May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
…and may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead!
How many times have I heard these words from other folks … and thought that they had a really cool heritage.
After all, so many of the romantic novels that are out there have Irish heroes and heroines. Well, at least Irish names.
Which brings me to the Irish names in my family. Two of my children. Kelly and Kasey. Decidedly Irish names. I picked them because I liked the names. Not because they were Irish.
(Yes, I have children. There are people who have known me for years that don’t know I have had children. I keep my life pretty close to the vest.)
But for some reason this Irish name thing seemed to … catch the attention … of my Dad.
“Why are you using all the Irish names? There are perfectly good German names out there you could use.”
Now, although my Dad vaguely resembled Archie Bunker for a period of time while I was growing up, I have not thought of him as particularly prejudiced … at least not toward anything Irish.
Lord knows, we were raised being told we were German. One hundred percent German German. German Lutheran German. From Germany German. Speaking German from the old country German.
Although my Dad allowed that his German roots were more from Alsace-Lorraine on the border of Germany and France. But definitely German.
And truth be told, I was taught some German as a baby. You know … “Wie alt bist du?” “Ein Yahr.” … “Wie Groß bist du?” *reaches up to the sky*. That kind of German.
So who was I to argue with evidence like that?
At all the Sunday dinners at Aunt and Uncle Whomevers houses thick German accents abounded. Although I wondered why one great Aunt seemed to waffle when I asked what city in Germany they were all from originally.
She looked around like a deer caught in headlights and said “I don’t know. Munich maybe?” It struck me as odd even then. After all, who doesn’t know where you grew up?
Time elapsed, and although I knew my Father’s family was raised Catholic … somehow that didn’t dissuade me in any way from my sense of self-identity.
There was some talk, when my Dad’s Mom died that there was some kind of “deathbed confession” that she had Irish Catholic roots. Although my Dad quickly denied that. And assured me I was of proud German roots.
Well, she was Catholic. And she got special dispensation to have a party at her funeral although it fell during Holy Week. Almost like … an Irish wake?
Couldn’t be. We are all good little Germans. And it was definitely not the thing to be when my Dad and Grandma were growing up. Irish Catholic. In the early 1900’s. Not cool at all.
Flash forward many years. I had found many friends in the Irish Club. Wished I had someone to call me Mavourneen. But I was German. That was their heritage.
They say, if your heritage is really important to you … and you have a firm idea of what it is … and your whole identity is wrapped up in it … don’t use Ancestry.com.
I would add to that … and don’t talk to the Aunt in the family willing to spill the beans.
Between the two of them I learned quite a bit. Quite a bit indeed.
Very little to none of which had to do with Germany.
First, there’s an odds on chance that I could join the Daughters of the American Revolution if I had a mind to. Dad’s side goes back a long long long way here in the states.
Second, the reason great-aunt whomever could not place the city in Germany was because they were all from Russia. Well, Lithuania actually. But the immigration papers all say Russia.
This would explain why they all left from Riga, Latvia instead of, say, Bremerhaven, Bremen or Hamburg Germany … four or five countries over.
Third there is the Alsace-Lorraine thing … but I already knew about that.
And then there is Grandma. Dad’s Mom. Turns out her people are from … Ireland.
Lets see … gfather from County Queens (now County Laois) … gmother from County Kings (now County Offaly) … ran an Irish Pub in Pittsburgh … spoke with strong Irish brogues … gmother spent years as a teen in an Irish Catholic facility for girls … sounds exactly like what has been in the news recently from Ireland.
The Magdalene Laundries.
Seems the nuns didn’t think a widowed father running an Irish Pub should have a pre-teen girl hanging around there. Or so goes the story according to my Aunt. After many years there, she got out, got married and had like nine children.
Also turns out his wife died of Breast Cancer … aged 39. That was a piece of information I never would have gotten otherwise. Thank you, Ancestry.com.
So I now have all these new heritages to be proud of … and to learn about.
Oh, and I’m still looking for someone to call me Mavourneen.
Happy St. Patricks Day, all.