Who would have Who would have thought that at the ripe old age of .. ahem, that it would be during March 2018 when a sudden identity crisis would emerge. To be fair, it was prompted. Within a week, we’ve had international women’s day and Mother’s Day and now Patrick’s day. It’s too much for me, too many identities to wrangle with, too many options, it’s hard to show equal enthusiasm for them all. For years I went along, celebrating only, the day I was born. But now, I’m being urged to celebrate, gender, maternity and nationality, what’s left, brunette day, 5’5 day, all your own teeth day?
The thing is I’m all for International Women’s day, Mother’s Day and Paddy’s Day, but I’d have liked if there were spread out a little over the year. The fact that they are all being celebrated within a week and the fact that I am all four, international, a woman, a mother and a paddy has this year stirred up a series of emotions and one big question, which do I identify with most?
International women’s feels a bit ambitious, and not having cured anything, climbed anything or created anything, well I did, children, but that doesn’t count for women’s day, non-mothers like to work on a like for like basis and don’t appreciate the ‘mom’ card being played in the achievement game. So to win, participate at least in women’s day, I felt it needed something more brought to the table, like feeding a village with water from a well 10 miles from the town or being a midwife in deepest darkest Africa in a town with no Maxi Cosi distributors or Tesco Express, I’ve done neither so I kind of went along with women’s day wearing a hesitant smile, waiting for someone to say, ‘oi, what are you doing here on international women’s day?’
Mother’s Day, a hard one. The juxtaposition as a mom is that unless you organise it yourself, it will undoubtedly flop. The pressure is on, to realise, recognise and repay your countless hours of service, tying shoelaces, packing lunches, wiping noses not to mention the sacrificing of your career, subsequent loss of self-worth and ultimately the complete detachment from the person you dreamed you’d be at 21. Hard to settle than account with a lunch in the local hotel, even if you order a starter. Mother’s Day becomes another day for another hesitant smile as you’re handed a mug from the local chemist with a verse about Mother, a bunch of flowers from Centra and box of Ferrero Rocher.
St. Patricks Day, a child it meant a day off school, freezing cold feet at the parade, the chance perhaps of green ice-cream or candy floss. Kid wore badges to mass and adults wore shamrock, no one wore a 3ft high leprechaun hat or a t-shirt saying, ‘if I can’t eat it, drink or ride it, I’ll break it’. As a young adult it meant the day in the pub, we’d start in Oliver Plunkett street early and by the time we got to Parnell Place we didn’t know whether we were Irish or Chinese.
Today living in the Middle East, Patrick’s Day is bittersweet. Surrounded by people celebrating Paddy’s Day, who never got ash on their forehead, never did the hay in summer, never had a bag of tayto and a bottle of fizzy orange, never spent Sunday putting 10p’s into the PACMAN machine in the pub while the matches were on, don’t know who Barry McGuigan is or Fortycoats, never sang Olé Olé Olé Olé, Olé Olé, how can these people know what being Irish is?
Then I look our teenage daughters and they know none of the above, they think Saoirse Ronan is Ireland, and maybe she is and maybe I’m recalling the eighties, not Ireland as such.
So what does it mean to be Irish, I think it means the inherent belief that we’re a little bit better than the rest, now that I resonate with! So couple that with International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, and I find I can identify with both when they’re qualified by being Irish…..Mná na hÉireann, Lá Fhéile Pádraig.