Walking into the Cover Story Boutique on Main Street last week, I was instantly swept back in time looking at all the adorable decorations for St. Patrick’s Day.
As a child, knowing I was Irish made me feel like I was one of the chosen ones. My father, born to Irish Catholic immigrants in 1916, loved to remind me I was special.
“Jackie, you’re 100% Irish,” he’d proudly state. “That means you’ve been blessed.”
For years I believed this. I felt that St. Patrick’s Day belonged to me, more so than my classmates. The world was my treasure chest because of my lineage until one day my mother burst my bubble.
“Honey…,” she started slowly. “I hate to inform you, but you’re not exactly 100% Irish. Half of you comes from me.” Fearful I was about to hear that my whole life was a lie, she continued, “You’re English too.”
I stared into her sympathetic eyes. All I could say was, “Huh?”
“Well, I know your dad would like to think you’re only Irish, but I had something to do with your legacy too.”
For years, I wondered why this fixation on his heritage was so important. Heaven knows their enough jokes circulating about his nationality to make one wonder.
Irishmen drink too much, spend too much time on their knees in church, eat boiled food, and sing “Oh Danny Boy” at the top of their lungs, even if they don’t know all the words.
But being Irish also means having an indomitable spirit and a quest for justice and freedom. My grandparents were dirt poor when they came to San Francisco, in the late 1890’s, and fought to be recognized in this country. They survived the Great Depression and my father was the first in his family to obtain a college education. He certainly did have a right to be proud.
While my own life has had it’s difficult moments, I have never known such adversity. My parents made sure of that. I was blessed with a childhood where all my basic needs were met. I never wondered where my next meal would come from and parochial education was standard.
So why do I still get jazzed about this one day in the year since discovering I’m a 50/50?
Some friends might say it’s just another excuse for me to party. While I must admit I love parties, I get excited about March 17th because I see it as celebration of mankind’s unconquerable will to survive and thrive. The human spirit should be rejoiced.
So this St. Patrick’s Day, I plan to paint shamrocks on my face, wear green clothes, sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” even though I don’t know all the words, and drink green wine (I hate beer). I will dance a gig until I have holes in my shoes and then get down on my knees and pray for everyone who is facing a personal struggle. My dad was right, I’ve been blessed.