Irish By Accident


Geographically, Ireland is a medium-sized rural island that is slowly but steadily being consumed by sheep. ~Dave Barry

The English should give Ireland home rule, and reserve motion picture rights. ~Will Rogers

It’s been said everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never felt particularly Celtic, even though my mom’s side of the family is straight out of Central Casting for a nice, well-adjusted Boston Irish Catholic family (well, there’s a screwball uncle who got divorced, but nobody talks about him.) They have the name (Flynn), the ability to tell wonderfully humorous or ironically tragic stories with great aplomb, a love for good music and good friendship, and the ability to hold copious amounts of liquor.

That's what he gets for eating Morris' Lucky Charms

 

Take a look at any family photograph and you’ll see what I mean. I’m the tall, dark one lurking in the background of all these smiling, red-blond types, looking as if I’ve been dropped there by a flying saucer. (For the record, I’m adopted.)

Now, I happen to like a lot about Ireland and the Irish in general. As a people they’re responsible for a number of my favorite things. Potato bread, Celtic reels, the really cool knotwork they used for the Rohirrim in The Lord of the Rings, not to mention James Joyce’s Ulysses, which I’ve actually read.

Big Brother is watching you...oops, wrong book

Nevertheless, I can’t honestly consider myself Irish, much as I might want to be. I’m honorarily Irish. My late grandfather might have described me as “one of those damn wops” even though I’m not Italian either. He was the type who openly loathed the English, distrusted non-Irish fellow Catholics, and, in a state of inebriation, described the late Pope John Paul II as “the world’s first Polack pope.” That was my granddad. Luckily, he had my lovely and gracious grandma to balance him out. He was a good salt, really, in a Clint Eastwood-at-age-80 sort of way. We miss him.

Our family once thought it would be a good idea to visit the O’Flynn family roots by traveling to the actual Emerald Isle. Traveling there was fun (I highly recommend Aer Lingus and the smoked salmon in first class.) After we landed it was a never-ending comedy of errors, and I don’t mean the kind with funny little green men with pots of gold.

Yes, there are signs like this there

Our first mistake was trying to cram five people (including my alpha male dad and my late grandfather, who still smoked at the time) into a sub-compact Ford Prefect car. Then, attempt to drive said car on the wrong side of the road in a never-ending rain on roads originally designed to accommodate horse-drawn carts. Bad idea.

The weather was another story. I remember reading a passage in Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes about how Ireland was the source of most of the world’s cases of tuberculosis. I can see why. Despite the calendar telling us it was July, we received mostly cold, overcast, windy days. We had one sunny day, and it turned out to be the one on which we went horse trekking.

One of these days I might write a short story about that memorable week. There was the gypsy cab driver who accidentally sped off with my purse still in his backseat. The big fight my parents and I got into at the charming little bed and breakfast (for the life of me I can’t remember what the fight was about). A huge, venerable Catholic church that advertised bingo on Fridays and belly dancing on Saturdays on its marquee. Sheep, lots of sheep.

In Ireland, they're just baaaad

In between my dad and granddad verbally sparring and threatening to kill one another, I remember having a pretty damn good time. The food in Ireland is not to be missed, nor are the many B&Bs run by Gaelic-speaking locals. I was too young for Guinness at the time, but now that I’m older, I realize what I was missing. The countryside itself is spectacular. They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. We saw everything from barren, moonscape flats to soaring cliffs to medieval castles left to go fallow in the middle of fields. One of them bore a strange resemblance to the Castle Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Frenchman at the top of one tower.

The highlight of the trip, at least for me, was a riding excursion through the Irish countryside on big, strapping Irish Draught horses. I felt as if I were lost in some Jane Austen film, or maybe riding through Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood. If you ever get a chance to go to Ireland, this is an experience not to be missed.

Since I was only 14 at the time and didn’t think to keep a journal, many of the little specifics have receded into my memory. Mostly I seem to remember my dad flinging obscenities and trying not to get broadsided by tour buses while going around tight hairpin turns. How could I ever forget a near-death experience?

My granddad is gone now; my grandma maintains her gentle brand of wit and wisdom. They’re Irish to the core and I’m glad they’re my grandparents. Even if I’m not a Flynn in name…I’m one in spirit.

That being said, every man must believe in something, therefore, I believe I’ll have another Guinness. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all.

Say hello to my little friend

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on March 17, 2011.

One Response to “Irish By Accident”

  1. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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