Do you want to know what chaps my pasty-white *ss? People from Ireland getting their *sses chapped when people from America want to claim their Irish heritage. I don't know how many times I've met an Irish person and said, "My ancestors are from County Cork," only to be met with an eye roll and sometimes with a flat-out rude retort like, "That doesn't make you Irish." Hey, if I want to celebrate my Irish ancestry; if I want to claim it; if I want to EMBRACE it, what the HELL does it matter to YOU? Because I wasn't born in Ireland? Because I'm not fully immersed in Irish culture in every facet of my world? Because I don't know how to speak Irish? (Irish is one of the three languages originating from Ireland and is often called "Gaelic" by outsiders, but in Ireland, it is simply called "Irish." SEE? I KNOW THAT SHIZZ AND I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO LOOK IT UP! Boom! Begorrah)!
I have a HUGE family on my mother's side, and they all have Irish surnames. We get together for big family reunions, where we look at our family tree and our coat of arms, talk about our ancestors and revel in our unity. We cherish Irish symbols like the claddagh, the celtic cross, the shamrock, the harp. We send Irish Wedding Blessings to newlyweds. Those of us that can afford the trip will have visited Ireland at least once and sometimes more than once in their lives; others vow to visit it before they die. My aunt spends HOURS tracing our family's lineage and preserving it.
My mother rocked me to sleep with Irish lullabies, the same ones I sang to my sons when they were babies. My mom's maiden name starts with "Mc." Her maiden name is also my sister's middle name, my brother's middle name and my son's middle name. My mom chose this middle name for her children, and I chose it for mine, because we both want the name to live on in legacy. I want my son to choose it as a name for his daughter or son, and so on and so forth, so that it STAYS an Irish heritage identifier on my family tree forever.
I'm protective of my heritage. It connects me to my beloved departed grandfather, who considered himself Irish to the core. It makes me feel part of a family, a part of history, something bigger than the here and now, bigger than myself. It makes me feel unique. It makes me feel special. I'm not sure why anyone would want to roll their eyes and rip that away from me. But I'm not going to let them.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, from a proud IRISH woman.
This essay was originally posted on www.bigtopfamily.com.