Tuesday, March 17, 2009
In Ireland, You Believe in Magic
When I was 13, my Dad called me on Saint Patrick's Day, from a business trip to Ireland, to ask me if I also wanted to visit Ireland, the next year.
Well, of course! I'd wanted to go to Ireland, like, forever. The first time I decided I wanted to go to Ireland, it was because I heard a ghost story. (Lucky you, I found that ghost story for you to read, here, although I don't recommend it if you have to ride in a lot of elevators).
Now, I hate ghost stories. I don't react well to them - I grew up with nightmares and night terrors (although I'm finally starting to develop a taste for ghost stories at about the same pace that I'm developing a taste for spicy food: slowly, very slowly, but noticeable, nonetheless).
So it is strange that, at a time when I regularly woke up frozen with fear after a scary dream, such a story would make me want to go to Ireland, but I think it was the fact that the story was so interesting - and interesting it is, undeniably - combined with a few other things, especially the fact that I was just at that age where I was figuring out my identity, and my family history and Irish heritage seemed to be a crucial part of that.
Regardless of how it happened, I fell in love with Ireland, deeply, passionately in love, long before I ever arrived. And I was not disappointed.
Ireland is a place where you can believe in magic.
This past Thanksgiving, my Great-Aunt Anne informed me and my mother that my Nana's insistence that she was almost 100 percent Irish (making my Mom, with two Irish parents, also almost 100 percent Irish, and me almost half Irish) was not the truth. That Nana and her siblings, including Aunt Anne, were, in fact, only about 50 percent Irish. Maybe a little more. This makes me not half Irish, but just a bit more than one-quarter Irish.
In fact... even the "almost" part, the part that wasn't Irish, wasn't completely true, either. Aunt Anne insisted we do not have any Native American heritage, either, which was also disappointing to me, because I always envisioned my ancestors traveling all the way around the globe, in opposite directions and meeting here in North America. (She did say that the the family legend that we are descended from Charles Carroll of Carrollton is true. Whew. My whole imagined bloodline did not come crashing completely around my feet.)
But just as we discovered that we're not as Irish as we thought, she added that we're actually part French, and also Spanish, being descendants of Queen Isabella and, I assume, Ferdinand. This is fascinating for so many reasons, not least because nobody expects to find out their great-great grandmother was responsible for the Spanish Inquisition, and because it adds a whole new dimension to watching The Tudors. I mean, dude, that's my aunt. Treat her with respect!
But does it mean I'm a princess? Hee. I can deal. I've already got some practice hanging around castles, see:
I do not, nor have I ever had, any skill in dressing like a princess, however, as evidenced by this photo. That shirt, I think, had mathematical symbols on it. Not princessly at all. I think the actual term is bluestocking. Fitting, as you can see.
I was beyond nerdy at 14. I still am, in many ways, although I'm much more comfortable with it now. Sometimes proud of it. But at 14, just about to enter high school, it was an excruciating part of my existence: the fact that I was good in school, that I loved to read - no, had to read, that I loved stories of fairies and kings and queens and leprechauns and green hills far from the dry, dry desert of Nevada. This was not how I thought I was supposed to be, but I couldn't not be that way. It was who I was. And am.
And in Ireland, I found a place where it was okay to like those stories. And even believe them. I felt like I had found a place where I fit in.
So, half Irish, or quarter Irish, full Irish, or not Irish at all, it doesn't matter.
It's the magic that matters.
On this 21st anniversary of that wonderful phone call, let me wish you a very happy St. Patrick's Day. May you always find places that feel like home. May the luck of the Irish be with you.
And may you never stop believing in magic.
(And hey, Dad? Thanks!)