During any given week, there are at least a couple days where I consciously think about how glad I am to be back in Boise, close to my roots, settled in a place that I love, and surrounded by the people that mean the most to me and tolerate me quite patiently and kindly. Yesterday, in particular, was one of those days.
I was lucky to go through Boise's public school system and have an all-around great experience. I know I received a great education in the classroom, but when I think back on those junior and senior high years, I often find myself reminiscing about the stuff out of the classroom. I loved playing sports and being part of a team (my, how that has changed . . . college group projects, and group grades, will do that to a person), especially in junior high. At the younger level, sports were about developing character, learning the fundamentals, playing as a team, and working hard. In high school, I suppose it was about some of those things, but it was also about politics, pressures, and expectations. In any case, I had a great set of coaches in junior high, and one in particular that I've kept in touch with. I think he expected great things from me, but somehow I never feel like he's disappointed by the rather average output of my adult life to date. He's been supportive during times I needed it most and always reminds me to be my best self.
I meant to get to one of his team's basketball games last winter, but just never got around to it. This fall, I saw an article in the paper about him and another coach coaching their last football game, since both would be retiring. I promised myself I would make it to a basketball game this winter, assuming it would be his last season on the hardwood as well. I put it off and put it off, not having the schedule and being busy with work. I finally emailed him last week and got the schedule and headed to a game last night. It turned out, it was his last game.
They lost quite badly, although they worked hard, played good defense, and worked as a team. He coached until the last second, still trying to get them to set the half-court trap just right. The end was unceremonious. The game wasn't at home. You wouldn't have known it was the end of a decades-long tradition at Hillside Junior High, and perhaps to many people it wouldn't have mattered, but it mattered to me. Those were some of my favorite years and my favorite teams. Those were years I learned a lot about hard work, respect, and pride.
I didn't necessarily set out to be there for his last game--my planning, or lack thereof, was just dumb luck. But it was perfect and made me thankful again to be here in Boise, where my roots run deep, where I spent those formative years that start shaping you into the adult you'll become, where I can show up to a junior high basketball game and be reminded of the important things that matter most in this world. Some teachers never stop teaching.