The centerpiece for this lively table features my father’s favorite bowling ball. If you look closely, you can see his engraved initials, C.P.O. – Clarence Patrick O’Connor. It is surrounded at its base by eight tissue paper flowers, each representing our aunts and uncles that are no longer with us. Their small photos are attached to each flower. Seven of these flowers honor C.P.O.’s siblings and in-laws. Although represented in smaller fashion, this group is probably the loudest at this family dinner. They would be the ones bursting into a harmonized version of When Irish Eyes are Smiling – heads thrown back, arms around each other. All of them played sheepshead feverishly when together, thus you’ll see the necessary playing cards for the game fanned around their flowers. I could expound on each one, but my brief memories are as follows:

Earl O’Connor (1921-2008) – The family jokester (think surprises in your suitcase on your wedding night!)

Paul Nagan (1915-1994) – My godfather. He had the coolest dog named Rusty, a set of stilts that I mastered, and the biggest laugh. He was proud of being ‘Irish’ even though he had not a trace and was intensely proud of his service in WWII – a radio man in the Marines.

Marian O’Connor (1918-2010) – She didn’t have children of her own, but somehow managed to keep track of all 33 of us cousins as well as the family’s Irish lineage. One day she sat down to play the piano and I learned she was an accomplished classical pianist too. Wow!

Margaret ‘Peg’ O’Connor Wick (1924-2009) and her husband Fred Wick (1926-2007) – I remember mostly how full and positive life was for both of them, always loving its simple pleasures, including the beauty of Irish dancing.

Charles O’Connor (1916-1971) and his wife Gladys Farrell O’Connor (1917-1970) – I have bare memories of being at their farm as a little girl…they both died far too young…but my older siblings remember ‘vacationing’ there during their summers and loving every minute of the chaotic farm life and the warmth of Charlie and Gladys’ home.

And Joel’s Aunt Karen Ritchie Sauer (1942-1995) finds her way into this group as well. She’s quite possibly a little overwhelmed being in their midst, so is quietly sitting on the outskirts, legs elegantly tucked up underneath her, watching and taking it all in. Faith and family were very important to Aunt Karen, so she would have relished this dinner party and probably would have baked her delicious ginger snap cookies to pass around. I have her recipe and only make them when I am OK with eating every last one warm out of the oven.

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

Master Teacher, Midwife to the Birth of the Wild Soul

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