Memories from a Sixth Grader: My Uncle Buck
My sixth grade English teacher assigned the class an essay about our memories of a person. I knew immediately who I wanted to memorialize. I went to the game room in our house, turned on our Commodore 64, and this paper streamed from my fingers.
I’ve retyped the paper exactly as I submitted it years ago (minus the dot matrix printing), with all original errors intact.
If there was one childhood memory I will never forget it is my Uncle Buck. I don’t think he was really an uncle, perhaps just a close friend of my parents, but I’ve always known him as Uncle Buck and in my mind I will always count him as an uncle.
I guess when you are a kid, things seem to go by so quickly. nothing sticks in your brain for long—only the important things. Even when these little splinters of a time long ago come into your brain you can barely see them, and if you can, it’s only a fuzz of reality that has passed by many years ago. Some things you never forget, others you do. The ones you do forget are there, they may often pass by in what seems like de ja vu, but they are real, oh so real. Uncle Buck has never been a piece of de ja vu. He’s always been there, in the back of my mind.
When you are a little kid, the smallest of things have a great influence on you. The biggest of things have a greater influence, but they stick in your mind. Only a moment of kindness lasts forever, My Uncle Buck was never just a moment of kindness, he was a lifetime of kindness. He was always there since the very day I was born to the day he died, when I was about age six.
Maybe it was his kindness that stuck in my mind. He was such a loving man, I remember that very well. He was special to me—one of my best buddies of the adult kind. I saw him plenty, although not plenty enough. He lived in Tomball, kind of in the country of Tomball, not really exactly in the town. Still the distance was far and still his trips were frequent.
I remember his visits well. Each and every time he visited he had candy. Those Smarties wrapped in cellophane. He hid them, always in his fron shirt pocket, and told me to look for them the moment he walked in the door. Oh, yes, of course I knew they were in his front shirt pocket, but to find them right off wouldn’t be any fun for the game. I searched everywhere I knew the candy wouldn’t be. I searched in his shoes, his pant pockets, everywhere, even in his mouth for that candy. In the end, he gave it to me. I knew he would—that was the point of the game in the first place. It was fun, however, a sort of ritual for us. We both enjoyed it, and I guess I still miss those days.
Uncle Buck must have been a carpenter, or either extremely good with his hands. he always built things for me, things built of love and caring. I remember a kind of fountain he built for me at my first house. It was made out of rocks and such, with a trickle of water flowing through the cracks and crannies in the rocks themselves. It was beautiful, and it was mine.
He built me many things, he built me a fort once, it was big and built of wood, with a slide and bars to use to climb it. It was a dark chocolate brown color and it sat in our back yard. I had years of fun with that old fort. It lasted until last year, in our back yard, loved and admired. I think it would have lasted longer if those termites hadn’t gotten a hold of it. It was my only memory, the fountain was long gone, left behind when we moved away. Those memories are gone, someone else owns the fountain now, perhaps they have torn it down. The fort was torn down but just last year, to get rid of the termites that had infested it. These were but my memories of some things that he left behind, and altough they are gone now they will always live in my soul.
For all the years I knew Uncle Buck there is by far the one I remember most. Each and every birthday, from age one on, he came to my birthday parties dressed as a clown. He was a good clown, the hobo type with the baggy pants and the five ‘o clock shadow. He was the best clown I ever saw, ever have seen. He dressed to the tiniest detail, a black old hat and a flower in his old jacket pocket. He appeared every year in the doorway, that old clown frown on his face. He cheered everyone. The thing as that he wasn’t a hired old man to do the job, a man who only wants the money for it all and really doesn’t know me or care to know me, he was real. He was so real, the love he showed was real and the act was all for me—the clown suit, the happiness, the little jokes. He had nothing special, no magic tricks, to do, no silly stuff that is used by every other birthday clown in the country, he was himself. The real, original clown that is just there to make people happy. That’s what really made those birthday’s with Uncle Buck special. The realness of it all. Back then I could have never guessed that the man underneath all the love was really my own Uncle Buck. I never knew. I know now, after he’s gone. He won’t be coming back, and all those birthday parties weren’t for nothing. He meant something to my childish heart. I was a kid, a nieve little kid that he touched.
There were the Easters we had at his house in Tomball. I guess it was my Auntie Ann that planned them all, and everyone was invited. On Easter every year we drove to their home in Tomball for a big Easter egg hunt—the biggest Easter egg hunt ever. I’ve never seen a better Easter egg hunt. They had egg’s everywhere. Hundreds of them it seemed to little old me. They had real eggs, plastic eggs that you stick stuff inside, candy eggs, plastic bunnies of all colors that were blown up. The bunnies were taller than me at the time, and we all could have them. There was other little surprises hidden all over their backyard—goodies only other kids could imagine in their dreams. Those were the best times of my life. The years that I would now call “the good old days.” Easters have never been the same without those Easter egg hunts. They exist no longer. When my Uncle Buck died my Auntie Ann stopped having them. Perhaps she couldn’t do all the work without him. Perhaps the memories of his happiness overwhelmed her and she couldn’t do them any longer. Whatever the reason, those Easter’s are gone, leaving only the memories.
