it’s nice to know that we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day…even if every other day my kids are only 12.5%.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I most identified ourselves as being Irish. And people assumed that we were because of our last name, Leahy. My brother had the most Irish name of any of us — Sean Patrick. In reality though, we are only 25% Irish. Our mix includes equal parts Irish, Scottish and Hungarian with a smattering of Italian and German. We are true mutts.
But, I’ve always liked the idea of being Irish. I liked the qualities that come to mind when you consider the Irish personality: sentimental, passionate, fiercely loyal, determined (or plain stubborn) and beautifully poetic to name a few. I liked the idea of my ancestors being from a magical place with mist rolling over green hills. And when I visited Ireland, I was able to easily connect with natives because there was no language barrier.
My three children seem to enjoy their connection to their Irish heritage as well. My daughter has even asked to take Irish dancing classes. But when you look at their beautiful tan faces, it’s not the face that comes to mind when you think “Irish.” I married an Indian man and now my children are 50% Indian, 50% a lot of other things.
One night, my sister-in-law, who is from Armenia arrived at our family dinner with my nephew who was wearing a shirt that read, “50% Armenian, 50% Irish.” I playfully told her that in actuality, that calculation was off. Even though her husband’s name was 100% Irish (Sean Patrick), her son was a mutt. With my children’s encouragement, we grabbed a calculator and worked out our ethnic pie.
My parents thought it was a strange thing to do. “What difference does it make how much he is of this or that!” they with exasperation. (Our parents often comment that our generation overthinks everything.) Well, the breakdown doesn’t make a difference at all; we just find it fascinating.
Other kids constantly ask my children where they are “from.” Visually, my kids are a little hard to place—especially when I’m at their side and their Indian father is not. They don’t have any of my Irish coloring; instead, they have beautiful tan skin and big brown almond-shaped eyes like their dad. I often find myself curious when I see people whose features, coloring and skin tone I can’t place. I wonder, “Are they half Indian too?” As an artist, living in NYC is like eye candy; there are so many beautiful combinations of people. I’ve been fortunate to live in some pretty special places where there is such diversity. It’s one of the amazing things about living in the U.S. Our country is so new. Our roots still so freshly transplanted.
So every other day, my kids might only be 12.5% Irish. But for today, we’re all 100%!
And, in case you’re curious about the ingredients in my beautiful little creatures, here’s the recipe:
(There might be a little Gypsy in there; my mom and aunt can’t confirm it, though I love the idea because it makes me feel extremely mysterious and exotic.)
Once we wrote it down for my kids, my oldest, who is 11, was very disappointed to see how many world cultures were not represented in our family tree. I told her that she and her siblings can fill in the holes when they get married.
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