That’s shocking to you, I’m sure. Me with my curly reddish hair, freckles and pasty white skin. While I’m a mutt of many backgrounds – German, Swedish, Austrian and French – the Irish is the one that made my existence possible.
I’ve told you all before about my Great-Grandma Marie and her writing skills, but the thing you need to know about her today is that her maiden name was Mulligan… and her heritage meant more to her than you can imagine. When dad and mom were getting a little more serious in their dating and it looked like a future may indeed happen between the two of them, it became an obligation for her grandson to bring his girlfriend over for dinner.
A scrutiny dinner.
Unbeknownst to mother, she was getting a very serious once-over by a woman who wanted to make sure the right girl was going to be spending time with her grandson. Mom said the conversation went something like this:
Marie: “So, your last name is Grandgenett? Where is that from exactly… German? Maybe French?”
Mom: “Yes, both… but my mom was a Halligan.”
Marie: “Oh, dear! You sweetheart!”
Mom had it made in the shade… :)
And mom was true to her Irish roots when it came to St. Patrick’s day… she would have made Great-Grandma Marie proud. We’d get home from school and in the refrigerator would be our after school treat of lime jello with pears – in individual, fancy glass dishes to make it a special occasion. There would be green frosting on our cake for dessert and, a few times, I remember sauerkraut being served, but I try to block that part from my memory. The smell alone all but sends me running for the hills [apparently that’s one Irish gene I didn’t inherit].
And then there was the singing. We did a lot of singing.
Fr. McCarty was a good friend of our family, and I fell in love with him at an early age. He was so much fun and I felt bad he always lived alone, so at one point I offered to live with him… as long as he understood that all I knew how to make was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. [Not a lot has changed for me in the kitchen.] Yes, I’m probably one of the few people who can say my first love was a priest, but I thought he was the best. And he was like family to us.
So, when he came back from a trip to Ireland [with a name like McCarty, where else would he go?] he brought us a real Irish shillelagh (a walking stick) that became a prop in many a singing production. Songs that went like:
“Sure ‘tis the same old shillelagh my father licked a dozen men; As fast as they got up, beggora, he’d knock ‘em down again; And many a times he used it on me to make me understand; Sure ‘tis the same old shillelagh me father brought from Ireland.”
Sweet, gentle, loving souls those Irish were. :) But it was a hit when we sang it for the nuns at the hog roasts, I tell you.
Ahh… the good old days. St. Patty’s Day just isn’t like it used to be when I was kid… you know, back when we walked to school, uphill both ways, in the snow, barefoot… Oh wait, maybe that was a little before my time.
It must be the Irish in me that got that going…