The leprechaun is a wee wisp of a creature. It is responsible for rainbows, pots o’ gold, and even a bit o’ mischief. That mysterious feeling one gets when a leprechaun is nearby is the same feeling I have, when I think about my Irish heritage.
Why is it, I wonder, that I impart great importance to this part of my bloodline? Is it because the Irish part of me seems more interesting than my rather stodgy English side? I want to attribute my warped sense of humor to my Limerick County ancestors. In reality my father had exactly the same sort of humor–but not a drop of Irish blood in his veins.
Instead I’ll have to confess that it is the dark and farcical side of my wit that originates on the old sod. For where else but a place where it rains so constantly could you find a people so determined to laugh about it? I certainly didn’t inherit the Irish penchant for dance. I had a difficult enough time learning the samba a few years ago. I’m afraid the jig might give me waist whiplash.
My grandmother always told me that “the map of Ireland is on your face.” I am pretty sure she was referring to my freckles and hazel eyes, and not the piece of salad lettuce that may have been sticking to my chin. Come to think of it, my Gram mentioned Ireland whenever she had the opportunity.
Gram was not born in Ireland, but her father had been. However, she loved Ireland as much as anyone could love a country. She was a truly kind woman, who never raised her voice to anyone. Contrarily she had a hard spot in her heart for the English government who had allowed her Irish ancestors to starve during the “Great Famine,” and finally to flee the country.
She was the one who urged us to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. She was insistent that we feel honored to be Irish. She was the one who softly spoke the few Gaelic words that have been passed down to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
And so I have come to an understanding. The reason that my Irish heritage is so important to me, is that is was important to HER. I can remember Gram’s lilting tones when she sang the old Irish tunes. And the lovely green silk scarf that she wore on St. Patrick’s Day. Although her hair was white by the time I knew her, a pair of compassionate, perfect hazel eyes peered at me.
She so enjoyed being of Irish descent. My love of it too, is a tribute to her. Most certainly the map of Ireland was on her heart.
This article was written as my contribution to the 6th edition of the “Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture” at Small-leaved Shamrock blog. The deadline for you to submit YOUR article is Friday, June 6th, with it being published on June 9th. The question is “What does it mean to be Irish?”
Pictured above is my Gram, in a favorite photo, as I like to remember her.