Irish tribute

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2007

There’s a saying that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. So sticking to that saying I want to wish everyone a Happy St. Patty’s Day.

I actually forgot the holiday was coming up until I was writing an appointment on my desk calendar and saw it listed.

In upstate New York there seems to be a least a week of celebration before St. Patrick’s Day actually comes around.

In some ways I was angry with myself for overlooking it. After all it’s a holiday my family celebrates faithfully every year.

From the corned beef dinner to imbibing in the drink to sporting the color green.

Many cities around the United States celebrate the holiday from the Chicago River being dyed green to rowdy crowds watching the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston or New York.

All of this for a Pagan slave turned Christian who drove the snakes out of Ireland and raised the dead.

Splintering away from its religious roots, the day is now a time to celebrate family, friends and commemorate a culture.

My grandmother was Irish, or at least a part of her was. She used to call herself a mutt because according to her she had a little bit of everything in her from Scottish to German to Irish.

But the one ethnicity she identified with the most was being Irish and I never saw her as anything else.

Looking back at old pictures of her as an infant, then a teen, then a mother, the transformation of her hair can be seen from a strawberry blonde to dark red-brown then black.

There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t quote something Irish, whether it be Murphy’s Law or playing “An Irish Lullaby” on her piano.

Despite marrying a Dutchman she never would falter at letting her heritage shine through.

She insisted in naming each of her four daughters with Irish names, Kathleen, Eileen, Maureen and Doreen. This resulted in a string of names that is worthy an Irish song and my poor grandfather’s utter confusion as he would fumble over the names when he was angry with his daughters.

My grandfather’s torture didn’t end there; my grandmother would sing chosen verses of “The Souse Family,” an old drinking song that says a few choice words about the Dutch.

Of the many stereotypes out there about the Irish, my grandmother never seemed to fit any of the negative ones.

She never drank, worked hard all of her life and was smart as a whip.

However, she did have a temper and would curse occasionally.

She was religious and a tough woman. She always seemed to be able to weather anything painful, be it emotional or physical.

And she loved to take the vinegar out of people by teasing them.

When I was younger I was embarrassed because I had freckles all over my face. I used to beg my mother every day to cover them up with foundation.

My grandmother, of course, was no help when it came to this. She’d just laugh at me and say, “It looks like the cow spit bran in your face.”

No matter how hard I try to cover up the freckles on my face or drown out the red highlights in my hair with dye, nothing would ever work.

One day while complaining about my freckles my grandma finally took me aside and told me, “Don’t be ashamed, it’s the Irish coming out in you.”

Today with my freckles faded and red hair still intact, I know now why she teased me so about my freckles. It was to make me stronger.

Now when I look into the mirror to fix my hair, I think about my grandmother and think of a particular Irish saying:

“To be red-haired is better than to be without a head.”

This year I’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a day late. My mom will be here and for once in my life I’ll be making the St. Patty’s Day dinner.