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.