The Burden O’ the Green

16 Mar

Names come with expectations. Name your child “Edsel” and he’ll – at least by the older generations – be automatically thought of as a loser. Name your child “Judas” and no one will trust him. Name your child “Adolf”…well, best just lock him up now.

Green photos today. For obvious reasons.

My parent's garden last December. Notice the little guy on the blue glass fishing float? You may have to click on it to enlarge the picture in order to see him!

And then there’s last names. Let me tell you, a last name like “O’Donnell” brings a little baggage. Especially at this time of year.

If you are not the fortunate bearer of an apostrophe in your last name, you are missing out. Those of us with apostrophe’s are missing out, too. On report cards, on accurate social security cards, on credit cards with our correct spelling. As someone who did not come by birth to the apostrophe, I have not had the headaches that my husband has had all his life. Our children, however, will have the joy of dealing with computers that don’t accept apostrophes, universities that don’t think you’ve graduated, etc., etc. ***

In my mother's garden last December.

I love the green in Washington.

And then there’s the annual St. Patrick’s Day expectations. Since my last name came with the ring on my finger and not by blood, I consider myself to be exempt from Irish Expectations. This means several things:

1) I am not required to drink green beer (or Guinness) on the 17th of March, nor am I required to participate in any sort of parade. 2) I may like – or dislike – potatoes, corned beef, and blarney stones without anyone holding it against me. 3) The fact that I am actually half Scottish means that I will pick tartan and bagpipes over shamrocks any day of the week. Not that those things have anything in common whatsoever.

I have (as previously alluded to) married an Irishman. A nice, Coca-Cola-drinking, blood-diluted-by-Swedish-relatives Irishman. This makes our wee bairns some small percentage Irish, despite their fully-Irish-sounding last name. I suppose that means they’re supposed to be lucky and love all things green.

I love this. Apples still clinging to a tree in December in Washington State.

One of my favorite stories about my son when he was in pre-school, was the day he came home telling me about the leprechaun hunt they had participated in that day. They searched throughout the building, looking for clues as to the leprechaun’s whereabouts. They saw evidence that the sneaky little blighter had stirred up trouble. They found knocked over chairs, spilt water, and tissues torn out willy-nilly from the Kleenex box and left in messy piles.

My son, ever the practical child, told us that day, “I don’t believe in Santa, and I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, but I DO believe in leprechauns!”

I suppose that proves he’s Irish.

Green, green green!!!

And so, to honor my family’s Irish blood – no matter how diluted – I shall make Corned Beef on Saturday. I shall eat cabbage and potatoes and onions; I shall bake Irish Soda Bread, and I shall make Corned Beef Hash with the leftovers. (Well, not with the Soda Bread.) I actually really like this meal, though I realize it is an American version of real Irish food. I shall possibly even color their milk green.

Though, Sam-I-Am, I shall not color their scrambled eggs green that morning. That’s more than I can stomach.

The truth is, since I come from the Scottish side of the Celtic world, I will put on my Scottish Bagpipe CD while making my Irish Soda Bread, and perhaps even listen to the recordings I have of my Scottish grandfather, preaching in his church in Washington, many, many moons ago.

This also means that I pronounce “scone” to rhyme with “yawn” not to rhyme with “stone” the way 99.9% of American’s do. (Yes, I get odd looks from the baristas in Starbucks.) In addition, it means that I have a family tartan (Fraser) and a family moto (“Je suis prest”) and a family crest. And several kilts in my closet.

Fraser tartan, baby!

It also means that I am inordinately proud of all things Scottish.

Haggis, anyone?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A taste of a post to come...a wee part of Cascade Falls in Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington.

Moran State Park, Orcas Island, WA.

*** My husband, much to his irritation, still bears witness to the fact that apostrophes are a pain in the rear end. Every term that he was in college…EVERY SINGLE TERM for 4 years…he was told, “Yes, your financial aid has been approved”…only to have the computers tell him, 60 days later, “No, you’ve not been approved.” The problem? The apostrophe.


