DeLight Side: Remembering Irish Roots and Family Traditions as St. Patrick’s Day Approaches

Writer Pauline Sheehan writes about her family’s Irish ties and lessons learned from her travels in the old country.

Inasmuch asI got the name Sheehan from my Irish husband.

On St. Patrick’s Day, he was playing his flute and harmonica, and I was playing the keyboard in a restaurant. We each took a day off without pay, but we were so proud of the money in that tip jar – even though it was much, much less than our wages.

Our children did competitive Irish dancing. One of their instructors, originally from Ireland, was a world champion Irish dancer. She performed in Las Vegas and also taught. Our girls were twirling, bouncing and smiling.

Our chubby son, named Sean Patrick Sheehan, had cut jeans sewn inside his kilt because his fourth grade friends weren’t wearing kilts. He was dancing with pursed lips, concentrating on the steps, trying not to bruise his legs. The girls got the awards, but our son got the invites.

My Irish husband arranged for our children to go to Trinity College Dublin between their junior and senior years. Our Irish Methodist children from Las Vegas met Irish Catholics from Boston. The month-long course included history, music, dance and a week with a host family.

When our first child returned from his summer, we enthusiastically paid to have his photographs processed. What has she learned from her Irish roots? We expected his experience to be about as good as going there ourselves.

Two photo rolls! Couldn’t open them fast enough.

Each photo was of the foster family’s cat. The cat until nauseous. Not a glimpse of Ireland.

We met our third child in Ireland after finishing school at Trinity College. Our first impression in Ireland was how carefree the Irish were. They drove on the wrong side of the road and acted like it was the normal thing to do.

We had no choice but to also drive on the left – when we remembered. Sometimes we forgot.

When a noisy beer truck came our way down a narrow road, my husband quickly drove further to the right, resulting in horns, a few “words,” and then a punch.

Everyone we met had a story, a fun story. In fact, a great tale in a brogue that we sometimes didn’t understand. So nice.

What a distraction from the daily work world we had left at home.

We had saved money to buy a harp. So, at the pub, I asked to buy a harp.

Three steroid-looking dudes immediately hustled over and offered to buy me a harp.

“Come with me… Do you want to dance…”

I did not understand.

I backed off, because I had my husband’s passport and plane ticket in my purse.

That’s where I learned that Harp is a brand of beer. That’s why this beer truck had Harp painted on it.

We returned to Ireland years later after Ireland joined the Euro, the European Union. Ireland was a different country. Smog. Traffic. The Irish dialect, the radio music and even the funny stories have changed.

At the Shannon bus stop, a talkative girl told us that she had come to Ireland with her boyfriend who worked at Dell. She explained loud enough for everyone at the bus stop to hear: “The pubs in Ennis are for the music, the pubs in Limerick are for the crack.”

“Oh my god, that’s the euro influence,” I thought as my husband and I quietly backed away.

At the touristy Bunratty Castle, a skated man with a pipe told stories in Irish brogue and sang traditional Irish music. That’s where we learned that music is music and “crack” is comedy.

We came back with lots of pictures, but we didn’t look for the cat.

PS This aerospace engineer’s funeral was a Dry Irish Wake at Vale Christian Church.

Vale writer Pauline Sheehan explores DeLight Side in columns for Malheur Enterprise.

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