This Saint Patrick’s Day, share memories and life stories of your family history
Growing up, you heard stories of your grandmother Clara’s solitary journey to America to find a better life. When she arrived in the early 1950s, America was different. Irish women were all over New York, finding employment, living with other immigrants, and starting life anew.
Though homesickness struck her, she knew her new home was here. With the support of her parish and her unwavering faith, Clara found employment at a local market while living in a boarding house with other young Irish women.
Though she didn’t fit all the American trends, she did her best to assimilate to the culture while holding her own traditions at heart. Her most treasured possession was a Claddagh ring from her grandmother. When she arrived, she wore the ring, the heart faced out, to show she was still looking for love. But it wasn’t too long before she met your grandfather, Giovanni.
It wasn’t love at first sight. When the girls from the boarding house invited her along to a parish social, a weekly gathering for all the young, mostly single Catholics, Clara went along, not looking for Mr. Right.
Enter Giovanni, the eccentric and charming Italian boy with dark locks. Every girl wanted to become his wife, and Clara knew it, which is why she set her sights elsewhere. Quickly though, she learned fate would step in once more, and ensure that her happily ever after began that night.
After months of courting and begging by your grandfather, Clara agreed to give it a try. She was settled and satisfied with her independence, but being with someone she could trust and start her own family with was something she longed for.
The first meal she prepared him was a corned beef and cabbage dinner. It was different than the salty corned beef she was used to back home, as this corned beef was purchased from a kosher butcher.
Though she pulled out every trick, every recipe she knew by heart, her soda bread and the corned beef meal would become a hilarious story they would tell into their elder years. While she thought she had prepared the meal to its completion, the corned beef was undercooked, the soda bread flat and the cabbage tough. Her romantic meal turned into a night of sickness, but the first moment she could confidently say she was going to marry that charming Italian boy from East Harlem.
Clara learned how to make homemade pasta and still perfected her family recipes as she and Giovanni started their own family, beginning their own traditions of two cultures looking for a new start.
Looking at your once so brave and strong grandparents, now so much smaller, and a once bright sparkle in their eyes now dimming, sitting at your dining room table, you think of that story she told you about her own corned beef mishap, as you double, no triple check, it is cooked fully.
Your grandfather’s once full head of hair now bare, but his charm ever more present. As your grandmother looks on at her great-grandchildren, she hums the lullaby she once sang to your father, aunt, and uncles.
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don’t you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that’s an Irish lullaby.
Our family histories are present, even though we may take a step back from tradition. Ask them questions about your heritage. Try recipes from your ancestors. Wear the Claddagh ring with pride and when she’s old enough, give your daughter her own.
This Saint Patrick’s Day, share memories and life stories of your family history. You’ll feel more wealthy than if you found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. You’ll have cherished memories that will transcend generations.