16 Responses to “The Burden O’ the Green”

  1. marimann March 16, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    I had no idea of the problems that come with having an apostrophe in one’s name! The part about the financial aid is crazy. I have a wee bit o’the Irish too; my great-great-grandmother, Johanna Kennedy, came to the US from Cork, Ireland. But my husband has a lot of Scottish, he has a large part of his family named Rea that are from the MacReas (or however you spell it) and has helped them trace their lineage back to the 1700’s. Someday we hope to go to Scotland and Ireland to try to go back even farther.

    Oh, and we’ll be having colcannon this Saturday!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      I am hoping that by the time our kids grow up, computers will be sophisticated enough to handle apostrophes!!! You’d think they could handle that now…but no!

      That’s awesome that you’re husband has been able to trace his family back that far! It must be so interesting. Yes, we’re going to go to Ireland and Scotland someday, too – I’ve been to Scotland, but that was in high school – so it’s been awhile!

      Enjoy your colcannon! I’ve never made it…perhaps I should!

  2. gardenfreshtomatoes March 16, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    I haven’t told you this, because I don’t generally throw my last name out on the web, but I’m a Scot (Leslie) who married an O’Donnell, too….who once owned an Irish Bar in Boston.
    Talk about St. Paddy’s Day pressure!
    (I love the Leprechaun Hunt – my Mom used to do that with her 3rd-graders every year!)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Well, I knew I liked you! Thanks for sharing that with me. I really like my last name – a lot of my friends married guys with weird last names, so I am so glad to have a nice, normal one – but for the apostrophe troubles!

      I hope that your St. Patrick’s Day will be pressure free and fun!!

  3. rutheh March 16, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    That was a good way to start today!
    Enjoyed your st Patrick day musings.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      I’m so glad to have given you a bright start! Thank you, Ruth.

  4. ceciliag March 16, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    I have mostly Irish and the rest Italian so all in all i feel safe with celebrating all the saints days!! have a great day.. c

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots March 16, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I love that little leprechaun story. When my girls were in kindergarten, they had to search the school for a gingerbread boy. I think the leprechaun idea much more creative.

    I never thought of the problems with an apostrophe in a person’s last name. My husband has the problem that sometimes he uses his given, legal name and then sometimes his nickname on legal documents.

    BTW, green is my favorite color. And I’m 100 percent German. So there.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Yes, nick names can cause trouble too, can’t they?! I’m half Scottish and half German…my maiden name was Wendt…so I can relate to you there!

  6. Just A Smidgen March 16, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    My children and I used to build Leprechaun traps.. boxes with a stick and flour (to see the tiny footprints in the morning if they set off the trap but got away) and gold coins to tempt… it was so much fun!! I’m Irish.. so no Haggis for me!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      My daughted did that in pre-school, too! I don’t think I’d ever heard of it before last year. So fun! She has talked about it all year since doing it a year ago – and was so excited to do it again this year! No flour, though…that’s a fun idea! I think that they bait was anything green…dyed feathers, cut out pictures, pipe cleaners…!

      I’ve enver had Haggis…I’d be willing to taste it…but I’m NOT willing to make it!!!

  7. cravesadventure March 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Thanks for sharing – Have a Great Weekend:)

  8. Samantha Keller March 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Kobly came home from pre-school and apparently they made a leprechaun trap. I have never heard of such a thing. Maybe they set out some gold and Irish Beer and try to trap the little critter? Hmmmm? It’s got me thinking about how I might try to trap one.
    Fun post 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 16, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

      Thanks, Sam! I had never heard of it before last year I don’t think. They sure have fun with it, though! The door in Lucy’s was about one inch tall. She said he’s just a baby leprechaun. Apparently they used green things to trap him…not beer!! 🙂 Last year the leprechaun left foil-wrapped money for the kiddos!

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