Irish envy

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I have a very bad case of Irish Envy.

I think it dates back to my Catholic elementary school days, when a girl named Maureen came to school on March 17th wearing an Irish beret.  It was just so darn cool.  She looked jaunty and insouciant (words that I did not know back then, but which I certainly would have used if I had).

In those younger days, I sensed that the Maureens and Colleens and Seans in my class had a special claim to March 17.   When our teachers decorated the bulletin boards with cutouts of leprechauns and Irish dancing girls poised midair above a field of shamrocks, I felt envious of the fact that certain classmates could claim this fun holiday and I could not.  My own ancestry — Polish, German, Scotch, English –  just did not inspire the same level of public gaiety.  There were no saints from MY ethnic background that prompted everyone in America to wear green and party (It’s Saint Casimir’s Day, everyone!  Rock on ! )

In later years, I just kept finding More Reasons to Love the Irish.  As I embarked on my college career, I  learned the Emerald Isle has given birth to some of the greatest authors of the English language.  Take James Joyce, whose short story “The Dead” contains the most staggeringly beautiful ending of any work of literature ANYWHERE (save, perhaps, The Grapes of Wrath).  Who wouldn’t be proud to call Joyce a compatriot?

When I was in college, my sister’s boyfriend introduced our family to an Irish band called Men of Worth.  The cassette tape outlasted the boyfriend, happily, and I was hopelessly hooked on Irish folk songs.  Is there any music that is just plain happier?  And sure, I may scoff at the overblown staginess of the Celtic Woman concerts on PBS, but their CD gets a heckuva  lot of play in my car.

Ah, yes: there’s also the beer.  My first acquaintance with Guinness, inexplicably enough,  took place in an Irish pub in Marburg, Germany (a blog posting in and of itself).  Beer is not exactly my drink of choice these days,  but I do think back to that exploration of Guinness with a happy glow of nostalgia.  It was a good drink during some very good times.

Given all this,  it’s rather curious that I’ve never actually been to Ireland.  I did suggest it as a honeymoon destination, but it did not fit my husband’s very stringent criteria (“somewhere with good food and good wine.”)   But someday … someday.  Maybe I’ll go with my kids, two little lads who, thanks to their paternal grandmother,  actually CAN claim Irish ancestry.   Together we will ramble over the green hills and tap our toes to pub music and enjoy the people, who by all accounts are some of the warmest in Europe.

Until then, I’ll just hold on to the fact that even St. Patrick himself was, technically speaking, not Irish  (accounts list his birthplace as either Wales or Scotland).  I guess he’s proof positive that you don’t have to have Irish blood to love the Emerald Island.

Irish harp graphic courtesy of

5 responses to “Irish envy