Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Wearin' of the Green?

When I went out to run my daily errands, I realized that I was wearing red on St. Patrick's Day and I was glad no one said anything about it.  They could have pinched me and I wouldn't have complained.  Red wasn't a deliberate choice--it was a matter of easy reach; I just grabbed the first blouse from the closet this morning.  The problem is that I'm never sure whether I have any more or less right than other folks to wear Green on St. Pat's.

I remember being in first grade when all the other kids in Boston area schools (a large Irish population there) were planning to wear green, and my grandmother (my mother's mother) informed me that I was not "Green" Irish; I was Orange.  Great.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  But what do you do you're not Green?  Contrary to what the Sesame Street song would have you believe, it's not easy being Orange when you're a little least on St. Pat's.

My father's parents both came from the Ould Sod, and they immigrated to the US to try for a better life.  My grandfather came from Donegal in Ireland; my grandmother from Antrim in Northern Ireland.  I wish I had known them but I never met either.  My grandmother died in a flu epidemic just nine days after giving birth to my father.  My grandfather, doing what men did in those times, gave my infant father to another immigrant family (distant relatives) to raise and returned to Donegal with his other toddler children in tow.  I did not know until recently that he was alive and well until I was in my teens; I never heard from him and I don't know if my father ever did either.  It's a strange thing to have roots but not to be able to recognize them.

I never knew my other grandfather either.  He was an immigrant from Scotland.  Unfortunately, he was guilty of an indiscretion so my grandmother divorced him and he moved to the other side of the US, never to return.  He did contact me when I was in my teens, just sending a few birthday cards, but when I asked to meet him, he responded with a resounding "no" without further explanation.  And that shut the door on another quarter of the past that I wish I could have learned about.

Life is full of unanswered questions.  The past is a strange country indeed.

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Happy St. Patrick's whether you're Green or Orange or any other hue.

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