This blog post would get tedious if I tried to explain why the topic arose this morning. It was one of those stream of consciousness things which makes sense to the person experiencing it, but causes yawning fits for everyone else.
I hope that first paragraph caused you to yawn. I’m a control freak that way.
My family had some issues with history and our own ethnicity. In case you’re wondering, Helen Christie is a pseudonym for an even more British-sounding name. My father’s side of the family acknowledged only the British in their bloodline. On the rare occasions when Irish ancestors were mentioned, it got awkward. I was assured — yes, assured — that any Irish ancestors were from the north, and Protestant. I was also assured no further conversation on the subject was warranted.
Once, during the 1980s, I mailed Christmas cards which were printed in Gaelic. I thought they were interesting, but chose separate cards for a few select individuals. Those people would have found Gaelic crass. They liked cards with rude jokes, so that was what I sent them. Flatulent reindeer.
Disclosure: I liked the farting reindeer cards, too, but found them less sophisticated than the cards with the Celtic cross and text I didn’t know how to read.
On my mother’s side of the family, I am related by marriage to Irish Catholics. As far as I know, only one of them had issues with the British. She loved me, though, and I loved her. She impressed me the most when she went on a rant about the way a gay man from Mexico was treated by U.S. Customs officials, circa 1980. I was a closeted bisexual then (out of the closet now), and knew very few heterosexuals who cared how that man, whose misfortune was reported in the mainstream media, was terrorized.
There have been some light moments in my family’s re-enactments of European conflicts. I mean, besides the reindeer cards. The Irish Catholic relative whom I was so fond of drank tea, and she was always eager to try new blends. She and my mother exchanged small presents each Christmas, and one year my mother gave her a tin of English Breakfast Tea. It was good for an uncomfortable laugh, and I’m glad that was one of the years I didn’t meet with the family for Christmas.
We don’t always know what’s at the root of family tension. The British-Irish thing may have been just surface stuff. However, I can say with certainty that I found one relative’s pro-gay statement more enlightened than another family member’s claim that the LGBT population wasn’t persecuted in Nazi Germany. Each one of us had our own issues.
When putting confusing situations into perspective, we have to choose our battles carefully. There’s too much weird crap to ponder in one lifetime.
My father was a fiction writer and poet, and he had a liberal arts background. One of the authors he admired most was James Joyce. He was the only person (besides me) on that side of the family who read literature, so they never argued the merits of any writers, Irish or not.
My parents saw the movie The Dead, based on one of James Joyce’s Dubliners stories, at a theater with one of the Irish Catholic relatives. Later, my father told me about how he and that family member reacted differently to the film.
A few years later, I got around to reading the story and renting the movie on a VHS tape.
Warning: The YouTube clip at the end of this post is taken from late in the movie, and you should be familiar with the story before watching it if you want to “get” the gist of it.
Suffice to say I identify with Greta. We don’t have to understand everything. Often, if we can feel something which reminds us we aren’t dead, the rest are details.
Michael Fury at the gasworks sends his love.