When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
By this time, all the green beer in town has turned back to its normal color. I grew up in New York where St Patrick’s Day was always a grand celebration.
They say that you can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl. That is also true of the label Irish Catholic. I am part of a New York Irish-Catholic family. I am actually only half Irish. My mother was Czechoslovakian, though that seemed to take a back seat, since my father was 100% Irish.
My father was raised and educated in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns and priests, so his upbringing outranked my mothers, except for one thing. My mother, her mother, and her mother’s mother were devout Catholics. Think big emphasis on devout. My father was an “I follow all the rules just in case it’s true” Catholic, so he stayed in the background when it came to exercising religious muscle.
My mother was the actual voice of God. It was pointless to argue with her because she simply informed you that your behavior was shameful and that God was displeased. She also delivered God’s just punishment due for the flagrant disobedience that occasionally I or my 10 siblings displayed.
Talking for God trumps everything. There is no way that you can effectively defend yourself against the 10 Commandments and the Laws of the Church. By the time I was 14, I had accumulated three years of restricted mobility, or what was called “grounded”, and this extended sentence was actually earned in two and three week increments.
Here is a hint to current parents. Too much control and supervision is just as bad as too little. It is impossible to execute that much incarceration without the proper jail structure and guards to implement it.
It was only a matter of time before they would ask me to go somewhere or do something that would serve the common good of the family, or their needs, and I would righteously inform them that, though I would like to help out, I was grounded and therefore not available for active duty.
Irish extended to everything. Is a relative suffering from an acute illness? Simple. A transfusion of good Irish blood will bring them back to life. Regarding dating, it was mandatory that my parents met the guy. My mother was always polite, but it was sketchy when it came to my father. Hopefully the boy wouldn’t pick up on my father’s thinly disguised disdain if the guy wasn’t Irish, but I certainly knew.
Once, I introduced a date to my parents and announced that he was currently in college, hoping that might impress my father enough to be cordial. My father reached out his hand and said: “Well, so you’re in college! What is your major?” I waited with trepidation to hear the answer from I forget what his name was. When he said archeology, my stomach sank. My father didn’t miss a beat. He slowly and deliberately lit his pipe and took a few puffs. Then he snuffed out the match, looked the guy in the eyes and said: “Hmmm. Archeology. Good profession, but like sheepherding not a big call for it.”
There is a certain pride that comes with being of Irish heritage. When my youngest daughter, Sara, went to college in Manhattan and when my third daughter, Jennica, married a part Irish Catholic New Yorker and moved to Long Island, they each experienced a high octane dose of how the heritage continues.
The Irish spirit seems to be like a hardy plant with deep and lasting roots. When Catholic discipline is married to Irish pride, the famed luck of the Irish is embedded in a foundational expectation that making discerning choices and responsibility to God and country is the least a person could do.
Susan is a local author. Learn more at: beyondintellect.com
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