It’s about that time of year again when I tend to have a skip in my step, a smile on my face and a laugh brewing inside. It is March, the month of St. Patrick’s Day.
For one day, it seems everybody turns Irish.
I am very proud that my family actually does have Irish roots. My ancestors arrived in the United States during the 1700s from the Green Isle.
My family was able to afford their passage to America through indentured servitude, by working for an employer for a certain number of years. After they paid off their debt, they were able to freely work on their own.
In between those years, the family grew; small, and very small, parcels of land were purchased following the repayment of their debt to arrive in the New World; the men fought for their new country, including the American Revolutionary War; the women made a home; and they slowly become “American.”
But they never wanted to forget that they came from Ireland. They were Irish, and they were proud.
Through the years, my family made their way from Virginia on down to Mississippi. And they remained typical Irish Americans. They worked hard, taking any job that they could. It was all about feeding their families and staying alive. The majority of my early ancestors were sharecroppers.
And they played hard. They were quick to perform traditional music with fiddles and such. Boxing matches usually settled any disputes. They held true to their faith and God. And they were avid storytellers.
But mostly, they kept to themselves on their land. They farmed by day, rested by night, went to church on Sunday.
Yes, they were poor, but they were happy.
I couldn’t help but think of those roots when I looked over at my own little family around the dinner table. My own three children are well aware of our family’s Irish history, with many of our ancestors captured in photographs over the fireplace mantle.
And although I am the only one remaining in my family with the fair complexion, those other characteristics that I heard growing up, surrounding the makeup of my family, still appear to me through my children.
We work hard, and whether that job be a newspaper editor or a student at school, each job is done with pride. We may not have a lot of material goods, but we have full bellies at the end of the night. We play hard, covering ourselves in mud while running through a creek or spending a whole afternoon catching some fish. We love and believe in God, and we try our best to stay in line. Many disagreements are settled with fighting spirit, but we all would take on a small army if they attacked us. And we still do spend a lot of time telling stories and jokes, laughing until we cry.
And as I look at those same photographs of my ancestors as the laughter of my children echo through the house, it occurs to me how I always think my family grew up poor but happy. Granted, my ancestors didn’t have a lot and you won’t find any buildings with their names on them.
But they were rich in their love for each other, their love of their land, their pride in their work and their hearty spirits. They couldn’t help it. There is no getting away from it if you’re Irish.