Stephie’s Uncle Fred

The door opens and in he bounds, bald on top with tufts of hair above the ears. We’d all been hearing about him for weeks and now he was here, the American uncle, Uncle Fred.

He talks funny and fast and I knew he was my sort straight away. I don’t know why because he wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced from a grownup and even then I was dead set against things not being done properly and wasn’t this like “being a grown up” not being done properly? Somehow I decided it was ok because he was doing being a grown up properly for an American.

It took me a while to even notice that he was carrying a guitar, but after he’d been introduced to everyone he asked if we kids would like to listen to a tune. No grown up had ever really asked our opinion on anything really. So this was all a bit of a shock. We listened as he played and I must have absentmindedly started sucking my thumb, I must have been around 4 or 5 at the time.

He said, “you there, what’s your name?”
I replied, “It’s Stephie, Uncle Fred.”
“Well Stephie, do you know how I became bald like this?”
“No,” I replied.
“I never did want to give up sucking my thumb.”

I immediately popped my thumb out and never sucked it again.

“Now, Stephie come over here and lets see if we can’t use that thumb, and the rest of your fingers to play some music.”

I moved towards him and he showed me how to hold the guitar and helped me to play three chords.

“That’s just swell Stephie, really really good.”

I don’t think anyone had ever been that positive before, or even said, “well done.” It was intoxicating. He must have got so bored of me mooning around after him on that trip, but he never showed it to me. He was always positive and made the time.

I was totally in love.

When it was time for him to go he had bought me a present. We opened it on the morning he was leaving. It was a small clock and some screwdrivers. He showed me how to take it apart and put it back together. He showed me what all of the bits were for and how the whole thing worked. I didn’t want to risk taking it apart when he wasn’t there, I told him, in case I couldn’t put it back together without him. He took it apart then and there, and told me he expected me to get it back together before he was back next.

He went and found some writing paper and stamps and gave me his address. “Tell me how you’re doing with the clock and write me if you get stuck or need any help.”

“With the clock,” I asked?
“With anything,” he said.


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