Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On What it Means to be Irish

Leprechauns making Irish Coffee
My Dad's side of the family is Irish, which actually means that well-- EVERYONE on his side of the family is Irish.  The Mullen family didn't stray too far from their baile (means home) even after coming to America many, many years ago.  I swear some of them are still accented--how after hundreds of year in America? I do not know!  
From my understanding, the MacMullen's came to the USA via Ellis Island from Cork County, Ireland before the Civil War.  It was upon our arrival that our family name was shortened to Mullen so that people in New York might mistake us for the more established and better liked Italians.    
My great-great-great (maybe one more great) grandfather fought in an Irish infantry during the Civil War and was honorably discharged by President Lincoln after getting shot in the throat.  There are some papers floating around with Lincoln's signature next to my G-G-G grandfather's signature.  I think one of my responsible Aunts donated those documents to a museum.  After literally dodging the bullet and the war, the Mullen family ended up in working class Pennsylvania and well . . . . . worked. . . . and acted Irish. . . and drank and had dry senses of humor and children and so forth.  
I notice remnants of the Gaelic ancestry in my aunts and uncles and noticed them magnified in my Grandma Mullen when she was still alive.  I remember there was the family crest hanging above her doorway--noble with the right dosage of plaids and knights and swords. Being Irish Catholic, my Grandma Mullen had more rosaries than I could count and many hanging by her bedside.  Crucifixes were a common interior fixture even though they are scary when looked at and aren't really the most uplifting decoration (no offense).  The women of the family all have a Claddagh ring--which not only symbolizes their heritage, but also their availability.  
With St Patrick's Day recently behind us, I recently thought about my family heritage a little bit and to sum it up: Green beer and "kiss me, I am Irish" tee shirts, and really, really drunk people do absolutely nothing for me, but the sound of Irish bag pipes, Firemen dressed in Kilts, and step dancers awaken something deep in my soul.  I am proud to be a part of Irish-American diaspora. Aw yes, and freckles, thanks to my Irishness, I have freckles.  

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