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Visited the sister and her family in DC last week. Thought I could stick it out on campus and get ahead of the work load for once, but a few days in, I found myself seeking the last one-way rental car out town, braving the public bus to Bellefonte, and getting the hellllll out of here.

It’s strange that I can go to my sister’s and mindlessly play, watch Sponge Bob, and wrestle with the dog for hours on end, but am completely unable to do so in my own apartment. Most of the week was spent on Molly, or Hurricane Molly as we often call her, at six-years-old she is teaching herself to read and driving her mother crazy.

Of course that craziness was transferred to me before I could even get in a morning cup of coffee. Molly is there, in front of the coffee pot, demanding to show me the latest book she learned to navigate. The afternoon consisted of at least a half hour of Molly insisting on flipping through flash-cards and getting mad at me when she could not sound out certain words correctly. She yelled at me that I was “changing the rules” because she could not figure out when to use a hard or soft “th” sound. I realized for the first time how damn hard it must be for foreigners to learn English.

Every night with Molly was a negotiation of how many books I would read in accordance to how long I could get her to brush her teeth. I’m not her mother, I’m not opposed to bribes. We settled on a short book that she would read and two longer books that I would read. Normally Dr. Seuss, she thinks it’s hilarious the way I fly through the books (she doesn’t realize I have them mostly memorized).

We’re all pretty clueless where Molly has gotten this drive to read. She ferocious about it, really. She is quick to learn and beats herself up over her mistakes. This is odd for a kindergartener whose own class is just learning their ABCs.

My sister is trying to reel her in and I’m ambivalent about the process. We’re first generation Americans. Our grandfather lived during a time in Ireland when the idea of just a proper education, forget a higher one, was a pipe dream for many. My great-grandfather, after the laws changed allowed advanced degrees for the Irish, went on to write a mathematical textbook and a history of Ireland, his brother translated Alice in Wonderland into Gaelic and was published (previously against the law in the country), and my grandfather became an engineer. All spoke more than 9 languages between them.

Education was a treasure, an honor, a gift, and a duty if you had the least bit of access to it. I’m loathed to read school work over spring break, but my niece is determined to read anything she can get her hands on, including the National Geographic where she only picked out a few words. A hundred years ago, a flash in the pan of time really, was a whole other world for the Irish, one of neglect, denial, and state mandated ignorance. So I suppose if Molly wants to read the contents of the known universe, we should let her be, and be thankful for it. She certainly comes by it honestly.

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I spent two hours looking for my keys today only to find them in the refrigerator. Normally, something like that would bother me if I hadn’t spent an hour last night looking for a mislaid glass of wine (found in the medicine cabinet), or the fact that I keep experiencing the shock of rediscovery of the perfectly folded black maternity bra that made the mysterious appearance in my car two months ago, and which, I keep forgetting to remove.

Sailor: What’s this?

Me: A nursing bra?

Sailor: Yeah and uh, what is it doing in the tirewell?

Me: No idea.

Sailor: You want to remove it or something?

Me: Nah, I’ll take care of it later.

But of course, later, I forget. I have no idea where it came from. Sailor has been gone and I am the only one driving the car, so it’s a mystery. But the troubling part isn’t the mystery of its origin, but the fact that I keep forgetting that it’s there and still haven’t addressed the issue.

Clearly this is a the product of a stressed existence. Clearly, a little vacation could be in order. Clearly, no such such thing will occur until after graduation….in May.

Every other year, Sailor and I trade off going back to Detroit or staying here in Erie for  T-Giving or Giftmasukah. Whether I prefer to spend time with his passive-aggressive-big-on-uncomfortable-silences-in between-the-food-and-excessive-drinking-clan or spending time with my own personal verbal-pre-emptive strike-force-with-the-pleasing-tendency-towards-the-excessive-imbibing-of-alcoholic-beverages-that-can only-be-described-as-not a holiday-but-a-24/7-“happy hour”-while-waiting-for-a-good-old-fashion-Irish knife-fight-to-break-out, is simply a matter of asking myself what side of the bed did I wake up on.

Sigh….

I really don’t wanna do it this year.

Honestly, aside from our mutual predilection towards sizing up liquor purchases based on the quality of bottle with which to make a Molotov Cocktail, how the hell did I ever come to share genetic material with these people?

Let us review 2009:

Big Sis engaged in a trans-continental verbal smackdown of La Parentsia after Father Unit spilled the beans to Mother Gossip about something or other where Mother Unit invariably spread the word around the hood. They waged a three month war of Celtic-Silence which translates into not arguing with each other but through all the people in their lives over the phone. They apparently came to an accord but until the treaty is signed I want nothing to do with that mess.

Second Son then got involved, don’t ask how, but Irish-Saga-Made-Short is that he thinks the family needs to forgive him for effing up his first marriage with another woman 7 years older and her own epic tale that results in my brother being husband #3 in as much as 7 years…(which, side note, I actually have forgiven him, in fact, I’m rooting for them as a couple for the simple reason that he will stay married to this harlot forever out of stubborn pride and to prove a point he certainly will not remember in another ten years, and quite frankly, my brother deserves the merry hell that woman will give him until he is dead).

