According to my grandfather James Brittan Wehunt, there were only two kinds of people in the world, The Irish and those who wish they were Irish. He wouldn’t boast of his Irish heritage but was sure to let you know that he hailed from County Cork at the southern tip of Ireland and was Orange instead of Green. It took me years to understand the distinction between Orange and Green Irishmen. Nonetheless, both are Irishmen and on March 17th of each year both are prone to celebrate. My grandfather was no exception. What I remember most about my grandfather was his curly red hair and his big smile. Always wearing his oversize-overalls and big boots his smile was 24/7 and he whistled nonstop. I dearly loved that man. He passed away right before my seventh birthday but his presence during my first years of live made its indelible mark.
When my first child was born on this blessed day (Saint Patrick’s Day in 1967) I sent a silent prayer to Heaven and I swear to you that I heard bells ring in my ear. It was like my grandfather was smiling down on me and saying —–—— ‘the clan lives on’.
My daughter has been a blessing for forty-seven years so I’ll take this time to wish Lisa Marie a —- —- although, truth be told, when she was a youngster she hated sharing her birthday with St. Patrick. And she hated all those shamrocks I’d toss about on the table, on her birthday cake, on her! What can I say, the Irish rubbed off on me for sure and for certain.
For your pleasure here are a few old Irish sayings for the day, some of which I heard many-a-time as I was growing up:
# You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was.
# Irish diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.
# Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighbor. It makes you shoot at your landlord-and it makes you miss him.
# May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.
# Lose an hour in the morning and you’ll be looking for it all day.
# May the Good Lord take a liking to you… but not too soon!
—- being Irish in America —-
- Orange and Green swirls around us like loose ribbons
- binding our Irish hearts together, mine and thee together
- in kindred spirits, but only for a day, Saint Patrick’s Day
- — and then — it ends and we go back to being you and I
- I’ve often thought how nice it would be to go on as we are
- during the day we celebrate and walk together down Main Street
- toting our Proud To Be Irish buttons and asking strangers for a kiss
- and dancing a jig to the tune of Kitty Come Down to Limerick
- Yes, nice indeed, it would be —– Shall we try, you and I?
- (My America by Marylouise Wehunt, copyrights 2013; publication Fall of 2014)