It's time again for shamrocks and shillelaghs! While Irish folk everywhere celebrate St. Patrick's Day by eating corned beef and cabbage, painting their faces green, walking in parades, and maybe even sipping a wee bit too much Guinness, I, though of Irish descent, will fore-go such things in favor of a far more subtle declaration of my heritage. Every March 17th, details of my childhood, things my parents probably didn't think twice about at the time, spring to mind and cement my Irish roots.
The first thing I remember about St. Paddy's Day is not the legend of St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland; rather, it's little green men. Leprechauns! And no, I don't believe in the cunning fellas, but it's the leprechaun myth that introduced me to my Irish connection. Back in the days when I was what the Irish would call a wee lass, my Dad insisted I watch an old black and white film with him. The Luck of the Irish (1948), starring Tyrone Power, was a simple, charming story about a newspaper reporter named Fitz, who finds a leprechaun and the proverbial pot o' gold in Ireland. When Fitz, aka Tyrone Power, returns the gold, the leprechaun is in his debt and follows Fitz back to New York. Naturally, adventure ensues. I loved the leprechaun and was tickled pink (or green) when my Dad informed me that we, like the spry mythical creature, were Irish. Sadly, The Luck of the Irish, far too sweet and simple a tale for our present society, would never make it to the silver screen today.
The movie theaters of my youth had one screen and played a single feature for a few weeks at a time. My mother took my sister and me to such a theater where, Good-n-Plenty firmly in hand, we watched Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in Finnian's Rainbow, another Hallmark worthy production that would be laughed into oblivion if produced today. All I recall about Finnian's Rainbow is the predictable leprechaun and crock of gold...and a song I love to this day. “Look to the Rainbow” reminds me of my mother, who often sang the tune while doing her chores around the house. Years later, the chorus of “Look to the Rainbow” was my lullaby of choice for my babies. Even more years later, the song still brings tears to my eyes.
So hold the corned beef and the Guinness! I don't need these reminders of my heritage. Though I have never walked in a parade and rarely wear green, I am Irish through and through; the proof is in my memories. Whenever I see The Luck of the Irish on television, I think of my father. When I see a rainbow, I think of my mother. And little wonder! I am, after-all, an Irish lass, and we Irish strongly believe in family.
I am proud to be Irish! Erin go bragh!