Where was I?

Father and Mother Unit simply refuse to believe they have done anything wrong – ever – even in light of the overwhelming evidence of a gaggle of supremely messed up kids. But then, if their measure for this success centers around the fact that none of us are on an international watch list, yet, or by the fact that none of us have been picked up, drunk, singing Christmas Carols along the freeway in June in the last 10 years, well, they should consider raising the bar.

Of course, there’s also Third Son, aka the 30 year old child still living in my parents’ basement smoking everything but his bed linens and who always seems to be just one step shy of attending a Star Trek convention…He’s been unemployed for a while. His last job, where everyone hated him for his ignorant and racist attitude….well, if it were me, if I knew everyone hated me and then mysteriously, one day, I am asked out to lunch where I am offered a joint…let’s just say I wouldn’t be too surprised at returning to work to find a drug test waiting for me….

First Son is in a tiff with me for un-friending him on Facebook. I just figured that he should save his hate and vitriol for family gatherings and not post that shit on my wall.

Of course, I’m a perfect ray of sunshine. I don’t what the hell is wrong with those other people.

Sailor’s family is supremely uncomplicated by comparison. All I have to do is sit next to Grandma E and remind her who I am every ten minutes until I’m drunk enough to forget who I am to answer. A relatively simple evening, geopolitcally speaking.

I’m thinking we should stay put. I have the excellent excuse of having ventured into No Man’s Land by staying with sister for T-Giving…that should satisfy some quota somewhere. But then, there’s something to be said for tradition…

lupo_mannaroA mere 40 arbitrary days after smearing oneself with burnt whatever and you get to celebrate the encore performance of a dead Nazarene on stick with pagan bunnies and psychedelic eggs whilst eating cocoa bean by-products from Central America! Top it off with multiple airings of the “Sound of Music” and you, my friend, have the fixins’ for a perfect weekend.

Dammit, I love Easter!!

I don’t know what it is about this holiday that makes me all crazy nut-so insane, but it does. And alas, Sailor Man is off to sea at present so I am wholly unable of yelling him to put some clothes on when he’s talking on the phone to my mother. Not that he walks around naked. And he certainly would never actually talk to my mother on the phone (best not to engage mom in that fashion…at all..took him years, years I tell you, to learn that lesson).

So I am denied my fun.

Seriously, I have got the trouble bug something fierce and that itch needs to be scratched, I tell you. It’s been many, many moons since I’ve gone out to a bar pretending to be a dyslexic stripper from Arkansas with a backwards tattoo on my ass….and I’m surrounded my college kids all day who truly do not know how to go out and create mischief.

Sigh…I really need to get out…something about this time of year makes me wanna howl at the moon…

I’m not one to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, come on, I’m a pale red head, green colored clothing would make me look like the freakin’ flag of Ireland. I am, however, wearing my favorite t-shirt:

“Psycho Irish Bitch from Hell”

It was gifted to me from a person who tried to present it as a joke, but I’m sure was quite serious about the message.

And yet, I still wear it. Mostly, because I find it amusing. Amusing that in this day and age someone would use a traditional European ethnic slur. In a country where jokes about persons of Middle Eastern or Arabic descent seem to rule the day, I enjoy the fact that I can be targeted for being the typical Mick.

Shanty Irish if you will.

Think of all the slurs that used to float about like so much confetti: Pommies, Frogs, Polocks, Krauts, Wops, Deigos, Hebes, Chinks, Japs, Reds, Spics…I’m sure there’s more, I just can’t think of them now.

Americans forget that when our ancestors came to this country, we clustered together in the ethnic bound neighborhoods of our motherlands. Sure, everyone loves the Irish now, but at the the turn of the 20th century, being a Papist Potato Eater was only slightly more palatable than being a leper.

And when Kennedy, an Irish Catholic, was elected President, a mere fifty years ago, many were fairly convinced the world was going to end.

What a difference a century makes.

So I’m off to school. The first of my family to have actually graduated college. I may go out for a drink later, or I may stay home and skip this American invention altogether.

I have a crap load of homework to do after all.

Naughty Haiku For Sailor

Hey, there Sailor Man

When you’re done there at the helm

Come home and take mine

You know, after all this time, I have no idea if Sailor reads this blog? I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. I know I wouldn’t want to know the inner workings of my twisted mind anymore than was necessary. This blog is best read by strangers.

But Sailor is away on another high-seas adventure. I’ll see him for a few weeks in March and then, not again until July. Such is life of a college student and her mate.

And Valentines Day is this week, I’m feeling all soft and mushy. So I am dedicating this next week of poetry posts to the man I love.

I am deeply, deeply, sorry for this y’all…

Harlem Night Song

Langston Hughes


Come, Let us roam the night together
Singing.

I love you.

