A wee bit Irish….
Happy St. Patricks Day! I predict a few of you may read this with a slight hangover. It’s ok, this holiday gives the world the “OK” to drink some green beer and get crazy. The parade has been a New York tradition for years, all kinds of characters participate and totally go “green”, and act alil crazy. I had a dinner party last weekend and I was informed that my eldest brother, with the bluest eyes, didn’t really think he was Irish. His wife told us. I had to laugh for several reasons. My beloved Mother Mitzi, with the sparkly blue eyes…she also denied part of our heritage. The story goes like this. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She was raised primarly by her grandparents who are indeed 100% italian. They came over from Naples. The ancestory is deep, Molinaro was the name of my great grandfather. His daughter, my “nanny”, Millie, who swears her given name was Camille Molinaro, married Peter James Shannon. I ask my peeps…can you get any more IRISH in a name! They had my mother and lived in Brooklyn too. My mom and my nanny told me many stories as a child growing up about Peter Shannon’s (poppy) family. He was one of Eleven children. Two boys, and 9 girls. They were kind and gentle souls. My grandfather was a “gentleman” in every sense of the word. His family were immigrants and struggled to survive in America. He was a loyal son & brother to all his siblings. My mother would tell me she would visit his side of the family and she remembers his mother with one leg sitting on the windowsill as they pulled up to have lunch and visit. They would have potato salad, and fresh bologna and my mom thought it was super cool and fabulous. She talked about my Poppy’s sisters, Aunt May was my poppy’s favorite and my mom’s too. I remember seeing them a few times at family functions, she was the cutest, sweetest little lady. I recall my mom telling me why she didn’t acknowledge the “irish” part of her. Living in her old neighborhood, everyone was Italian. Back in the day, each neighborhood had clusters of ethnicticity; Irish, Italian, Orthodox, etc. The kids used to tease her and taunt her about this! My mom had freckles, tons of them and the bluest eyes…so did my Grandfather. So, instead of being bullied, she sometimes used her mother’s name, just to avoid conflict! I thought that was strange honestly, denying ones heritage. She never really made corned beef& cabbage, she never even did an Irish Jig! Our grandparent’s came out to Long Island each month and stayed a few days with us, they spoiled us rotten and showered us with love and food and surprises, the memories are warm and sweet. I started to take dance lessons, ballet & tap and my grandfather had heard about them. One day he said, I can teach you how to tap dance! I said you CAN??? How cool, so we spent the day, he tapped for hours, he was so talented! He was in his element, he soft shoe’d all day for me, he taught me little tricks and how to be light on the toes! It is my fondest memory of my poppy. I remember he LOVED corned beef on a nice fresh piece of rye bread with a side of potato salad! He was as my mother lovingly told me, a simple man, with little or no education, with the biggest heart. He over protected my mother growing up, but he also was her biggest confidant and fan. My grandparents rarely drank liquor. I remember asking why they didn’t. My grandfather told me about his brother James. He died young of alcoholism. My poppy spent most of his young life, searching for James, rescuing James, and dragging him home. He hated what the drink did to his only brother. Once in a blue moon, my poppy would take one shot of blackberry brandy. I can still remember watching him sip it, and those blue blue eyes smiling down at me. I thought it was cool. I love corned beef and cabbage and fresh rye bread, and I still love a good tap dancer! Have a Happy St. Patricks Day ~ leelee