I’m half Irish,maybe.
I align myself with being from Ireland even though I don’t know how many generations my family goes back. I do know my dad’s family is Murphy. His dad was 100% Irish and he had the liver to prove it. I understand having the last name of Murphy in Ireland is like being Smith here. Murphy means “sea-warrior” or sea-battler.” Hell, yeah. My mom’s maiden name is Kerley, another Irish name. So I figure, because I want to, I’m 50% Irish. Who wants to be a mutt?
I grew up with my dad speaking in a wonderful Irish brogue on St. Patrick’s day and singing “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” when the mood struck. We had Irish crests and shamrock pictures around our house. I had an identity. I AM IRISH!
Growing up in Pacific Beach, California, I loved the fact I was born in Pensicola. I felt exotic, from a foreign place even though it was in Florida. I’d lived in San Diego since I was five. But in fourth grade when someone said I had an accent, I said, “It’s because I’m from Florida,” as if this was another country or even the deep south, the north or the Midwest. It wasn’t any of these. The older I got the more important it became to be a native of San Diego. Native San Diegans are rare. My mom, dad, and children were all born in San Diego. I wanted desperately to be where my tribe was from: San Diego.
This will never be the case. So on March 17th my Irish roots grow deeper. You know the whole “You know you’re a redneck because…” Well, I you know I’m from Ireland when…
I can dance a mean Irish jig and River Dance.
I love Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Green is one of my favorite colors.
One time when I was a waitress at Rueben’s on Harbor Island I was told by an Irish priest I had the map of Ireland on my face.
I love U2, Snow Patrol and Celtic Women.
Molly and Kelly are half Lithuanian because their dad is 100%, third generation. Bill knows both sets of grandparents came over on the boat from Europe and landed in Ellis Island. Jack is half Spanish. David is 100%, I mean 100% Spanish. David was born and raised in Alicante, Spain. He has an accent to prove it. His mother makes the most delicious tapas, Spanish tortilla and Paella. David brags of Valencia oranges and the Mediterranean. David reminisces over strong coffee, cigarettes and croissants (Cafe con leche y cruasán), and Spanish girls with dark hair and green eyes.
“My people are from Northern Spain,” I say to make me feel a part of his world, and Jack’s too. “I’m Black Irish. Celtic.”
Don’t worry. I’m glad to be 100% me. I don’t feel lost. But on St. Patrick’s Day it’s my day, my people’s day. Will you allow me that?