sideways rabbit

Sunday, March 18, 2012

And a pint for all my baby brethren

Happy Late Saint Patrick's Day. One morning this week, idle and anxious and absent any freelance work, I attempted to figure out what percentage Irish my son might be. My father is pretty much 100% of Irish descent, so I call myself 50%. My husband is a trickier case. He bears the proud Italian surname of the stepdad who adopted him when he was a toddler, but his biological dad is an English/Irish mix, and on his mother's side he's British and German, plus an Irish great-grandmother lurking in there to add tartness. So, with the help of a statistical friend, I estimated Beau to be about 39.5% Irish.

But as my own cousin Missy says: "Percentage doesn't matter. Irish is Irish." And she's right. It's not in the numbers. It's not in the hair or eye color or concentration of freckles. I have dark hair (or rather had, before the grays invaded like a battalion of Moors) and dark eyes and sun-loving skin, all inherited from my Irish-American father. There's only one redhead in his whole sprawling family. It's not in the much-ballyhooed love of drink, either, at least not in my case: I'm allergic to alcohol.

It's in the attitude. Some in his family delve into genealogical research and play complicated, merry music at Celtic festivals. But my dad's too busy tracking the fate of his favorite thoroughbreds to bother with such sincere shenanigans. "I'm not proud of being Irish. They're all gamblers and drunks," he says with a snort, popping another beer before he gets on the phone to his bookie. As for the sweet traditional music of the Mother Country: "Why would you want to play that s**t? There's no money in it," he grunts, thumbing through his copy of Rolling Stone magazine.

The sarcasm. The pessimism. Really, how much more Irish could you get?

My husband loves to tease. He teases and he doesn't know how to stop (the Irish, as you know, are sadly prone to addiction). We have a family joke about getting him a "sass-ectomy" if he doesn't quit. There's lots of German in him too: the icy blue eyes, the stoicism, the grudge-holding. But that gymnastic verbal humor that manifests in ever-morphing nicknames bestowed on his beloveds, or in smutty original Limericks belted out in the shower of a morning, is nothing if not Irish.

Our son, meanwhile, has always acted as though he were being nipped by Leprechauns. He exuded sass long before he could walk or talk...just check out this photo of him at nine months, where he appears to be ordering up a round of pints for the boys, albeit in baby babble. He is rarely caught taking anything seriously. His medium is eye rolls and shrugs. Get too mushy on him and you'll be treated to a gentle but expressive raspberry right in the face. On the other hand, it can take him half an hour to relay a story: none of that quick-tongued Irish wit for him. He's more about the lag-time sucker punch. So my new goal is to discover how much of this kid's inherited Irish charisma stems from my brisk northern roots and how much from my husband's syrupy southern roots.

Clearly, mama needs a job.

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