I have several Irish forbearers, including my maternal grandmother, Lizzie Connor, who, as a young girl, along with her mother, Kitty, arrived in this country in the late 19th century at San Francisco after an arduous voyage around The Horn.
From the time I was a kid growing up in a north Oakland Irish-Catholic enclave, I attended many weddings and family gatherings, my own and others, in that tightly knit little community, and they were almost always to the accompaniment (in sequence) of: drinking; the rekindling of old (sometimes ancient!) grudges; gimlet-eyed glaring followed by mumbled insults (usually involving the mention of a person’s name followed by the symbolic—and occasionally genuine—spitting on the floor; then the inevitable fistfight followed by months, or even years, of being prohibited from playing with certain neighbor kids or cousins.
As such, I’ve come to recognize the perfection in this observation often credited to Irish poet William Butler Yeats (but, alas, not found in any of his writings): “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
Happy St. Paddy’s Day! And to you all—Slàinte!
|(Wedding photo: Elizabeth Rose Connor and James Michael Casey—circa 1907)|