Do you tell stories of when you or your parents were little back in the old country? Do you know how your family came to this country and why? Do you listen to WROL on Saturdays and teach the kids and grandkids to waltz? Do they even know that being an Irish American is much more to some folks than wearing green in March? It seems to me that a new generation of South Boston Irish Americans might have failed our ancestors a bit.
Our house had a revolving door
I am sure they believed their stories of struggle, sacrifice and of ragging good times were going to live on far after they did, so many of these stories are the basis for many of our family’s traditions and relationships. Everyone must have a story of how they lost their bedroom to some cousin from Ireland. Our house had a revolving door for anyone that was related on any side of the family and interested in staying with us. There was always some singing group with kids that needed host families and we took in 2 or 3 at our house. I know many people that can say their grandmother worked downtown cleaning offices long after the kids were asleep for the night or how someone lived with a family growing up because they had lost their parents. Such dedication and loyalty needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Some of the best memories that I have growing up begin with my Irish heritage. My grandmother Annie Connolly never one to be shy, was Irish Step dancing well into her 90’s. My Uncle Eamon and his friends sang with the Irish Volunteers, every Southie Day was a concert not to be missed. The Saint Patrick’s Day Breakfast was at our family’s restaurant for years and never a Saturday of cleaning went by without hearing some Noel Henry or Paddy Riley on the radio. I can still time polishing the silver in my head, 2 slow songs each for the pot and sugar dish, one fast one for the cutlery.
“all of her great parts woven together”
All of these memories make up the intricate fabric that is my life today. I made a comparison at my mother’s funeral of how she was like a piece of Irish Lace “all of her great parts woven together to make a beautiful pattern”; she made sure that the pattern included tradition and family. My friends growing up would say you have so many cousins. I would laugh and tell them you are right and my parents insisted we knew them all. The thing I always thought was funny, that most of the women cousins were named Mary; it was usually accompanied by their Dads first name – Mary Pat, Mary Mike and Mary Mac.
Teaching my sons
Today I try to teach my sons, Thomas and Macdara it is important to embrace their culture and all the traditions that come along with it. A few years ago we were lucky enough to take a family trip to Ireland our boys got to see the home where their great grandfather danced a jig when he learned he was going to America. They saw the little 2 room thatched cottage their great grandmother shared with her 7 brothers and sisters. They saw the Island where my grandparents had to wait for low tide to get home and into the main land. They repeat these stories now as if they lived them; it makes me smile every time.
It seems that everywhere you go it’s politically correct to celebrate other cultures and not discriminate, but for some reason this is not true for Irish Americans. The only time people celebrate the Irish culture is one day a year, every other day it is not recognized. We can all do our part to pass on the traditions, stories and our heritage. Do not let anyone tell you it can only be done on March 17th – we are a year round culture, an Irish Culture!
So I challenge you to take an Irish Step Dancing class, listen to the Bailey Ceili on the Irish Hit parade, make some Irish Bread from scratch, take a class at the Irish Cultural Center and even join the South Boston Irish American Society just keep our heritage alive. Your ancestors would have wanted it to stay strong after many of them sacrificed allot for us.
More importantly our children deserve to know the details that have been woven together to make their Irish lace pattern.
Written by Mona Connolly Casper