Way back when I was young and attractive, I was sitting in a bar, the kind of bar old newspapermen went to after the paper had gone to bed, trying to have a conversation with a girlfriend. This was not a pick up joint; nor was I of a mind to be picked up. As was not uncommon when I was young(er), some guy sidled over to the bar with an offer to buy drinks. It was soon apparent that it was me he was trying to pick up and no amount of “No, thanks, I’ll be doing good to get through this one” was going to deter him.
As we studiously tried to ignore him, he hit on the brilliant idea of giving me the earth shattering news that I looked “just like Cher.” Well, the resemblance had been marked on before so I was neither shocked nor flattered. (“Exactly like Cher” is a gross overstatement.)
Not giving up easily, the Cher comment was followed up with “So? You got some Indian in you?”
Well. As a matter of fact I do. On one side of the family, great-grandma was full Cherokee and on the other side there’s some Native American but we don’t know what flavor.
“Cherokee and what else?”
“Irish.” The other great-grandmother was full Irish. Now between the two great-grandmothers there’s a bunch of mutts and if I were to list my whole pedigree it would encompass all of the British Isles as well as goodly portions of Europe and a few of the Indian nations. I even have reason to believe I’ve got some African-American in me. I am nothing if not multicultural. Up until that time, I was apt to answer the question with “some Irish, some Indian, some English, some German and a bunch of other stuff.” But I was being terse with this young man in hopes that he would go away, so he got the one word answer. (I was too young at the time to realize you needn’t be polite with drunks in bars.)
After hearing his response, I now tell folks I’m Cherokee and Irish – I don’t give the full pedigree because his response was priceless. He said:
“Cherokee and Irish? That’s a bad combination in a woman.”
And then he left.
After cogitating over the years on that statement, I believe that in certain situations he was right. In both the Cherokee and Irish traditions, women were apt to speak their minds and the menfolk were likely to listen, because if they didn’t there was going to be hell to pay. While I’m sure there are individual women who would make a liar out of me, in general, it’s still true that if you want a doormat for a wife you best not be fraternizing with the likes of us. Double the influence of generations of feisty women with two cultural traditions and, yes, that’s a bad combination.
I was relaying this story not too long ago to a friend and some guy who was not trying to pick anyone up piped in and said, “You’re not kidding. My ex-wife was Cherokee and Irish. You did it her way or you got out or she threw you out.” And then some other guy said, “Hey! You’re right. I never thought about it but my grandmother was Cherokee and Irish and, man, you didn’t mess with her.”
I don’t think I’m that bad – I’ll listen to reason.
In spite of my Irish heritage, I’ve never been much of one to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Now it may be because great-grandmother was protestant Irish and they wear orange to celebrate William of Orange’s victory over King James II. She was also a teetotaler and I was in my 30s before I could have a drink without feeling like I had to hide it. Even then, I wouldn’t have let her see me with a drink in my hand.
Drinking is where the two traditions as they filtered through my family are at war with one another. The Cherokee side are hard-drinking, honky tonking, beer-bellied good old folks and the Irish side are alcohol-free church folk. (Go figure.)
In any event, St. Paddy’s Day is not likely to find me in a bar swilling green beer. I do try and remember to wear green, but mostly so some juvenile won’t be provoked to pinch me. St. Paddy’s Day often finds me at home drinking coffee and admiring the Shamrocks I just bought. Every couple of years or so, I buy the shamrocks to replace the ones I’ve managed to kill with over-watering. I love Shamrocks. They’re such cheerful little things and if you take it easy on the watering they’ll live for years. If they are over-watered and succumb, St. Pat’s is the only time of year replacements can be found.
So. Happy St. Pat’s to you. Feel free to join me in a cup of coffee and a pot of shamrocks.