Perhaps the best part about being American is that we care about lineage, however fuzzy and distant it may be. Since we’re all mutty and come from all over, we take pride in saying I’m a quarter this or that, my great great great grandmother was Russian and so on.
My dad’s side is Irish. St. Patty’s day was a big deal growing up in the Murphy house. We would get special treats from the grandparents which might take the form of elaborate Irish insignia or a map of old Irish provinces, always hand-drawn in colored pencil by our lovely and talented grandmother. I knew we weren’t 100% Irish (on that side) yet I would tell people, “I’m Irish!” which would cause any person actually born in Ireland to laugh in my face because, in fact, our Irish ancestors left the island way back when. We even had family fight in the Civil War. When pushed about that side of the family, I would wave my hand and reply, “yeah, we’re also English, Dutch, German, something, something.”
My sister only reminded me recently that our grandmother’s parents were both immigrants. Our great grandfather and great grandmother came from Holland and Germany (well Germany to Namibia) respectively, before coming to the US. They met working as domestics in the same household in San Francisco.
It’s funny how some parts of family histories, like the mighty Murphy parts, are brought to the forefront. They shine more brightly than other parts and come to represent the family wholly. While other, softer-spoken members of the family fold their heritage gently into the mix, packing it away in boxes, only to be brought out once in a while.
But today is for celebrating the Murphy side. And with that, I wish you all a Happy St. Patty’s day. I’ll go out, enjoy a stout and declare, “Kiss me, I’m roughly 10-12% Irish!”