My Uncle Sam
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, within that village there was a team of four who raised me: My mother, my father, my Aunt Dot, and my Uncle Sam. Dot was my mother’s sister, younger by ten years, and Sam was her husband. They never had children which was lucky for me! Almost every Saturday and every Sunday they came to our house in Medford from theirs in Cambridge.
My Uncle Sam’s position on the team was that of educator. From the very earliest age, he read to me, and not just the comics though he read those too on Sundays. He read whole books: “Little Women,” “The Little Princess,” the “Five Little Peppers Series”, the “Heidi” books, and “Mary Poppins,” to name a few. He bought books for me and inscribed them: to Dorothy for being brave in the dentist chair, to Dorothy for a perfect report card, to Dorothy for being promoted to the third grade. He made a direct effort to expand my vocabulary by talking about words and encouraging me to keep a list of new words and their meanings. He would “talk math” to me and give me problems to solve. He was also the one who kept me in supplies for playing school.
And how awesome is this? For the Christmas I was six, Sam built me a dollhouse which was the exact replica of my house, complete with swinging door between the kitchen and dining room, a built-in china closet, a fireplace, and electric lighting throughout. Dot was in charge of furnishings and curtains and even found a small china cat like my cat Vicki.
Sam was a remarkable man. He had only a high school education, but was gifted in math and took correspondence courses in calculus and advanced math. In one such course he uncovered mistakes and wrote to the company and was asked to rewrite the course. He started out working for the state of Massachusetts as a bridge inspector and some years later went to work for the State. He became a member of the Professional Society of Civil Engineers and rose to the position of Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Utilities of the state of Massachusetts.
Sadly Sam developed multiple myeloma and died at the early age of 53. Of course this was just before my 14th birthday, and so I had no concept of how young that was. Although I grieved deeply, neither did I appreciate what a truly amazing person he was. He was just “my Uncle Sam.”
© Dorothy C. Judd
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