Monday, March 17, 2008

Why I Love St. Patrick's Day--It's Not What You Think

I have a fondness for this day we celebrate our collective Irish heritage--both real and imagined.

I don't necessarily imbibe in green beer, though I have, and I did enjoy corned beef and cabbage today (a first). I don't love St. Patrick's Day because I'm particularly fond of bagpipes or long lines at Irish Pubs.

I love St. Patrick's Day because I'm adopted.

I've always known I was adopted. I went straight from the hospital to my parents. I'm taller than both my parents, but I am a brunette like my mom. Like many modern families, my parents divorced and my mom remarried when I was 10, so I mainly grew up without anyone questioning if I was adopted because they knew the guy I called my dad was actually my step-father.

In my sister's case, the fact of her adoption was a little more obvious. My first real memories are of the events surrounding her adoption when I was 3 1/2. She actually went home with her biological family for a few months before coming to us and we know that she is of Puerto Rican descent.

My sister and I look nothing alike--but I tend to forget. As a matter of fact, when my nephew (now my eldest son--different story for a different day) was born he looked so much like my sister that I cried when I met him because I finally felt like I looked like someone I knew.

So what does this all have to do with St. Patrick's Day? I'm getting there.

In my twenties, I requested the non-identifying information about my adoption from the agency that handled it. Honestly, I wasn't looking for much information, though I did discover I had been given another first name at birth (my mom swears she told me this--I contend that's not something I would have forgotten) and that my birth parents weren't related by blood (Phew! Dodged that bullet! Shit I hadn't even contemplated the possibility.) I was interested in a totally different piece of information. There was only one thing I wanted to know--one little thing that has always bugged me.

I want to know my ethnic background.

As an adoptee, I've never been too interested in finding my biological parents, but I have wanted to feel some connection to those who have come before me. To be able to stake a claim to an ethnic "home country" feels like it would give me a sense of my place in the chain of human events.

So there I was, scanning through the documents I received from the agency, finding out that my name had been Emily for a few days and my birth parents were young and probably "made" me in the back of a Trans-Am with Led Zepplin blaring on the AM radio, when my eyes found the box containing the information I had been searching for.

Ethnic heritage: American

AMERICAN??!!

My blue eyes, dark hair and plethora of freckles suggest that this didn't mean Native American.

My physical characteristics suggest I'm Irish. I once dated a self-proclaimed "black Irish" guy and it was somewhat awkward to kiss in public, because people often thought we were siblings.

Does it make sense now why I love St. Patrick's Day?

It's the one day a year I get to have a nationality--even if I don't have proof.

18 Deserve Mamma's Love:

Loralee Choate said...

Loved this post and outlook.

Frankly, I walk around pretending I'm Scottish ALL time and my most recent claim to the motherland is a relative named Andrew McComas who came over to America in the 1600's and left his relatives a spoon and a hammer in his will when he died.

Probably not the same thing though, huh? :)

flutter said...

I totally love this

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

You are so damn amazing. You know this, right?

Pendullum said...

Wonderful post...
And you forgot to mention that you have those beautiful Irish laughing eyes...
That is indeed a necessity for being Irish...

Dragonfly said...

I'm adopted too. :) Irish mother, Native American father, adopted by a German mother and a Sicilian father. You do the math. ;)

( hugs )

Beth said...

Fascinating story.
And you don't need "proof" to feel that Irish background - not only do you have the physical characteristics, you have the spirit!

Redneck Mommy said...

Your post humbled me. I take for granted my heritage, never much thinking about it, except for maybe when I watched Beowulf.

But this is because I've always known where my blood originates from.

Maybe I should not take this for granted. Thanks for the reminder.

PunditMom said...

Thank you so much for posting this. Since PunditGirl is adopted, I wonder how she will think about these issues as she grows into adulthood. It's nice to know someone who is willing to talk about these things in such a personal way.

EmmaK said...

Great post. You're right, you do kind of look Irish even if you're not really! Happy (belated) St Paddy's day. I really am about a quarter irish, I guess from the knees down! Also my husband is irish.

Erika Jurney, Plain Jane Mom said...

Great post -- I can't wait to hear more of this story :)

Lotta said...

Well hell - you're allowed to put anything you want on those forms. Maybe they were just really patriotic Irish?

I had the same desire to find out my heritage too. And for some odd reason the fact that I was half Dutch and half English was exciting.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Do you think it was "Stairway to Heaven"? So...sorry...that is the only Zepplin song I know! :)

I SO wish I had known this....I could have bought you the shirt I saw the other day...it said, "Kiss me..I'm American".

Oh well....there's always next year! :)

LOVE this post!

~JJ! said...

This post makes me cry...I love it.

Christina said...

Wow, what an amazing family story! Some day you'll have to tell the story about your oldest son, too. I'd love to hear it.

I am of Irish heritage. There's no denying it if you know my last name. Cordy has many of my traits - pale, pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, and my husband's curls. She looks Irish to everyone she meets. It's why I keep hoping she'll want to learn Irish dance someday. :)

Kristin said...

I love you so much you should be blushing.

This year, over dinner on St. Patrick's Day, Eva asked why we were celebrating and Jake was all, "Um, cuz we're Irish"... and then we all sort of looked at Eva, and her Chinese little face was all, "Oh, good, Irish."

Mitch McDad said...

I was able to find out a little more info about my birthparents than you apparently.

I found out their ethnicities. Turns out I'm a Euro-mut: Italian, Irish, English, French, and Scottish.

You look too irish not to be....so I say you're in. Welcome to the club.

BethGo said...

I can totally relate. (((HUGS)))

I'm sorry you didn't have any more information than "American".

Day Dreamer said...

I do know my backround and I've discovered that I'm more of a Mutt than anything else.

We have a virtual grab bag of ancestors: Italian, Irish, English, American Indian, Russian, Czech, Sneaky Neighbor....we have it all. I'm more confused now than I was before I delved into my research!!

This was a wonderful post!