News Flash: I'm Irish

“Oh, wow. It looks just like Ireland,” many visitors say.

Well, kind of … just drop some stone walls and a lot of wooly sheep in there and yes, our farm does look a lot like the rolling, green hills of Ireland, which is appropriate because --- news flash --- we’re kind of Irish.

My husband, The Big Leprechaun, and I gave our family the gift of “23 & Me” genetic testing kits for Christmas this past December and we just recently received our scores. The results are in: we’re really, really Irish. Shocker. Flora is 91.6%; Fauna is 90.8%; Meriwether is 96.8%. My husband is a mere 85%. I am the proud Irish Queen at 98.1%.

I’m actually a little surprised my results aren’t 100%+ Irish. I mean, I’ve always known my people were Irish. Like so many in Greater Cleveland, both my parents were born from Irish immigrants from County Mayo. So immersed in my Irish-ness was I as a youth that, when filling out biographical information on standardized tests in grade school, I was confused, looking over the options: Caucasian, Black, Asian, Native American. I raised my hand and asked the teacher, “Um, I’m none of these things. I’m Irish.”

“You’re Caucasian, honey. You’re white.”

“Hmm. Go figure,” I muttered to myself, baffled, though I was sure she was mistaken.

While I took my Irish-ness for granted, when I was young I had this internal vision of myself as being something dark and exotic … Polynesian or Puerto Rican. I adored the musical, West Side Story (still do) and thought of myself as that famous Shark girl, Anita or at the very least, Maria. But when I was in that play in college, they quickly cast me as a Jet girl. (“You’re Caucasian, honey. You’re white.”)

Growing up, I thought everyone used words like “amadán,” (moron) “nabicantch” (I have NO idea how to spell this, but it means, “quiet now, someone’s coming”) “pogue mahone” (kiss my ass), “eejit” (idiot) and a particularly lyrical word for a woman’s nether regions that my maternal grandmother reportedly used, which I will refrain from using here, just in case it offends. I seriously didn’t even know any of those phrases was Irish until I read them in the novel, Trinity (by that great Irishman, Leon Uris, who is Jewish) in my late 20’s. When it was published in 1975, Trinity was all-but-required reading for Irish Americans.

When I moved into adulthood, I was not especially looking for an Irish American lad. I consider myself a citizen of the world, after all. I speak Spanish, I love to travel and enjoy meeting people and learning about different cultures. But then I met this guy with the map of Ireland all over his face and what my father referred to as “poet’s eyes,” and I fell. My husband and his clan identify as Irish American, but I have to say, I’ve always been a little snobby about that. I mean, they’ve got German roots, English roots, Texas roots, whatever that means (my brother-in-law tells everyone he’s half Irish, half Texan). But when The Big Leprechaun got his genetic results back, I was impressed; 85% Irish is pretty respectable.

Now, just to be clear, my family was never one of those families with what I call TIP, “tacky Irish paraphernalia” all over the house. Sure, we took off school every year to go to the St. Patricks’ Day parade downtown, sit at my aunt’s kitchen table and share family stories all day. Yep, my clan does gather for about thirty years now every St. Patrick’s Day to drink beer together with our cousins at a large Irish hooley at St. Colman’s, the downtown parish where our parents grew up. (Yep, I use the word “clan” a lot). At that annual event, we listen to Irish music and watch Irish Step Dancing, occasionally taking a crack at it ourselves (pathetic). Yeah, I gather a group of sisters, nieces and a few cousins in my kitchen every year to make dozens of loaves of Irish Soda Bread to sell at the annual hooley.

Yep, I ended up throwing some of my own kids into step dancing classes, though I never studied it myself. Ok, I’ve got some Irish stuff … Belleek china, some Waterford crystal, some crosses of St. Brigid, the obligatory Irish knit sweaters, a couple of CDs of The Chieftains. Yes, my parents did bring a group of twenty kids, cousins and aunts to Ireland back in the 70’s (though I don’t remember a lot from that trip, so doped out on Dramamine was I). I, as well as many of my siblings and cousins, have made the pilgrimage back to the old sod and, sure, it was grand.

Yes, I say, “sure, it was grand” with an Irish brogue.

Yes, as I write, I have a big fat green shamrock on my front door.

Oh, and two of my brothers own a brewery.

Ok. We’re pretty over-the-top Irish.

When we acquired our farm property and built a new barn for the horses there, The Big Leprechaun insisted that we put shamrocks on it. It thought it was kind of hokey, but I have to admit, I do like it now. And it turns out that the wife of The Sherriff, a beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed lass, is Irish herself; her father was born in Ireland. So the shamrocks fit in well.

All this got me thinking. Our farm is a horse-breeding farm. Genetics play a very important role there. The Sherriff and his staff pay a lot of attention to bloodlines. So, at least on our farm, at 98.1% Irish, I guess I’m darned near a thoroughbred. And I’m plenty proud of it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Shamrocks on our barn are hokey, but ... sure, they're grand.

Shamrocks on our barn are hokey, but ... sure, they're grand.