Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Growing up all mixed up in Kensington

You know Kensington has always been quite
a mixed bag of people, even back in the 60’s
when I was growing up here.

Oh, let’s see…..
There were the McNally’s
who lived next door to me,
Um, they were Irish.

The O’Callaghan’s who lived
across the street from me,
Um, they were Irish.

The Brennan’s who lived
down the block…Irish

The Reilly’s who lived in
The Margaret Court across
The street from me…
What? Irish again

The McKay’s who were our
downstairs tenants for over
twenty years…. Irish too?

Now wait one minute here, you said
Kensington was a mixed bag,
even back in the 60’s.

Well, there were
the Compitiello’s…Italian

The Savino’s…. Italian

The Yanonie’s….Italian

And of course my good
friend Glen Gruder,

And then there was me…
Spanish and Polish.

Do you know what it’s like constantly
being questioned about your last name?

“Your last name is Lopez?”
“Why are your eyes blue?”
“You don’t look Spanish”
“Oh, your tall for a Mexican”

Well, I’ll clue you in on a little dark secret, when I was in Spain
back in 1996 to visit my cousins for the first time; they all had
blue eyes and blonde hair. And they were all at least six feet tall.

“Your name is Lopez, and you don’t know how to speak Spanish?”

Imagine having the last name Lopez and failing Spanish class at
Ditmas JHS back in 1971. I mean the teacher was appalled,
and most of the Irish kids got 95’s too.

“My father died when I was seven and my mother is Polish,
so no one really speaks it at home”

Well, that line, although very sad, was very true.
And it usually brought a shocked look to the face of
whatever Spanish teacher I had. And it was always
my first line of defense after I failed a Spanish test.

Maybe that’s why I just squeaked by with a 65 on
my final Spanish exam in 1972.

Oh yes, Mr. Fine, my ninth grade Spanish teacher at
Ditmas JHS. He insisted on always speaking to me
in Spanish even though I had no clue what the hell
he was saying. And years later I saw him rummaging
through trash cans on Church Avenue talking to himself.

I really hope I didn't cause that, because he
really tried his best with me, he really did.

So here we are in Kensington 2008.
I guess you should add a zero to the amount of different nationalities that live here and make it an even 300. And the nice thing about it is no one ever feels out of place here in Kensington. You can be from anywhere and you’ll always fit in.

You know what, I bet you if a space ship crashed at McDonald and Church and a Martian walked out of it, nobody would even notice. That’s how diverse this place is now compare to the 60’s when I was growing up. And that’s how anyone can just fit in without feeling out of place.

And that goes for my two kids too,
Because they are a combination of Spanish, Polish, Mexican and Irish.

And let me tell you something, my wife is already
teaching them both how to speak Spanish.
No, there's not going to be any blank stares from
Spanish teachers this time. And no "your name is
Lopez, and you don't speak Spanish".

No, I have it covered this time Mr. Fine,
and now I understand what you were saying.

Even if it's thirty six years later.
And even if my mother was Polish.

Ron Lopez
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clueuin said...

You should try being African-American/Jamacian who father was from a little unknown town near Houston Texas. Try explaining to people why you don't sound Jamacian.
Then speak Patois to your realatives and have them say "What? What you saying,gal? Speak english!"
Good stuff, mon!


Anonymous said...

i was just thinking about the good old days when we used to burn the old christmas trees on east 8 street and friel place. the kids today are too gay to have real fun like that.