2017-11-23 / Columnists

Babylon News & Muse

•Before I forget, I would like to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. If possible I hope you are celebrating with family and friends. If you are alone, my thoughts are with you and I hope that you have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving’s past.

I’m fortunate in that I will be with numerous members of my family, from the oldest to the youngest. Luckily, they all live on the East Coast. (Is Pittsburgh the East Coast?) While my brother and his family can’t be with us, hopefully we will talk on the phone and share the holiday in that way.

•For most of my life, I have been very interested in family. We were very lucky in that we grew up knowing my mother’s family fairly well. My mother loved to tell us tales of her family, most of which grew up between Brooklyn and Lake Ronkonkoma. Mom had a twin sister and a younger brother. Her twin lived in Brooklyn when I was a child and then moved into Manhattan. She had two children, a daughter, Pam, and a son, Frank. While their brother, my Uncle Jim, lived near Rochester, and we saw him only seldom, the rest of Mom’s family joined ours for almost every holiday.

Mom had four uncles who also lived within an hour of Babylon. Three of them served in both World Wars, with distinction. When I knew them, they were probably in their 60s. Their older sister, my grandmother, was the eldest. They seemed to adore her and the five of them all had tremendous senses of humor.

When they came to Babylon for the holidays they spent the time reminiscing about their youth, which was spent mostly in Lake Ronkonkoma. I only know a few of the stories, but they would howl each time they were told, and so did everyone else.

At the holidays, we would have 20 to 30 for dinner, so we would have a buffet. When one person got up to get their dinner, someone else would take their place, so we all had a chance to talk to everyone.

Nowadays, when we gather, there are usually about 20 of us and ironically my sister’s family also consists of four boys and a girl. Like their great-great uncles and great-grandma, they all have wonderful senses of humor. This is truly a blessing as every gathering is filled with lots of laughter.

For years, the only family I knew on my father’s side was his older sister and his mother. They seldom traveled to Babylon from Brooklyn, and both seemed rather proper and stern. In later years, I got to know my aunt very well and found she did have a sense of humor. But one of the reasons I started studying genealogy was because we knew so little about the Gallagher family. I would ask questions about the family all the time, they were not very forthcoming. I knew my grandfather had numerous siblings, and my grandmother had several as well. But we never met any of them or heard anything about them. Even my own father seemed unwilling to tell us anything much about either side of his family.

About 15 years ago I started to investigate the families of both my parents on Ancestry.com. Even now, I still am not the fastest person on the computer. While I found a lot of info on my mother’s side, I found very little about my dad’s family.

A couple of years ago I took the DNA test from Ancestry. In the past year I have found numerous Gallagher family members and am in touch with several of them. Ancestry gave me the names of other Ancestry members who had submitted DNA and matched with me on the Gallagher side. I have been able to get in touch with several of them and have learned more about the Gallaghers and their families. I am so happy to have finally found out a bit more of my paternal history. I am hoping to meet some of them in the near future.

If you are interested in learning more about your family, I suggest you consider doing a DNA test with Ancestry. In addition to connecting me with unknown family members, it also told me that my DNA shows that I am 95 percent Irish! The remaining five percent comes from a combination of European countries that invaded Ireland, like Britain, Spain and Scandinavia, as well as the Romans!

•I wanted to take a friend out to dinner last week to celebrate his birthday. What I wanted was a restaurant in Babylon where we could sit quietly and talk. That’s when I realized how much our restaurants have changed. With the exception of a couple of Italian restaurants, I had a hard time finding a place. Most of the dining places in Babylon are good-sized combinations of bar/restaurant. They have been redesigned with high ceilings and larger bars, which means they tend to be too loud for an easy conversation.

For most of my life, we could always find a place to eat that offered a varied menu and it was usually easy to talk. La Grange was a favorite for us. But sadly, the LaGrange we knew ended nearly 20 years ago. We could also have a great time at The Parkwood (previously called the Captree House), under the capable management of Mohamed. It’s sad that those restaurants are gone, as are a number of others. Currently Babylon eateries tend to cater to people aged 21 to mid-40s. There are plenty of Village residents who are older and enjoy many of these places, but the noise and crowded locations are not conducive to talking with one or two people without shouting. I hope that someday soon we will be able to find eateries where eating and talking are encouraged. (I do know that there are a few places that fit this description, but they tend to have limited menus.)

•Happy birthday to Tom Whalen, Rich Schaffer and a reader now in Florida, Roger Carpenter! Again, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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