The most dominant ingredient in my personal human stew is Irish.
My mom’s mom was 100% MICK. She married a man who was 100% KRAUT and they had 5 kids.
My dad was a mongrel. He claimed Irish, English, Scottish, and French ancestry. But I can’t be sure any of that was true. Though he did have the short-torso, barrel-chested, long-legged physique of the stereotypical frog. At least that’s the stereotype that I hold in my mind. So French was a possibility.
Add all of this up, and you’ll see that the Celt portion of my DNA owns controlling stock in Asshat Industries (aka me).
Which is why this happened:
Obviously, March 17th is a day of enormous pride for me. I drink 2 Guinness instead of my usual 1. I get real bawdy. I say uncharacteristically inappropriate things. I turn green because that is the color of vomit. I get real mad if you make fun of Bailey’s Irish Cream.
I remember the first time I learned of my Irishness. I was in Sr. Georgiana’s 1st grade class. And it was just about this time of year. And she casually asked if anyone in the class was Irish. I don’t have an exact number, but I seem to recall that every single hand inside that classroom went up, people walking by outside raised their hands, someone rushed into the room with a phone—the newly elected Mayor Jane Byrne needed to avow her Irish heritage right there to the class. The only hand that didn’t go up was mine. Because I didn’t know. And I assumed that if I didn’t know, it meant my parents were trying to protect me from a terrible reality:
You’re not Irish Jeffffff.
I lived in that nightmare reality for hours until school ended and my mom came to pick us up in our non-Irish car. I whispered my question and braced myself for the truth.
“Are we even Irish, mom?”
In that moment, I knew how Jesus must have felt when his dad saved him from being crucified.
Ever since, BEING GODDAMNED IRISH has been my golden ticket through life. I could drink all I want, make all the jokes I want, read all the Patrick McCabe books I want, go to Brewbaker’s and sing along with The Last Unicorn at 5am. I had a solid green VIP pass to all the glamor that is the South Side of Chicago.
And when it came time to reproduce, I married someone who had absolutely ZERO Irish DNA. Because I needed to save the next generation. It was my Irish duty. Spread the Irishness.
It’s why we also had to honeymoon in Ireland. Or as I refer to it—Violence Island. So Jill could get a crash course into the wonders that she was now entitled through marriage.
Unlike my half-Irish mother, I vowed to not put my kids through the anguish of not knowing. The day each one was born, I screamed at their little faces “Thank St. Paddy you’re Irish!” While giving GERMAN JILL a sidelong glance. Passing on the Irish greatness was the single most important thing I could have done for my children. More than likely, I have failed in every other regard, but that’s okay—they have Danny Boy in their veins!
Unlike Jill’s sister, Julie. GERMAN Julie married POLISH Rob and their poor kids!!!I love them all so much, but . . . I don’t want to think about the injustice.
Julie puts up a brave front—sticking cardboard shamrocks in the windows in March and getting drunk in front of the wee ones. But it must be a tough month for them. Looking at each other. Seeing no Irish. Asking themselves What have we done?
It breaks my goddamned heart, it does.