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.
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. ***
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.
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.
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.
It also means that I am inordinately proud of all things Scottish.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
*** 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.