My mom calls me her Irish daughter and my sister her Italian daughter. We both married men of those descents and I guess we kinda took them on as our own. It’s funny, because neither one of us have either Irish or Italian in our bloodline at all. I like to use the term “Irish by injection”, but not in church or anything. We are mutts…a little bit of this, a little of that. For the most part, we’re Hungarian. My dad’s side of the family came from Hungary…my grandma relayed stories to me that her mom told her about coming over to Ellis Island….standing on the long benches looking out at the huge crowd full of hope. My grandma was VERY into her Hungarian heritage and could speak Hungarian so fluently that on a visit to Hungary a local asked her for directions. My mom’s side is a little more tricky…her mom was mostly Swedish and her dad mostly German. I don’t know about the other parts because I never bothered to ask.
I honestly never really paid much attention to it until recently. Even with my full Hungarian grandmother who made stuffed cabbages and sent things to our relatives in Budapest, I never cared to pay attention to my heritage. It never really mattered. I am what I am…knowing where I came from wouldn’t change that.
Well, that is, until I had kids. Once my daughter started going to school and learning about other countries, I noticed that her mind was expanding…she started wondering if any of OUR ancestors came from far away lands. I told her of course they did…I just didn’t really know where. And at that point, all the people I could ask had passed on to even farther lands. But thankfully, my grandparents left behind many photos and memories for me to sift through. I’ve been trying to get answers for my kids and really have been enjoying the process. I think that’s why I cling to my husband’s Irish background so much…his family is large, and there are many generations here with us to learn from. It’s fascinating. He also has Scottish and Czech blood, so the stuffed cabbages are good no matter whether we’re at my parents or his.
I don’t really have too much regret in life… I do feel that everything we do is a learning experience for us. However, I miss my grandparents…all of them…every day. I would’ve liked to have learned more from them when I had the chance. It IS important to know where you came from…what struggles your family made to get you where you are today. I’d have to think that my Hungarian great-grandmother’s trip across the ocean in a scurvy-riddled old boat was not all that fun. But she did it for her family…for me. And for my kids. Her story deserves to be learned.