In “Angela’s Ashes,” Frank McCourt observed that the miserable Irish childhood is the only kind worth having. Well, it’s hard to argue with his million-selling (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) memoir, but the Irish American childhood also has its challenges – as well as its highlights.
For the first-generation children of Irish immigrants, there is a common ground of universal experiences and strictly observed rituals. While today’s free Skype calls and instant Facebook updates have brought Ireland and the folks back home much closer, it wasn’t long ago that “talking to Ireland” was a big deal. When airmail letters were written on “onion skin” paper because it was cheaper to send via airmail.
It’s a different world now, but here are some signs that you were raised by Irish parents:
In any crisis large or small, the first thing to say is, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
Irish parents have an all-purpose saying.
Your house contained a holy water font, a Child of Prague statue and a picture of JFK.
JFK and RFK were always on the wall.
You’ve never seen anyone put flowers in a Waterford Crystal vase, although you have heard stories...
Waterford Crystal was for looking at.
The words “iced” and “tea” were never used together in a sentence...
Proper tea came at only one temperature.
Wearing a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button on St. Patrick’s Day would cause your granny to roll over in her grave.
Kiss Me, I'm Irish buttons were not on the approved accessories list.
The meanest teacher in America is nothing compared to the Irish Christian Brothers.
Irish Christian Brothers were legendary, according to your dad.
One of your grandparents had a sibling who was either a priest or a nun.
There was always a priest or a nun somewhere in your family tree.
Guinness isn’t just for pints – it makes good stew and cake, too.
Guinness is good for you -- in dinner and desserts, too!
You are distantly related to every other Irish person except that bollix over there making an eejit of himself.
Your extended family does NOT include this guy, according to your parents.
You’re the only one who has no idea your parents have an Irish accent.
It never occurred to you that your parents spoke differently from anyone else!
* Originally published December 2013.