ST. PATRICK’S DAY MEMORIES
Commentary by Joyce Coronel
We might have grown up within the desert, 1000’s of miles from County Cavan, however my Irish-American mom by no means allow us to 5 children neglect our Emerald Isle heritage. Our ancestors, she informed us, got here to America to flee the distress of the potato famine, which plagued Eire from 1845 to 1852 and led to the demise of greater than 1,000,000 males, girls and youngsters.
One other million have been pressured to flee for his or her lives, together with our esteemed ancestor, Owen Clarke.
And that’s how the Clarke household wound up in rural Pennsylvania, working within the coal mines.
At 9, Michael Clarke needed to give up college and be part of the myriad younger boys with blackened faces, who struggled to scratch out a residing off the Earth to assist feed his household.
As with most immigrants, schooling and arduous work paid off. My paternal grandfather turned a chemist, who labored for the paper mills however by no means forgot his roots. Once I was in main college, he would make me repeat this verse he’d impressed upon my younger mind: “Eire was Eire when England was a pup. And Eire will probably be Eire when England is grown up.”
I had no thought what it meant however was vaguely conscious it poked enjoyable on the Brits. Later, as an grownup, I found the road dated to the 1916 Easter Rebellion, which led to the institution of the Irish Free State, immediately often known as the Republic of Eire. My dad and mom and grandparents traveled there in later years and treasured these recollections.
Once I say our household deeply cherished its Celtic roots, I’m not exaggerating. We listened to the Irish Rovers and The Clancy Brothers. My dad and mom not solely had a St. Patrick’s Day celebration round March 17, they even celebrated one thing they referred to as “Midway to St. Patrick’s Day” in September. My older sister, the one upon whom the identify Clarke was bestowed as a center identify, nonetheless holds a St. Patrick’s Day celebration every year that contains a potato bar and stay Irish music. (We’re skipping this yr, sadly, as a result of pandemic.)
Huge sis inherited the normal celebration after our mom handed away in 2009. I nonetheless keep in mind sitting with Mother at her kitchen desk, going over her mail together with her simply weeks earlier than she died.
“Seems to be such as you’re working low on return-address labels. Lets order some extra?” I requested her.
Her dwindling stash featured shiny inexperienced shamrocks.
“I gained’t want them,” she mentioned softly.
She knew the top was coming and had already helped us then-grown kids select which parts of her delicate, shamrock-festooned Belleek china we’d inherit. My nephew, Michael Kevin, was to obtain the shillelagh, a strolling stick (or weapon!) long-established from a tree root.
Mike’s a former Military Ranger, in order that appeared applicable.
I’m wondering what Mother would say about my son’s tattoo. Peter was near Grandmom and profoundly mourned her passing. In her honor, he had a Celtic knot tattooed over his coronary heart. She was old school, however I believe Mother would have been touched by the gesture. She was additionally near my Venezuelan-born husband, to whom she gave an “Honorary Irish” badge to put on every year on March 17.
The obituary I wrote for my mom requested those that attended her funeral to put on inexperienced in honor of her Irish heritage. Practically everybody did and I’m unsure there’s ever been a funeral fairly like that since.
As we speak, our household contains members from varied ethnicities. We’re happy with who we’re and honor not solely our Irish heritage but additionally our Venezuelan, Korean and Italian roots, too. Our DNA check revealed we’ve even bought British blood flowing in our veins. (What would my grandfather say about that?)
Sure, “we’re stronger collectively” because the saying goes, however yearly on March 17, I don inexperienced, munch on slightly Irish soda bread and consider all of the family members who’ve gone earlier than me and paved the way in which to this very second of my life.
I may provide you with my very own verse to impress upon the grandkids’ minds. One thing concerning the ties that bind.