Monday, March 17, 2008

My little toe and part of my spleen are Irish

Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes, everybody. I ended up having a really good birthday. I went to breakfast, read some of a new book I bought (The Namesake), took my yoga class and felt really good afterward, ran some errands, and went out to dinner with Dan at a really nice restaurant to which we had a $50 gift certificate, so the meal was half the price (we ordered a bottle of wine).

The weekend felt sort of like an extended birthday celebration. I got to eat some things I almost never eat (like my favorite cheese, Irish Dubliner) and Dan made me a birthday cake last night (apple spice with penuche icing, SO YUMMY). We crossed almost everything left on our to-do-before-the-wedding list and just have a couple of things left. On more than one occasion, I found myself saying, "I should be working on something" but didn't know what that something might be. I wonder if that feeling will stick around for a while after all this wedding stuff is over.

Yesterday, as we walked back from the grocery store (tortilla chips for guac, apples, and split peas in hand) we had a little discussion about why it is that so many people with the ability to claim even a droplet of Irish or Italian blood say they are Irish (or Italian). I'm sure it has something to do with the historical issues in this country with being Irish or Italian (I mean, at one point, THEY were the ones people were prejudiced against). But if you're 5th generation Irish (or Italian), why aren't you just *American*? Why don't Americans feel like claiming that as their ancestry is good enough?

I know that my mother's maternal grandmother was 100% Irish (from Ireland, a Sheehan) and her grandfather was part Spanish and part something else. There's Irish on my dad's side, too, though I think not as easy to trace. If you add up all of the Irish in me from both sides it's probably about 20-25%. As far as I know, no Italian. Lots of German, some Swiss and some English and some Dutch. How I ended up looking as I do is somewhat of a mystery (the brown hair from the Spanish great-great grandmother, the olive skin that tans easily from the southern German on my dad's side), and I've had people ask me if I was Italian or Spanish or Israeli and one time someone thought I was Persian. But you know what? Even though I know a bit of the history of my blood and what countries the people who supplied my genetics, all those generations back, I don't consider myself anything but American. Even on St. Patrick's day. I am wearing green, but I'd likely do that anyway.


Anonymous said...

Apropos of nothing, I feel compelled to tell you that I have some sort of weird mental block with the title "The Namesake." Every time I saw a poster for the movie, I read it "nom-ay-sock-ay." And I did it again when I read it in your entry. WTF?

That is all.

-qir said...

Yay for good birthdays. My other Denver friend said you guys were having snow.

I think we Yanks harken back to our ethnic ancenstors because 1) early on, the social norms that defined those cultures provided structure in a new place where few social structures were in place, 2) because those norms provide elements of comfort for more recently arrived immigrants, and 3) because as humans we spend our whole lives establishing and refining our identities. American culture is utterly lacking in cohesiveness and serves poorly as foundation for a unified cultural identity. So we grab the nearest, accessible identifier.

Sara said...

Glad you had a nice birthday!

I loved The Namesake. But I loved Interpreter of Maladies more.