FRANKLIN — It began with a video of the the simplest thing in the world, a child opening birthday presents.
The unalloyed joy on display in the TikTok clip as the gift is revealed to be a sewing machine — not just a sewing machine but a SINGER! — set the internet on fire over the last couple of weeks.
But it wasn’t just the outburst of happiness that caught people’s attention. It was that the recipient is a little boy named Sam Gouveia, age 9.
“We’ve gotten two and a half million views on TikTok and about the same number on Facebook,” Sam’s dad, Aaron Gouviea, said Thursday.
He posted the video shortly after Sam’s July 31 birthday. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, Gouveia said, and not just in online comments.
Gouveia, 43, is originally from Norton (his father, Bill Gouveia, is a veteran town official and regular Sun Chronicle columnist) and now lives in Franklin.
“People just started tagging different designers and sending us enthusiastic comments,” he said.
And what Gouveia calls “care packages” have been showing up along with the comments, with cloth and fabrics from all over the world.
“Our Amazon driver must be so sick of us,” he said.
In the video, Gouveia said his son has a passion for sewing, which has meant being made fun of. “But that didn’t stop him from being the only boy at sewing camp,” his dad said.
Sam likes non-traditional things, but his appeal is that “he’s just got a magnetic personality,” Gouveia said. “He’s got this very wholesome and genuine way about him.”
Nothing in the video is staged, Gouveia said, adding his son “can’t act.”
In the video, Sam unwraps his birthday present to find a sewing machine.
“Oh my god it’s a box….it’s a SEWING MACHINE… wait, what kind is it?… IT’S A SINGER!” the boy yells.
The comments on the video, which was also picked up and placed on the New York Post’s website, praise Sam, who will be entering fourth-grade this year, for his talent and his dad for being supportive.
Fashion designer Gunnar Deatherage, a former contestant on “Project Runway,” saw a video of Sam’s reaction to the gift and said he saw himself in it.
Reactions to Sam’s enthusiasm haven’t always been so positive, though. In 2018, when he came home from school crying because the other children teased him for wearing nail polish, Gouveia took to Twitter to defend the 5-year-old against “toxic masculinity.”
Newspapers around the world picked up on the story and outlets such as People magazine, The Boston Globe and the online publication BuzzFeed jumped on it.
In the first 18 hours after Gouveia launched his thoughts on his @DaddyFiles Twitter account, 27,000 people liked his opinions, 14,000 retweeted them, and 1,300 responded to him.
The experience helped inspire Aaron Gouveia to write his first book, “Raising Boys to be Good Men,” published in 2020 by Simon & Schuster.
But there was also backlash. Gouveia, who works in public relations for a land conservation nonprofit, got a lesson in what he calls “the slimy underbelly of the internet.” The story was actually featured on a neo-Nazi website.
For Sam, though, it’s been a mostly positive experience. While he has ADHD and ODD, and changes are difficult for him, “he got a little overwhelmed by people offering to buy his creations,” his dad said.
But, in general, “he’s over the moon about it,” as are his brothers, 14-year-old Will and 6-year-old Tommy.
Not surprisingly, what Sam would like to be when he grows up is a fashion designer, his father said. That’s this week. He’s also talked about being a nurse. His dad said he might also like to be a professional fisherman. “He’s very good at it,” Gouveia said.