A baby boomer child, I grew up during an era of protest. I was too much of a child to be a flower child (I was only 4 when JFK died), but it’s hard not to be a rebel with the din of the Vietnam protests, later that decade and early the next, constantly in the air.
When St. Paddy’s Day rolled around, I found my calling. It seemed that everyone was Irish. Not me.
And I would not be caught wearing green that day.
All of my ancestors came from towns clustered around that midpoint of Western Europe, fought over pieces of land in and around what is now the Czech republic. Growing up I’d thought of myself as one with German heritage, but the reality is that my ancestors probably were Slavic, or Hungarian, or Czech, or Austrian, or German, or Bohemian, some mix of all of the above.
I was fervent in my anti-Irishness. I wore orange. I told everyone I knew I was not Irish. The whole day made me angry.
Looking back on it all now, I think I was, ahem, orange(?) with envy? (Still can’t say green). I mean if you look at it, St. Patrick’s Day is one long fun day of partying, song and dance, and drinking. Everyone in the world seemed invited to this party except for me. And who doesn’t love the idea of being Irish? I mean, cripes, you all come from this beautiful green place, the lilting language, and all that history.
When I was a junior in High School, I decided to take things to another level. I would go undercover and enter St. Paul’s annual Miss Shamrock competition. I dyed my blond hair red and sent in an application, which, for the record, I filled out stating I had not a drop of Irish blood in me. When it came time for my interview with the judges, I revealed my true ancestral roots.
Well. I wasn’t shuffled out of there, but of course I didn’t make it to the finalist round. The contest judges seemed more embarrassed at my escapade, but I wondered why they would let me attend the event when I’d said in my application I wasn’t Irish at all.
I don’t know. It’s a lot of silliness now as I look back.
I’m still not Irish. I haven’t found a suitable National Day that recognizes my mutt European heritage. But I’ve mellowed out, as all 60’s radicals eventually do.
I even won an Irish-themed limerick contest this year.
I hope all you Irish out there enjoy your well-deserved day of National pride. I won’t be crashing your beauty contests, marching in your parades, or drinking your green beer. I will make a slight nod though and perhaps have my gin and tonic wear some green (a lime).
Erin Go Braugh!