Just this past week while at my parent’s house, there was a knock on their front door. It was a college student selling books. She was a very sweet young lady from Estonia. Though I wasn’t interested in what she was selling, educational books for young children; she seemed very interested in where I was from. She pulled out a map showing me where Estonia was and pointing to Great Britain asked, “Is your family from here?”
Thinking back over the years, this has happened more than once. I think it’s the red hair. It’s assumed that we all must be from that Great Island in the sea.
I remember the first time it happened I was a little surprised. We’d had a young couple come to our church from England. The husband was working here in the States and they would be living here for 18 months. His wife and I would become fast friends, but when they first started attending the church, we invited them to our home one night for dessert. I made a pumpkin pie. Well, actually, Mrs. Smith made it, I just baked it. I placed the pie on the table and they were both intrigued and asked, is this a pumpkin pie? Who doesn’t know what pumpkin pie is? I told them, yes, and was just as intrigued to find out, pumpkins do not grow in Great Britain. Who knew?
We were having a very nice time when, after awhile, the husband asked me, “Roxanne, where is your ancestry from?” I wasn’t surprised by the question, after all, Cliff’s ancestry is pretty obvious and I was actually very excited to tell them mine. I felt we were somewhat kindred spirits. There was no ancestry.com back then, and I hadn’t even thought to research my family history at that point, but I did have a basic knowledge of where my family came from. I excitedly told him that my Dad is Italian and my Mom is Irish. I thought the Irish would impress them and it did, but not the way I thought.
At the word, “Irish” he simply said, “Oh”. Not an excited, impressed, “oh”. This “oh” was more like when you tell someone sad news, like you’d just run over their dog with your car. I had no idea why he answered that way and so I asked him what was wrong with the Irish. His reply, “Well, nobody likes the Irish.”
I wasn’t offended. Surprised, but not offended. I actually thought it was kind of funny. He explained the history of England and Ireland and why the Irish were, “unliked”. It was interesting and we ended the conversation with him jokingly absolving me from any wrongdoing with the words, “It’s really not your fault.” We laughed and remained good friends for the rest of the time they were with us.
Flash forward a few years and one day, at a church program for children, I met a very lovely, very quiet woman who, I thought from her accent was from England. She was actually Scottish. We got to talking and she invited me to tea. Of course, I went. Of course, we talked. Of course she asked the same ill-fated question. “Roxanne, where is your ancestry from?” Since this was now not my first rodeo, I replied, “I’ll tell you but you probably won’t like it.” She put her head down, “Oh, you’re Irish”. I smiled and told her what I’d been told in the past, “It’s really not my fault.” She laughed and conceded that I was innocent in the matter.
We are friends to this day, because in the end, it’s only where we are going that counts. Where we are from is really not that big a deal.