Friday, May 8, 2009

The O’Callaghan’s of Kensington

Having the O’Callaghan’s across the street from me was kind
of like having a small school right on the block. There were
always kids to play with, and there was always something going on.
The constant sound of their old wooden front door slamming was
the norm when I was growing up. Just children in and out of
their house all day, along with smiles and endless laughter.

Worn steps and a worn door knob,
and never a need to change either.

Now they were also a very big Irish family you know,
which was quite normal for Kensington back then.
Good old IHM God fearing Catholics,
yeah, they don't make them like that anymore.

Now, I always get confused when I have to count how many
there were, because math was never one of my strongest
subjects up at PS 179. But let me do my best here to go
through the list.

Ok, there was Peggy, Susan, Patty, Eileen, Nancy and MaryAnn
in the girl column. There was Mark, Neil, Andrew and Eddie
in the boy’s column. And of course there was Mister and Mrs.
O'Callaghan. So I guess that makes it ten kids plus two wonderful
parents. An even dozen that all used to fit into a Plymouth “airport”
special station wagon that was probably as long as the Intrepid
on the West Side.

And let me tell you, there were no two people in the world
like Mister and Mrs. O'Callaghan. They were just the friendliest
and kindest people you have ever met, and always treated me,
or any one of the other guys just like family whenever we came
over to visit or sat on their stoop.

And if there was ever an example for others to follow, it was
certainly the O’Callaghan’s. That’s because I never saw a family
where all the kids seemed to truly love their parents like they did.

Whenever Mister “O” used to come home from work in the late
afternoon, they’d all run up to him and give him hugs like he was
gone for years overseas. I’d just watch from my front porch
sometimes as “little” Eddie would run up to his dad, and with one
full swoop Mister O would lift him as high as the tree in front
of their house.

A lesson in love on the streets of East Fourth Street,
Oh yes, how lucky we were.

And sure, the same can be said for Mrs. O'Callaghan too.
Except like my Mom she was home all the time, just keeping the
house clean, cooking, and making sure everyone brushed his or
her teeth. Oh, and of course giving all her kids their daily dose
of love and affection. Which they all got for sure. I can guarantee
you that.

Ten kids, a stay at home mom, and a father who was a butcher
at Keyfood on Cropsey Avenue, all living in one big house with
more love than you could ever imagine. A family that I’m closer
with than some of my own relatives, and friends that I still call
friends after fifty years.

Yes, this was the “small school” right across from my house.
And they were called the O’Callaghan’s.

And to Mister O and Andrew,
we sure miss you both.

Ron Lopez

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Anonymous said...

Yes Ron, You just summed up "Good Old Brooklyn" in this lil tail….A Brooklyn lost but not forgotten…The same tail could be told many times back in the day on East 8th St. Back then there was always a MOM that was a full time homemaker a Dad that went to work all day and came home to a house filled with (kids) love…It was a simple time, but in my opinion BETTER !!! I Miss Those Days !!!...MD

William said...

A Men to that Mike.You guys had a big family with 7, can you imagine 10! and parents still had the patience to have other kids over.Will

Pete said...

Ron - You forgot that for a long while Mrs. O'Callaghan's mother (Mrs. Casey? Or was it O'Casey?) lived with them too - she didn't venture out much so we got frightened one day when she answered the doorbell - we didn't know who she was. AND the story was that her family owned the property where the Margaret Court apartment building sits next door to their home - and it was named after Margaret Casey - I seem to remember someone saying it was "Court" because the Casey's had a tennis court there before the apartment building was built - but I could be wrong.

Spinner said...

Nice piece Ron. I remember how sad I would be as I watched Mr. O and family pack the station wagon for their annual pilgrimage to Breezy Point. East 4th was a little different during the summer. It took a few days to adjust because Andrew, in my case, was such a big part of our crew for everything from roller hockey to touch football.

Theresa Burns said...

Wonderful piece about a wonderful family. I guess your loss was our gain, Spinner, since the O'Cs are our cousins and when they packed up the car for Breezy Point each summer, they moved into the double bungalow they shared for decades with us--and we had nine kids. If that sounds chaotic, it was. And incredibly fun. I recall those months as filled with endless games of baseball, run 'n' bases, steal the bacon, and daring each other to sneak into Cotter's next door, a clearly haunted house where three ancient sisters once lived, and may still preside. I also remember the old E4th Street house from our semi-annual holiday visits, with its dark mahogany woodwork and Infant of Prague statue on the mantel. Yes, the O'Callaghans are special and our lives are entwined, only moreso since we lost our fathers, Neil and Dan, this past year. Tho separate now, both families still own their homes at Breezy Point. See you on the porch.

Alaina said...

I am lucky to be an O'Callaghan, (even though I am still officially a Paciulli.)

Hopefully our kids will be friends 50 years from now...