"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How deep are your roots?

I'm a mutt, ancestrally speaking, and yet... On my mom's side, we're Irish, Scottish, German, Dutch, Cherokee, and Sioux. On my dad's side, there is Welsh, Swedish, and Cherokee. Let's leave the Native Americans out of the picture for a moment. First of all, this is all according to family lore, so I'm not certain of my native heritage. Apparently, it's kind of popular to claim you are Cherokee. I don't know why. Second, if you look at my picture, I dare you to find any genetic evidence of any ancestor with dark skin, hair or eyes.

What do you see when you look at me? That's right: Irish, Scottish, Welsh - Celtic. Strong genes, those Celts.

Not that it mattered growing up. We didn't cater to anything but being Midwesterners, with a slight Southern accent. Our songs were country & western. Our folklore was family stories about Great Granddad getting drunk and painting his car John Deere green with a whisk broom. Our food was fried or otherwise cooked past the point of recognition.

So imagine my surprise one Christmas eve when my husband popped a tape in the VCR as we were getting ready to go to church, and the music it played felt like a fisherman tossed a line in my soul and reeled me to the TV. The tape was Riverdance, which is a Celtic celebration. I'm sure many people think the music is beautiful, but honest to God, I thought the mother ship was calling me home.

I didn't do anything special about this. I enjoyed the moment, but I didn't seek out more music, more Celtic entertainment or enlightenment or knowledge.

Skip forward a few years. The family is up in Big Bear, celebrating the New Year, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. A bunch of us are wandering through the shops downtown. We stop at a mystical shop, where one of the girls is getting her palm read, and Marcus is bugging me to buy him a Pan flute, and I am absentmindedly looking at all the shiny things. Hanging on a display are "Celtic Birth Charms."

Of course, I looked up my birthday, February 21. This is what I found:


How interesting is it that the mystery writer has a mystery birth charm? Here's the full text:

"The Hounds of the Underworld, Cwn Annan enliven the Celtic folk-tales of the famed Mabinogion, bounding across the cold night sky in an exhiliarating and impressive wild Hunt. In Wales, they are said to appear around St. David's Eve. Cwn Annan individuals project mystery and hidden depths."

The charm now hangs on my wallet. It may just be advertising. It may not mean a thing. Or it may be a piece of the puzzle that is my heritage. My background has never been important to me, mostly I think because it was never important to my family. I've always considered people to be the luck of their DNA draw.

Now I'm wondering. Does it matter to you that you were born Irish or German or Hispanic or Jamaican or whatever? Should it matter to me?

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