18 March 2010

ghillies, hard shoes, and an old saint named Pat

I have a complicated relationship with my heritage.

I'm (almost) full Irish: only 1/16th German, from my mother's father's mother's side, and knowing that fact alone makes me feel fine saying that I'm Irish. Growing up, I loved me some St. Patrick's Day. For Reals. We would wake up and my mom would try and make us some special green breakfast, which was always very sweet in thought and not always great on delivery - Margie isn't the best of cooks, she'll tell you that - and then I'd spend the day in Irish dance performances around my decidedly-not-Irish western Colorado hometown. Sometimes I remember my Dad going to Mass, though I don't think it was an every-year occurrence. The dance costumes were a bit cheesy, and I'm sure we would have gotten our butts whooped by those sophisticated girls from Denver, but it was very fun. My friend Emily and I danced for years and years. It was before I had ever really heard of green beer.

Nothing is better than watching excited little girls (some boys) dancing. How they twitch with barely-contained nervousness and excitement. I get how great that is. But I've been around the block enough to get sad about the emphasis on heavy drinking. I've moved away from the Catholic Church as I found it unable, or unwilling, to meet my spiritual needs. I'm at the point in my life where I'm beginning to see some of the harder things about being an Irish-American. Most of the time, it's a part of who I am, but a part that grows smaller as I grow older. Except on St. Patrick's Day, when I am forced to take a pause and look at my culture as represented by all day drinking and this rowdy, crazy, binge celebration. I kind of feel like flying under the radar this year, going about my normal day, and not really broadcasting that I'm a descendant of anything.

Don't get me wrong - I like being Irish. I do. But it's richer - and infinitely more complicated - than this day lets it be. This year, it's tripping me up a bit more than it has before. I'm sure I'll figure out where I stand in the world, make peace with my disconnects and disagreements with my (wonderful) heritage and let it be a small part of my personal narrative.  But today, I'll pass on the green beer and woefully poured Guinness.

Photo is from the Rochester City Newspaper, the 2009 Irish Dance Competition
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