Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig

Well.  It has been a long eight weeks since my last post.  I apologize for the silence.  I would like to say that a lot has happened since then but essentially nothing has.  I can pretty much encapsulate my recent existence in the following sentence: I rose early, I worked all day, I returned home each night to dig out yet another rejection letter from my mailbox, I graded, I wept, I drank some wine, I graded some more, and I inched towards oblivion.  There.  Now you know what I've been up to for the past month and a half.  Pretty riveting stuff.  In fact, I've been in talks with Martin Scorsese to make a biopic about me.  It's called Bad Teacher.  What's that you say?  That's already the title of a movie starring Cameron Diaz?  Well, back to the drawing board I guess...

But enough with the pleasantries.  My real purpose for writing this today--as the title of the post suggests--is that it's St. Patrick's Day.  I have been so preoccupied with grading recently that I had entirely forgotten about it until my students reminded me.  I'm not surprised they did.  St. Patrick's Day is a big deal for them.  After all, it's an entire holiday devoted to drinking.  But as fond as I am of green colored jello shots, St. Patrick's day means a little bit more to me than getting as "drunk as the Irish."

Growing up Catholic, I became well acquainted with the narratives of the saints.  I have seen my fair share of the CCC Saints and Heroes video collection. In fact, I recall the St. Patrick cartoon as being rather boring; I liked the one about St. Bernadette far better. (She looked like Belle from Beauty and the Beast and apparently at eight, that was enough for me.)   My dad would even read to us from our three volume set of the Saints Lives as part of our pre-bedtime ritual.  Now that I think about it, they were all sort of the same.  Here, for interested parties, is the essential arch to any saint's story: they are usually poor and living at a time of religious persecution, they openly profess their faith or openly refuse to deny their faith, they are tortured and/or killed, and then some type of flower grows by their grave.  Okay, so that last part I think I just made up, but you get the idea.  I used to beg my dad to go into more detail about how the saints were tortured.  I was an odd child.

But I digress.  The bottom line is that St. Patrick will always be cool to me for two reasons:
1. His legend involves casting out snakes (and we all know I feel about snakes) and 2.  I'm Irish.

The maternal side of my family are Irish farmers who emigrated to America during the nineteenth century.  My grandmother and all my aunts (and my mother, to some degree) are VERY into their heritage.  In fact, the only type of liquor I have ever seen my aunts drink is either whiskey or sacramental wine (well, my parents would argue that that's not actually wine but the blood of Christ...but I'm not going to get into all that now).  And that, to me, is the epitome of Irishness.  They also, of course, have the traditional Irish temper--that burns hot and simmers for years on end.  My grandmother, bless her Irish heart, once chased a solicitor who was rude to her off of her property (she was in her seventies then).  And, as the story goes, he was heard cursing her fiery Irish temper as he was scrambling out the door.  She also unleashed the fury of God upon a man who caused my then twenty-year-old mother's car accident and shamed him to such a degree that he relented and paid for everything.

The first class that I attended in graduate school was for a course on Irish women writers. And sitting in the chilly University Hall classroom that night, discussing Mother Island, I remember thinking about just how proud my grandmother must have been to have her Irish granddaughter at a Catholic University studying Irish Women.

I've always enjoyed being Irish.  Patty O'Green was my favorite Rainbow Brite character; Lucky was my favorite Carebear. I would always proudly don green clothing and my "kiss me I'm Irish pin" for St. Patrick's day during grade school.  And during high school, when my teacher, Miss PB, asked me to write something for our Foods That Changed History course's end of the semester banquet, I immediately resolved to write an Irish ballad inspired by the potato famine.  I performed it acapella and began it in a lower key than I probably should have.

But mostly, I enjoy being Irish because I like the idea of the wild Irish rose--that's what my grandmother is, that what Maeve is, that's what all the Irish women writers I've admired have written about.  And St. Patrick's day is the one day that I can be smug about my Irishness.  So it makes me like it all more because I adore feeling superior.  Which, ironically, is very Polish of me.

So here I am, on this cold and rainy St. Patrick's day, excited to carry on my (and Moses') St. Patrick's day tradition of cooking Irish food, drinking Irish beer, and watching the Quiet Man.  Nothing could make this day more lovely, except for perhaps having this t-shirt (which is tragically out of stock).

A Happy St. Patrick's Day to us all!