In solidarity to our Irish roots, my siblings, cousins, and I sent St. Patrick’s Day wishes via text all day yesterday, accompanied by assorted jokes, favorite Irish ballads, love songs, and drinking songs. We are scattered over the northeast coast now, but on March 17th we at least manage to be together in spirit on the day that reminds of of our roots.
I grew up in a family of eight, and my father’s two sisters had 12 kids between the two of them. Eighteen grandchildren from three progeny was probably the greatest legacy left by Tom and Mary Dillon, two young Irish immigrants who stepped ashore at Ellis Island by way of a ship called The Cedric.
They left with little and lived to have little more, even here. They never owned a car or a home, and my Dad – the youngest of the three – slept in the unheated attic of the tiny two bedroom cottage in upstate New York. Despite outward appearances that would have one assume otherwise, there was always laughter in that house. For them, life wasn’t much about what you had – it never was. It was about more than that. Of course it was always about getting by, but it was also about religion, music, stories, laughter, and family. As their grand daughter, I grew up in an Irish Catholic family too, so I thought that our family was the way every family was. It was in adulthood that I realized that there are things that are very important to us that came from our Nana and Bop (May and Tom), and the country from whence they came.
- Stories. Stories are very important to us. Good stories, and good story-telling. Several of my siblings are among the best storytellers I know.
- Laughter. Laughter is sacrosanct. That is mostly what we try to do – make each other laugh. When we are together, laughter is the unspoken benchmark with which we measure a good time – the more, the better.
- Religion. Say no more.
- Music! Lots of it, all kinds of it, and songs to sing, especially. I think that many of us are our happiest when singing a song. Around a piano or a guitar? Even better!
- The drink – of course! Like every Irish family, it’s big part of our culture. Also like every Irish family, some of us can partake, and others best not. That’s just the way it is.
- Food? – Eh! Not so much. Back in the day, “boil the bejesus out of it” was the standard mantra for cooking everything, but after all of the above, who cares!
So here’s to the Irish!
As my brother Tom said yesterday, their love songs are sad and their fightin’ songs are happy.
For whatever the reason, I’m glad I’m one of them.