Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Think About Stuff I Write: Family Legacies, Green Glitter, Shamrock G-Strings, and Ways to Be An American on St. Patty’s Day

In Uncategorized on March 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Well, it’s St. Patty’s Day.

St. Patrick seemed like an all right guy. I mean, the whole snakes-get-out-of-Ireland-and-don’t-come-back thing.


Not that there was probably any truth to that, but still.  Now if he could just do something about stink bugs.

Anyway, on this day, people say everyone’s Irish.

I don’t know about that, either.


“I’m Irish,” my daughter said this morning when she insisted on me dressing her in three layers of green. I had to get her up 15 minutes early to be sure her nails were glittered and painted green and her hair was done up in a green-bedazzled do.

Today, especially, my daughter talks about her other family, the one overseas. It’s a romantic notion and my daughter is beautiful and kind and if ever there were smiling Irish eyes worthy of song, she has them.


“You’re American,” my husband and I say.

We want her to understand that, to feel the pride of that.

“Poopers,” she says.

She’s probably right, as usual.

The things is, the Irish part of my daughter, the one she likes to cling to, is complicated, and in many ways as much an illusion as that thing with St. Pat and the snakes. I was adopted, which means my sense of my own personal history lasts about as long as a gumball. My husband’s father’s parents came from Ireland, sure, but neither I nor my daughter ever knew them.

Maybe it’s because I was adopted. Maybe it’s because my idea of family and loyalty and personal history can be loaded into a very small and precious box. But the truth is, I want my children to love the identities they were born into, which means I want them to hold on to who they really are, not an idea of roots that have no real hold in their lives.

I know. My daughter’s right. I’m ruining the party. And today is all about the party — the green beer, shamrock G-strings, the green face paint that will cling to eyebrows for weeks, the cars parked crooked for miles at the AOH, all those broken bottles strewn on streets everywhere.


“Teach me some Irish,” my daughter said this morning.

I know a couple words — not from family, but from friends and from working for the airlines and flying in and out of Shannon for years.

I teach her “craic.”


I teach her “slainte.”


I teach her “firinne.”


I say the words like they’re that universal language — wishes.

Which of  course they are.

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