams” though for different reasons. He cries when they have a catch. I well up when they talk about the box of undelivered blue hats. He remembers playing catch with his dad and how important that was to him; I can see me being the one who dies leaving boxes of undelivered gifts for my wife to be found in my office. We talked about movies for a little while longer and then something got us going about Tradition. Rich was saying how he doesn’t think that kids today appreciate tradition, I agreed but pointed out that may just be the way children are and that was how I was when I was younger. Then he started to talk about teaching.
My uncle has been a (middle school) teacher for 40 years .
Rich started talking about his philosophy of teaching: to simplify it a bit respect the kids and when necessary have a firm (but not overly pedantic) hand. We talked about how it was easier and better for all involved to take care of problems yourself in your room than to send the kid to the principle for discipline. Throughout he peppered in talking about specific students and how he got to help them because they respect him and nearly all of the students that he has had love him. As he talked about what he does and how it is different than what the other teachers do it was apparent that he was talking about something for which he still has great passion. So often you see actors or TV personalities talk about how they love what they do and how you should love what you do. They talk about how easy it is to just start things. It always seemed disingenuous when they say it. Uncle Rich didn’t peach that was the way to work but it clearly worked out well for him. As he talked he was clearly Frustrated sometimes at how hard other teachers make the job. Sitting with him listening I was in awe of how much he loves his job that he’s done for longer than I’ve been alive.
I started writing this, being deeply inspired by my Uncle Rich, thinking that this was about having passion for what you do but as I reached the end here I realized that it is about a boy who loves his Uncle and about how much better if the WORLD would be if all teachers were like him, if all teachers had a level head and as much respect for the children they teach as they expect the children to have for then.