There was also their dog, of what breed I don’t know, named Crackerdog. I’ve forgotten over the years why they named him that, although I know there was a reason. I can’t remember much about that dog, except that his name lives on in our family. Every time someone goes berzerk, someone always says, “It went Crackerdogs!” Still I question why they say it, although I say it too. Perhaps the dog was crazy, it just a little silly. He is a part of Uncle Buck’s memory that lives inside me, still another thing to add on to my love for my Uncle Buck.
I know that there were many other things that my Uncle Buck did for me, ones I can’t remember and regret that I have forgotten. These little things affected me however, they made me the person that I am today. I have my Uncle Buck to thank for all that. He was a man with integrity, and I admire his love for me and take him in the highest respect.
When my Uncle Buck died, I never saw his funeral. They told me I was too young, but it was all one of those white lies told to children to keep them away from things they don’t want them to attend. I have a feeling now that it was my Auntie Ann who stopped me from going to that funeral. Maybe she didn’t want me to come because I reminded her too much of Uncle Buck, or maybe it was something else. I wish I could have gone to that funeral. Maybe I wouldn’t have understood at that age everything going on around me, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered to me then, but it matters now. I need that feeling that I did go to that funeral, that feeling that I did pay him my respects so long ago.
I never see my Auntie Ann anymore, she never comes to visit, her visits dwindled more and more after my Uncle Buck’s death, soon stopping. I don’t know her anymore, but I remember her face, just as I remember my Uncle Buck’s face. I don’t know why her visits ceased, perhaps for the same reason that I wasn’t allowed to go to my Uncle Buck’s funeral. Whatever the reason, I miss her as well.
There are things I’ve regretted, and one of the highest on my list is not getting to thank my Uncle Buck. If he were here now I know I would thank him, for everything. I wish I could turn back the hands time, just for a minute, to stop and thank him. I only need a minute, but I know that if I had that minute I would make that minute last in my heart forever.
Time has passed, many years since that time in my life and as each year passes I forget more and more. The faces become fuzzier and fuzzier in my brain, and the details all wash away. The fountain is gone and so is the fort, Auntie Ann has disappeared from my life, all I have left are the fuzzy memories in my brain and the pictures in scrapbooks. I will never forget everything my Uncle Buck did for me, and I wish that I could thank him, or just see him again. Memories may last forever, as people say, but even these memories that last forever lose the realness, the details. These memories I have will last forever, Uncle Buck is engraved in my heart.
When my mom gave me this paper during her move from a house into a condominium, I knew it exactly. Though I distinctly remember the writing of it, just as I distinctly remember Uncle Buck, I hadn’t seen this paper in decades. I had a few surprises when I read it. In addition to the emotions it evoked, the paper prompted the following observations:
My parents had infinite patience with a shy, awkward, introverted child. Other people didn’t need to have my parents’ level of patience with me. While other adults gravitated to the winsome children in the room, not the one who hung back and didn’t know how to act, Uncle Buck put in the work needed to know me. Because he saw me, and showed interest in me, I grew more confidence. I learned that I brought a valuable perspective and personality to the world, just as I was (and not only in my parents’ eyes). Never underestimate how much you can matter to a child.
Children have more awareness than we credit. I’d only lived five years when Uncle Buck died. How could I have remembered so much?
Conversely, I had forgotten so much over further years. This paper returned a lot of memories to me. (Thank you for saving it, Mom.)
Truly, we live on past our deaths through the memories we build with other people. Uncle Buck died in 1980. Though I may have forgotten many details of our friendship before I read this paper, I’ve vividly and fondly remembered Uncle Buck many times over the years.
I wonder why I didn’t write about one memory that I still have about Uncle Buck’s death: My mother took me to see his grave shortly after the funeral. We stopped along the way so that I could buy flowers. I chose a bundle of white carnations with green-dyed tips. I remember staring down at them in my hands for the rest of the drive as I sat in the passenger seat of the car. I remember carrying them across the cemetery grass, clutched in my sweaty palms, to the freshly churned dirt stretching from his gravestone.
The level of self-centeredness I still had at age twelve embarrasses me—though I’ll take comfort in assuming that such is the state of all children everywhere. Examples: Other kids came to the Easter egg hunt, including his own, so I doubt Uncle Buck hosted the entire event just for me. I know now that Uncle Buck had a landscaping business, so he likely built the garden fountain for my parents (not for me). Further, Mary Ann, Uncle Buck’s wife, probably did not stop visiting because seeing me would remind her too much of her dead husband. In reality, little about any of these things had anything much to do with me.
We don’t talk about things going crackerdogs anymore, though we should.