So, at my family reunion last weekend one of my cousins (after a wee bit too much to drink) posed this question:
Would you describe us as Shanty Irish or Lace Curtain Irish?
Make no mistake. We’re all Americans. We love the country, we’re productive citizens. But our heritage helps define us and keeps us tied together even as our daily lives pull us apart.
Both our grandparents emmigrated from Ireland when they were young children. They lived the American dream, instilling in their grandchildren an obligation to their adopted country and an affection for their departed one. They made sure our heritage was woven into the fabric of our lives. It’s how we know corn beef tastes better when boiled in Guinness. It’s why we go to Mass on St. Patrick’s Day, while the rest of the world finalizes it’s drinking plans for the evening. It’s why we love a good story, a warm fire and a rainy morning.
It’s also why we like a good debate. We spent an hour (loudly) discussing our immigrant roots and how we measured up. My cousin Colin insisted our grandpa’s hard-working and plain-spoken nature made us Shanty. My cousin Fiona insisited my gram’s collection of Waterford Crystal and Belleek — which seemed to grow in even the toughest financial times — made us lace curtain.
I campaigned for Shanty attitude with Lacy Curtain tastes.
Everyone left the table convinced they had won.
And that, of course, is our most Irish attribute of all.