March 17th is a date most people simply love. Not only is it my beloved mother-in-law’s birthday, but it’s the day we celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Every person of every color, heritage and faith, likes to be Irish on this day. You get to drink, party, wear green ( which flatters almost every color of skin on the plant) and be joyous. Most of you know the story behind St. Patrick, and although history is pretty certain he wasn’t born in Ireland, he did make it his mission to convert the Irish to Christianity. And while he can’t claim Ireland as his heritage, most Irish people forget about that and simple call him one of their own.
I wasn’t born in Ireland either, but that doesn’t make me one drop less Irish to the core. My maternal grandmother came off the boat at 13 and when she died almost 70 years later, her brogue was still thick, lilting and utterly charming to listen to. As a child, I was enthralled with hearing her tell stories of her youth, raised on a pig farm in Galway. With 13 siblings, food was scare and times were arduous. She emigrated to our shores and often told the story of how she felt the first time she laid eyes on Lady Liberty. Her clear, crystal blue eyes would glaze over with unshed tears, and she’d put a hand over her tripping heart, remembering for the first time the sense of utter freedom, shear terror at being away from home and all that was familiar, and the knowledge that anything was now possible for her struck home.
Over the years, I was lucky to meet a few of her siblings who managed to get to America. Listening to each of them tell tales similar to my grandmother’s stories of their youth, the one thing that stuck with me – aside from the feeling of warm coziness I got listening to the pitch and roll in their voices – was the sense they were true storytellers in the purest form. Their gift of gab, of turning a phrase, and evoking every emotion they could was supreme, and I wonder if this talent for telling a tale has been filtered down to me.
People used to describe my face as “having the map of Ireland all over it.” Pale, translucent skin that holds a chaos of freckles, light eyes and (naturally) black hair that has since gone bottle blond to hide the white, I know I look like my heritage. I am one of those American/Irish lasses. I can mimic a wicked brogue, enough so that even my grandmother used to get misty eyed when I did it for her. The Irish have a long history of being gifted writers, songstresses, and poets. They tend to wear their hearts on their writing paper and share their emotions in the way they turn a phrase. I really do think my love of story telling has some seeds in genetics.
I am of Irish blood, therefore, I write.
Not very deep and esoteric, but hey, this is me here.
The list of Irish writers is long and recognizable. They tell tales of the struggles of their faith, their land, and their freedom. They fill you with a sense of pride at all they accomplished, and righteous indignation with their turmoils under British rule. They write of love, loss and longing with words that make you weep and wail.
And laugh. Any Irish writer can bring a smile to your face and a laugh to your voice when they tell a bawdy tale or two. Or three….
So, on this wonderful and joyous day, drink responsibly, wear something with a bit o’the green in it, and if you see someone wearing a button that states “kiss me, I’m Irish!”, do it!
I’ll leave with a few lines of my favorite Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.