Sunday, April 27, 2008

In Memorium: Uncle Smitty

A host of crises caused my temporary absence from blogging. The death of my husband's Uncle, Anthony Rego, otherwise known as our beloved Uncle Smitty, is the chief cause of my silence. Uncle Smitty died on April 4, 2008. I was struck silent with grief and it is only fitting that I break my silence with a tribute to him.

I cannot say enough good things about Uncle Smitty. From the moment I met him over ten years ago, he accepted me as part of the family. No inquisition, no keeping his distance. "Hello dear. Nice to meet you. What'll you have to eat?" I was welcome at the table forever after. I lucked out with my in laws. They (including father-in-law Jim and mother-in-law Vivian, as well as Aunt Laura, Uncle Smitty's wife of over fifty years) accepted me as family and have treated me with love and respect ever since.

Uncle Smitty was the favorite uncle of our children, as well as of my husband and me. Here, though, I will focus on one of the qualities I admired most about him: Uncle Smitty cherished memories of his mother, avid knitter and crocheter, Mary Rego. He valued the process and the product of her craft by holding those memories in his heart for a lifetime; something I hope my children will do. May we all be blessed with such faithful interpreters of our knitting legacies as Uncle Smitty.

Uncle Smitty would reminisce with Jim about going out to buy her yarn: "She liked Red Heart. We used to go and ask the lady at the store to help us find exactly what she wanted." He showed me with pride the afghans she made for him. He explained she made them for all her children and grandchildren and even recalled that it was "Kenny who got the brown one, Janice the mixed colors." It is encouraging to know that our knitting can be so treasured. I will remember him as he remembered his mother: with stories affectionately told.

--Chris Peter


There on Jame's kitchen table sat a knitted cap, all warm and colorful and very tiny. I'm sure there is some fancy name for the hat, something along the lines of Warm, Colorful Knitted Cap with Rolled Edges and No Seams: the WCKCRENS. I couldn't stop fiddling with the WCKCRENS, imagining it sitting on my head.

I said as much aloud.

Flash forward a few weeks. Back at Jame's kitchen table. Tiny WCKCRENS gone, surely stuffed in a coat pocket after an outdoor romp on a sweet little girl's head. And then--surprise! Jame says Pat knitted me my very own WCKCRENS. I put it on.

I still have it on. In fact, I wear the WCKCRENS a lot--and not just because New England has decided to throw us a bit of winter during springtime, although I do take it out for outdoor romps as well.

Here's when the WCKCRENS comes in handy--and why we all need our very own WCKCRENS:

  • Getting a cold/flu sends the body into wacky thermonuclear/arctic jet streams, as we all know. When snuggling time comes a-callin', the WCKCRENS completes the blanket/bed covers wrap up--now everything's covered and cozy.
  • Threatening to throw the printer (desktop accessory, not man with stained fingers in newspaper office basement) out the window because it THINKS it has a paper jam and it SAYS it has a paper jam, even though there is NO PAPER TO JAM. The anger approaches rolling boil, the first bubbles just beginning to pop. The WCKCRENS settles it all down, diffusing the rage like a calm hand turning down the temperature.
  • Brewing a migraine because students don't care about honesty in their work (AKA plagiarism), don't care about deadlines, don't take pride in their class performance causes Professor Meltdown. The professor can't let go of student apathy (even though it's really nothing new--a sweeping generalization, but all-too-often true one). Questioning the decision to shape the minds of America's youth could make a person start a job hunt. The WCKCRENS truly does make calmer heads prevail (and the rolled brim whispers--you can only do so much).
  • Writing a novel is as easy as dealing with students while the printer gives the finger and the flu threatens to topple the otherwise sane individual. How to focus when there's so much else to do? How to manage all the ideas? How to create a new (or old) world where readers want to visit? How to remain ever-reminded that this writing is not only a viable, enviable task but a necessary one? How to stay alert to the (very true) fact that you are wonderful and talented, and the world wants to hear what you have to say, and is, in fact, waiting for you to finish draft one (or two or three) and start sharing? The WCKCRENS. Pull it down low over your brow for the world's best brain hug. You can do it. Now go write something. Forget the rest of the stuff.

--Penny Piva