By Lorinda Henry
‘Round here we are usually hoping for a white Christmas, but hardly anyone hopes for a white St. Patrick’s Day. I looks like we might have one anyway, but it’s not on my dream list, and probably not on yours. Still, I like St. Patrick’s Day, not the least because it is a certain sign that spring will be here, eventually.
A thing I particularly like about a good North American St. Patrick’s Day is its lack of exclusivity and attitude. If you wear a T-shirt or pin declaring that because you are Irish, people can run up and kiss you, you may not get a lot of kisses, but you probably won’t be harangued because you are not Irish enough, either. It’s like Thursday – people don’t run around telling us to put Thor back into Thursday, and they seldom remind us to put Pat back in St. Patrick’s Day!
My grandmother had on Irish branch on an otherwise stoutly New England tree. I think the Irish were more fun, and she had fun with the day. She sent her grandchildren cards where the surnames, of whatever origin, were awarded an O’, and her name, derived from French, she also decorated – O’Baraw. She was partial to the romantic and sentimental Ireland portrayed in the U.S. by much popular music – “Ireland Must Be Heaven For My Mother Came From There,” or “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.” My grandfather sang those to her with feeling and always hoped to take her to Ireland someday. By the time they might have afforded it they didn’t have the energy for travel, so they helped me get there. I tried to remember every single thing to tell Gram when I returned.
My Dad, on the other hand, was not sentimental about his forbears and cautioned us, with a grin, that they probably were horse theives who had to leave under duress! He also made funny and not at all romantic cards with leprechauns and shamrocks (he said he couldn’t afford real rocks.) We laughed; even Gram laughed, I think. She was not totally taken in by the blarney – one solid piece of advice she gave me was that I should not take after the family in attitude. “Don’t ever hold a grudge,” she said. “The Macs are always holding grudges. Don’t be like that.” I think her attitude was along the lines of not going to sleep angry. Tweaked a little – “Don’t go to bed mad. Stay up and fight till it’s over!” Her temper could be firey, but it didn’t last long.
Mom was kind of in the middle. She had affection for her background, honored the occasion with corned beef and introduced us to “real Irish” music in the form of folk songs. They were popular on the folk music circuit at the time and she built up quite a collection of records, which were played more or less endlessly during March.
So whatever your leanings – go wear green and have a party. It doesn’t matter if your background is Mother Malone or horse thief, or something far from the Emerald Isle (thanks, Gram). Melvin, a friend from Ghana, rocks the “Kiss me, I’m Irish” role. He recently had his DNA done – he is 1 percent European, according to that. We figure that is enough Irish to party with. So go have fun, all you O’Desranleaus and McLavallees, O’Kaigles and FitzTreaudeaus.
Neither Gram nor Mom are here to love and enjoy their darling, red-haired great- and great-great-granddaughter. We don’t actually know where the red hair came from, but we might as well attribute it to the Irish. Or a Viking raider – who knows. Now I’ve got to go send her a card, and sign my name with an “ O’ !”