Across
The Harlem roof-tops
Moon is shining.
Night sky is blue.
Stars are great drops
Of golden dew.

Down the street
A band is playing

I love you.

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

Wow.

I’m feeling pretty proud to be an American today. Something I haven’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t sure if we as a country had it in ourselves to exit the tunnel of fear, racism, and hatred we have been living in for the last eight years.

We elected a black man to be president. We almost elected a woman to higher office. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had the highest voter turnout ever.

I am verklempt. But I’m holding my head high.

Although I say I’m a stranger in a strange land here, truth be told, I have some roots around this area. My father actually hails from outside the Meadville area and was the son of farmers from way back. He left to join the military in the 1960’s and then settled in Detroit to begin his dream of working for the Big Three automakers.

I haven’t much experience with dad’s side of the family. We would visit my grandfather’s farm every few years, meet our cousins, and run through fields and chase cows, but being raised in a city in another state really put my siblings and I outside of an understandable realm of existence for my country cousins. We liked each other and always enjoyed the company whenever we met, there just wasn’t a great amount of familiarity. But I have always been terrifically fond of them in a Beverly Hillbillies sort of way only minus the Beverly Hills, the money, double the moonshine, and replace the Texas twang with a rural Pennsylvania accent.

So, anyhoo-I received word Monday night that my father’s stepmother (Gramma H) was going to be in the hospital for tests on her heart. My father was hoping I would go to represent the Michigan contigent of the family. Of course, I agreed. I hadn’t seen most of my cousins since they crashed* my wedding 5 years before.

* They were invited and although they initialy declined, 22 of them were sitting around drinking the day the of the wedding when one got the idea to hijack a motorhome and mosey on down to Maryland (where we married) with the clan to see how activities were progressing.

I arrive at the hospital and no one recognizes me. This is fair enough since the last time most of them saw me, my hair was blue and half my skull was shaved. My hair wasn’t all that much longer (although I was back to natural color) by the time I married 5 years ago.

Re-introductions all around, hugs, kisses, jokes, and catching up on gossip ensued. It was actually a pretty good time for being in a hospital. I even enjoyed the obligatory quaffing of home brew corn whiskey (made from left overs of yearly harvests) which seems to accompany every occasion with this set of cousins.

My image of myself has always been based on the family prism of my mother’s end of the gene pool. I have her hair, my maternal grandmother’s fingers, my maternal great aunt’s nasty temper, and mannerisms all seem to hail from them. I am close to that side of the family. I never fancied that I had anything in common with these cousins from Pennsylvania other than a limited amount of shared genetic material.

However, I have my father’s family customary black eyes. I’m the only one of my siblings to have them. In sea of blues and greens on my mom’s side, I have always stood out for the coal-black peepers in my noggin and yet there I was in the hospital yesterday, having easily over a dozen sets of those same eyes staring back at me.

So embarked an afternoon of discovery: an uncle with whom I share the same laugh, an aunt who shares my ridiculous horticultural obsession with cranberrries, a cousin who can move his right pinky toe independently of his foot like I can, and another uncle with whom I was finishing the sentences of by the end of the day.

It’s strange all this. It’s like I just discovered a new room in my house, one I’ve walked passed every day of my life and never noticed until now. At this age of life, I thought I had pretty much figured out where I fit into the scheme things family wise. Of course, I have been proven, yet again, greatly wrong on the subject.

I’m invited south this weekend to have dinner. The family is inviting  dozens of cousins over for the occasion. And while I’m a little apprehensive about it, I’m going. There’s new mysteries to solve and maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be able to answer the age-old question of whether or not I am in fact so full shit that that is why my eyes are black.

Details to follow.

Dagnabbit! I’ve been memed! Again! But since it’s Turkish Prawn, who graciously loaned me the use of a shower and power tools (not together) while I was camping out at the house in Maine, I feel I can’t pass this up.

So here’s the run-down:

The idea is to write your memoir or epitaph in six words. If you can add an image to go along with it, so much the better. Then, simply sneak up behind 5 unsuspecting friends and whap them in the back of the head with it. Links need to be provided to the person who whapped you and to the originator of the meme, so they can see how far the thing goes. You can check out the place where it all began for a better explanation of the rules.

However, being a red head, and thus, somewhat ADHD with the mood swings, I couldn’t decide on just one submission.

First, The Kinda-Haiku style memior:

Scary Red Hair

Fiercer Than You

Second: The Action Memoir:

Quaffing! Ranting! Plotting! Thinking! Lifting! Drinking!

Lastly, the Favorite Things Memoir:

Music, Cartoons, Comics, Risk, Whiskey, Sailor-Man

I know, I know, breaking “the rules”, but my blog, my choice! But here’s the problem now: everyone I know has already done this damn thing so I have no idea who to pass it on to. So if there’s any volunteers…??? Hildigunnur? Have you been victimized with this yet??? If anyone should come up with something terribly thoughtful and interesting, I’m putting my money on our Icelandic friend here…