David Brown, my Great-Uncle Dave, arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1889 at the age of 2. He and several of his unmarried sisters lived together in Worcester, Massachusetts, and raised my mother when my grandmother was unable to look after her.

This chalkware figurine greeted Elaine Ayer and her cousins from the top of Uncle Dave’s bureau whenever they visited. Photo courtesy of Elaine Ayer

I remember him as one of the sweetest, most soft-spoken people I have ever met. He worked in a factory and would often show up at our door on Friday (payday) with ice cream and candy treats for us. My family, including numerous cousins, spent many Sunday afternoons and holidays at Uncle Dave’s house. Upon our arrival he would always remind us to go to his room and look in the top drawer of his bureau, where he had a supply of gum and candy waiting for us.

The top of his bureau was at eye level; perched on it was a 4-inch chalkware figure with a smiling, troll-like face and big feet, also with smiling faces engraved on them. Looking back, I think I enjoyed looking at the figurine as much as I enjoyed the candy.

Uncle Dave passed away in 1962. Somehow, my mother ended up with the chalkware figure, which she later gave to my young brother. As my brother was not born until 1959 and was too young to remember Uncle Dave well, I later persuaded him to swap it for a wooden Buddha.

After I took ownership, I’ve always kept the figurine in a place of prominence. It has been on the fireplace mantle for over 30 years. I look at it frequently, as it brings a smile to my face with memories of a happier, carefree time and of a person who was the most kind and selfless person I have ever known.

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