Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is there a little Irish in your Life?

Are you celebrating St. Patrick's Day today? Is a little bit of you from Ireland? I am and I always thought a little bit more was until I started interviewing my dad's siblings. My dad died when I was 21 and he left behind 2 older sisters, an older brother, and a younger sister.  They have all since died except for my Aunt Josephine, the youngest.

We were raised proud of our Irish heritage."  My last name is Scanlon and my mother's maiden name is Mckenna. What could be more Irish than that?  When my mother's side of the family came over from Ireland, they actually shipwrecked in Nova Scotia and then ended up in Rhode Island. That is a story for another day. Pretty much I get most of my Irish from that side.  But there is a secret side that I didn't learn about until my twenties, a family secret on my dad's side.

I always thought it a little strange that my grandmother on my father's side married a Polish butcher when she remarried after my Irish grandfather died. I never met either grandfather on my dad's side and I barely remember meeting my grandmother who died when I was five.

I started interviewing my aunts after my dad died. I learned that my grandmother was Slovenia.  She was cast out after marrying my grandfather who was Irish and 20 years her senior.  My dad's father forbade my grandmother from teaching their children Slovenian customs and the language. He died when my dad was three and right after my dad's youngest sister, Josephine or Jo had just been born.

Jo went to live with her Slovenian grandmother, my great-grandmother, and just visited her siblings and mom on weekends. My grandmother had to get job so raising a newborn along with 4 other children was too much to handle  In fact, my Aunt Betty described themselves as the original latch-key children.  Jo grew up in my great-grandmother's Slovenia household and didn't learn to speak English for a long time.  She describes herself as one of the original English language learners. She stayed with her grandmother until she was 8.  In second grade she was becoming so troublesome that my great-grandmother sent her home were she assimilated into the raucous Irish household.

It all makes sense.  I would often come home to my dad making a weird cabbage, tomato, and bacon stew that always smelled better than it tasted.  His favorite food was halukies, a Slovenian version of cabbage rolls made with sauerkraut rather than tomatoes.  I do love this food. I love cabbage. I love sauerkraut  All of my siblings do. We would make halukies once a year for my dad's birthday, it is a dish that requires many hands.
It isn't being Irish that made me slice about this today, St. Patrick's Day; it's the cabbage that both the Irish and Slovenian cultures share.

Here is a poem that I wrote awhile ago in her honor.

Grandma Had

Cabbage, a house
A grave to remember him by,
a silenced tongue,
4 Irish kids and
a Slovenian one;
a May-December romance,
by her mother disowned.
2 holes in her heart and
childhood's land too far to roam.
Latch-kids, a fallen ladder,
a brother, Joe, a job,
a family to raise alone;
curly soft gray fluffy hair;
And finally a home of her own.


  1. Nice SOL. I love finding out about stories from the past.

  2. I am always amazed at the stories we are compelled to collect when confronted with loss. I am reminded of my own gathering of tales. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Cabbage Love!

  3. I really like the format of your poem!

  4. It's great that you were able to learn about your family and share, even if it was a tough story. I'm more inspired to ask about family stories now.


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