Today I woke up thinking about my uncle Perico, the oldest of the 10 siblings of my dad. He was a very smart person and with a lot of character. My dad always told us the story of his brother when they were in boarding school in the south of Chile. Not a fancy boarding school, but a traumatic experience of abandonment and loss. They became very close friends due to being together in difficult times. Nonetheless, when they were studying, when my uncle thought of a clever answer or solve a difficult problem, he told my dad as a chant “Me abismo de mi inteligencia, me abismo.” [I am abyss of my intelligence, I am]. Now, everytime that we are caught doing something witty, and bragging about it, we say, I am abyss of my intellligence.
My uncle also has several stories about his tendency to distraction, some of them pretty funny. While driving to work I thought I should write them down, so we don’t forget them. They are part of our family oral history. My husband enjoys listening to them over and over again, and my children have heard them several times during la sobremesa. That moment after supper when you start telling funny family stories especially the ones of the beloved characters of the Alliende Edwards family.
There are three that are a vivid part of the family repertoire.
In 1976, when the movie Rocky was released in the movie theatres, Perico went with my aunt Lucy to see the movie. On those days you have to reserved your seats, and they were numbered. You gave your tickets to a man with a flashlight who walked you to your seats in a very dark room. My uncle, probably daydreaming, went to the wrong side of the theatre, and my aunt waved to him signaling to cross the main corridor and get to the other end. My uncle diligently went to the other side, but when crossing the central corridor, he looked seriously to the screen, kneeled down on one knee, paused, made the sign of the cross, paused, and then he kept going.
During one of the economic crisis in Chile, Perico was unemployed for a couple of months, and helped my aunt to get the groceries. Actually, my aunt was a very practical woman and thought that send him to the street was a good way of keeping him busy. When returning to his apartment, holding a carton of eggs, he met one of his neighbors at the entrance of the elevator. Polite and caballero as he was, he give her his hand to say hi. He gave her the wrong hand though, the one with eggs.
The last but not the least. My uncle had a house in the countryside, about an hour from Santiago. He and his family spent all weekends there. They shared a swimming pool with another brother who was a farmer. On Sundays the house and the swimming pool were always filled with relatives and friends, especially in the hot days of summer. Grown ups talked, and ate, and talked. Children played, and played and played.
One Monday, following one of those Sundays, Perico was back in Santiago, doing an errand in one of the downtown government offices when a lady greet him very friendly. He looked at her puzzled. After a moment of silence he exclaimed loudly for everybody to hear: Oh, so and so, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on! The lady turned red, and offended walked away.
Tío Perico passed away a couple of years ago. He and his wife have a special place in my heart.
If any of his grandchildren or my cousins read this slice, I would love them to contribute in the comments to the legendary stories of tío Perico.