“Uncle Pooh, would you draw me the hare and the tortoise?” I sat with my uncle and watched him opening his sketch book.
My Cool Uncle
April 18, 2011
“Sure, why not,” Uncle Pooh smiled.
“I want the hare taking a nap under the tree, and the tortoise running in gasps and sweats.” I stared at him impatiently.
“Ok, let’s see what I can draw.”
Sitting and talking on the yard steps, the neighborhood kids found us. They shouted and jumped, joining us with joy. That was usually how our “sketching party” started.
“I want a flying dragon,” a fat boy yelled.
“I want a blond princess,” another little girl begged.
“Ok, ok. But I have to finish this first.” Then Uncle Pooh started sketching. A moment later, I saw a couple of black droplets splashing out from the tortoise’s head and cloudy bubbles jetting from its mouth. Right following that, I saw a drowsy hare leaning on the tree trunk with a bunch of little Z letters floating on its nose. Wow, this was better than I expected, I jumped up and grabbed the sheet. “This is mine,” I shouted and couldn’t help being smug.
The sketching party dispersed after my mother called me for dinner. Uncle Pooh and I went home. It was Saturday evening, the day that he usually visited my family every week. Sitting by the dining table, I asked my uncle why I couldn’t draw as well as him. “You don’t have to,” Uncle Pooh smiled. “Everybody has some talents. I know you could do something that I can’t.”
“But I’m good at nothing,” I whined.
“You never know until you know it.” He patted my shoulder. “And it is nothing wrong to be not so good at something,” he added.
Uncle Pooh was a high school teacher and taught Chinese at that time. Unlike my mother, who was always scolding my awful handwriting and nonsensensical writing, my uncle never judged me about anything. That was why I liked him so much. I don’t remember when Uncle Pooh stopped visiting us eventually I asked my mom why he was not coming. “Your uncle is busy now,” my mom said, “and is getting married soon.” Then she ruffled my hair. . “I can’t believe he is getting married. In my mind, he will always be my younger brother,” she sighed dearly.
I didn’t see my uncle very often after that. But I pinned his sketch to my bedroom wall. I often looked at the hare and tortoise when I thought about him. As I stepped into my high school years, there was a lot of competition in my classes. Boys and girls strived for better marks in order to get into a good university. Sometimes, I fell behind in math, sometimes in English. But I learned to bear it and never complained. Whenever I got low marks, I would stare at the tortoise and comfort myself: It is nothing wrong to be not so good at something. Then I moved on.
Many years later, when I met Uncle Pooh at my mother’s 70th birthday, he was already retired. To my surprise, he never changed his job as a teacher and he never switched in his life. I had already switched my job twice by that time. I thought it was good to realize my personal value. When we chatted about this, Uncle Pooh said, “I saw my value at my position. Why should I switch?”
“Do you know you could have been a great artist?” I questioned.
“I am great to my children and my grand children. Isn’t that good?” he replied, “and I am happy to be not so good,” he smiled at me.
Somehow, the tortoise image popped up in my mind. I laughed and switched the topic. Now I realize my Uncle, as ordinary as he is, has a higher realm of thought than I do. Neither conceited nor discouraged, he lives his happy and simple life. Nothing could bother him. I wish I could be just like him—happy and simple.
This is my Uncle—my cool uncle.