Saturday, March 17, 2012

Identity Crisis

     I was raised irish.
For the first 14 or so years of my life, I assumed I was Irish. I always knew I was adopted, but it never occurred to me that I would be of a different ethnic background than my family. Mom's dad was from Ireland, so her family is very very Irish-ly oriented. St. Patrick's day is second in glory only to Christmas and Easter for us Mulligan-Thompsons. When I was young, I was an Irish dancer (I know, laugh it up haha). I always just figured I was Irish, and I was darn proud of it.

Until one fateful trip to the post-office.

I was about 13-14 years old at that time. I was in the car with my dad; we were going to the post-office. I remember telling him how much I loved being Irish. Then, for reasons unbeknownst to me, even to this day, he told me "but you're not Irish."

Not Irish? What? Of course I was Irish... Everything about me was Irish. There was no other culture (except possibly the French) that I loved more than Irish. Not Irish? This man I called father must have been delusional.

I asked him "what do you mean I'm not Irish?" and he told me "You're French. And Portuguese."


The emotions that ensued from that were of utmost dismay and disappointment, but also of joy. (I was French! a dream come true.) But not Irish? I said to him "No part of me is irish?" and he said "No, you're French-Portuguese. Didn't you already know this?"

Obviously not, judging by the tears streaming down my cheeks at that point. Up until then, I felt like everything I was, everything I did, was a lie; a fake. All those years I had been a dancer I should have been taking French lessons? I should have been taking ceramics instead of traveling to competitions?

My world had been shaken. It took a long time to get over the shock of it all. I didn't want to be stupid Portuguese! I wanted to be Irish! I was mad and confused. I didn't always love being Portuguese. In the beginning, I hated it.

Obviously, as the title of this blog would imply, I now thoroughly embrace being Portuguese (and French), but I realized that I'm still Irish. Even more than being legally Irish, being raised in the Irish culture does something to you. I'm proud to have been raised in that culture, I'm proud that my family is Irish, and mostly I'm proud of my grandfather, who immigrated to America from Ireland in his twenties.

Sadly, I lost my grandfather in 1995, when I was just 5 years old. I really wish he was still here so he could tell us the stories of the old country. I wish he had been there to see me dance. I wish he could see me and my brother grow up. I often spend time at the cemetery, at the grave site. I try to keep the weeds off it, sometimes on special days i bring flowers. I didn't know him too well, but I love hearing the stories of him from my family.

I'll always be Irish in my heart, and I'm thankful for all aspects of my heritage.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
a full moon on a dark night,
and the road downhill all the way to your door.


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