The Blue Sweater in My Drawer

Samar Sinharoy, Monroeville, PA


Note:  Samar spent most of his working life as a research scientist at the now-defunct Westinghouse Science and Technology Center in Churchill. Post-retirement, he taught physics for five years at Robert Morris University.  He spends his time socializing at the gym, reading, visiting his kids and grandkids, traveling, and taking Osher learning program courses at Pitt.

img_20160502_112904266_hdrThere is a blue sleeveless sweater in my dresser drawer.  I have had it for over half a century. It has a beautiful design; but with the color faded, the wool looks frazzled.  I don’t use it anymore. Nevertheless, occasionally I take it out, just to look at it fondly remembering the person — my ma — who knitted it, and simply put it back.

I  grew up in Puri, a coastal city on the Bay of Bengal in Odisha, India. It never got too cold there, so all we needed in winter was either a thin shawl or a sleeveless sweater. We were five siblings in our house. The sixth one was already out of the house — in Kolkata.

Although my father was the breadwinner, my mother was the glue for the family. She did all the cooking using a coal-burning stove that had to be fired up each morning. With no refrigerator, fresh food had to be cooked every day. She worked hard all day. Yet she never complained, and was always pleasant. She was an avid reader and inspired us to read.  She loved music, played on the harmonium, and taught my two sisters vocal music.

She also spent a considerable amount of time sewing and knitting. I was in the second year of college in 1958, when she knitted this particular blue sweater for me.  I loved it, wearing it all winter long.

I brought the sweater with me when I came to the U.S. in 1966 to go to graduate school in New York City. After my PhD, did a post-doctoral stint in Germany, and came back in 1975 for a second post-doc assignment at the University of Missouri-Rolla. That is where I met my wife Semahat, a lovely young woman from Turkey, who had arrived the previous year at Rolla for her MS in Metallurgy. We got married in 1976 and moved to Pittsburgh in 1978, where both of us started working for Westinghouse.  Like many other immigrant Indians, we bought a house in the suburbs, two cars, and had a daughter and a son. Through these transitions, I kept using my blue sweater.

Now retired, time is catching up on me. The kids live far away in Atlanta, not as far away as I was from my parents. My wife of nearly forty years of marriage passed away in her sleep a few years ago.

Thinking about her, I realize that she had some of the same qualities that made my mother so special. Maybe subconsciously, I was looking for a person with those qualities: my wife was a great cook, an avid reader, and a knitter to boot, among many other things. She knitted a green, long-sleeve turtleneck sweater for me, which I treasure.

My blue sweater is too old to wear any more, but I am still saving it as a reminder of a time gone by, of a less complicated era.

We as parents hand over to our kids things from our era, like the blue sweater I received from my ma. I wonder, a few decades from now, will my kids too, in their retirement, brood over the knick knacks we give them, as I do now.   ♣

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