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Happy Birthday, Sam

Yesterday was the birthday of our son, Samuel Lawrence Woodhull Sherman.

In the middle of labor, when Sam was minutes away from birth, our nurse said, “Let’s check that fetal heartbeat. ..Whoa,” she said, “This kid’s made out of STEEL!” For years after that, I would look at him in his Superman pajamas and say, "Yup, made out of steel."

At our kindergarten parent/teacher conference Ms. Stewart said,

“Because you teach here, Barbara, Sam knows his way around, so he’s very helpful, without being boastful.” Helpful without being boastful. I liked that so much I asked my Latin teacher friend to translate it and made it into Sam’s motto. Fert Opem Haud Superbus Dictus I think it's "open hands with no proud words." Latin scholars? any opinions? Was there ever a sweeter child?

Could you imagine a more loving brother and sister?

A friend took this picture. When I saw it I felt absolute disbelief and then a glimmer of hope. In those days Jessie and Sam fought like sworn enemies. Our home sometimes felt like the Middle East.

Around this time, with Jessie in the throes of thirteen-year-old-ness, slamming doors and not speaking to anyone, Sam came to me with some advice.

“You get mad at her and take away more and more privileges and it keeps getting worse. She’s feeding on her anger. You should wipe the slate clean and give her a fresh start.” I looked at him like, “Who are you? Where did you learn that?” But Arthur and I said, "Okay, let's try it," and yes, things got better. So, thank you, Sam. Sam's full of good advice. A few years ago, as I was planning a big fancy dinner for Christmas he said, “Mom, don’t do that. You work really hard, you get tired, then you get mad and it’s no fun.” So we’ve simplified our day; the kids have their time with what Santa left at their house and come to us around eleven. We have popovers and coffee and then open presents at a leisurely pace and have turkey soup for supper. And I don't cook and I don't get mad. It's pretty blissful. Sam's always known how to celebrate great events. This was for my birthday.

Growing up in the city, our kids had no great urge to get their driver's licenses. Sam was in his twenties when he finally decided to take the test. As I drove him way out on Long Island to the closest testing site, I told him about my brother Alan’s first road test on his sixteenth birthday. The inspector told Alan to take a left turn, even though there was a NO LEFT TURN sign. Alan did as he was told and the man said, “You flunk.” Alan had to wait another three weeks to re-take the test and by that time the summer was over. Sam and I had a good discussion about authority and how to know right from wrong. He passed the test with ease.

Then I said, “Okay, you drive home.”

“But I’ve never driven on the Expressway!”

“There’s a first time for everything.”

We headed home at exactly 55 mph, Sam clenching the wheel at ten and two, staring straight ahead.

Then he said,

“Oh, Mom... driving with me and Jessie fighting in the back seat must have been a nightmare for you.”

Have you ever had a moment like that, when you just have to ask the world to stop so you can give thanks? Sam's given me many occasions to give thanks, as he has for many of us. Here he is with his girlfriend, Annye and Molly and Teddy. They will tell you he's an excellent uncle.

So, let me say it again,

Happy Birthday, Sam

January 17, 2020

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