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Monday, March 17, 2014

Erin go Bah!

"Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's day!" Growing up in Chicago I heard plenty a bartender boast that statement plenty of  times, and you know what, they were probably right. At least the people partying in the bars and the parades were, even if it was the thinnest of thin slice from the genetical Shepard's Pie, it was enough to qualify them as an official card carrying Irishman. On March 17th, you were Irish.

In 1857, my great, great Grandfather, Matthew James Welsh and his young wife Ann Kelly left Tipperary to start their family in Chicago. I think it is safe to say that their children were going to be Irish. Eight kids later, my great Grandfather, James Welsh was born. He married my Great Grandmother, an Italian immigrant Angela Navigato. Five years later, my half Irish/half Italian Grandpa Matthew James Welsh was born. He married my Grandmother, a Swedish girl, Evelyn Mulbach. They had six Irish, Italian, Swedish and English children, one of them who was named, you guessed it, James Matthew Welsh went on and married my mother Mary Anne Briski. Now my Mother's family was about as diluted as my Dad's which makes me one part all of the above, plus a second part of English, Polish, French and Italian.

This past weekend my son, wearing a kelly green sweater and a plastic leprechaun hat, headed out for the night to meet some friends. Rhetorically, I said "Hey Jimmy, where are you going?" Not picking up on my sarcasm he said "We're going out, Dad, you got 20 bucks I can borrow?" "Twenty Bucks, you're gonna need more than that to go out for St. Paddy's." He replied "No, I won't. I'm Irish, people will be buying me drinks all night. I am mostly Irish, right Dad, except for Mom's half, right?" I assured him he came from a long line of Welshes and should think of himself as a true Irishman. As I handed him the $20, I reminded him to stay safe, drinks responsibly and try not to spend all his money. He turned, cocked his head and gave me  a confused look. I guess he forgot Wednesday was St Joseph's Day and we're having dinner with his Italian cousin's on Taylor street.

The older I get the less important my heritage becomes. It seems silly to hold onto a nationality or "old country" family traditions. Someday, maybe we will lose our European heritage all together and just become Americans. In my family's case anyway, it's got to happen pretty soon. I can only imagine what my answer will be when Jimmy's son comes to me and says, "Grampa, what nationality are we?" I guess I would sit him down and say, "well Fred, where do you want me to start?"

James Matthew Welsh IV?

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