Thoughts of my immigrant ancestors have been running through my mind lately, especially with everything that is going on in our country at this time. I think about my Irish ancestors and how when I was growing up it wasn’t a good thing to be a descendant of someone from Ireland. My great grandfather was from Ireland and it was just something my Grandma didn’t talk about. We all knew that we were Scotch/Irish on my dad’s side and English on my mom’s. But to get my Grandma to really talk about the immigration of her family to the United States was a road we just didn’t go down. I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland that was heavily Eastern European. I knew more about Hungarian or Polish food and culture than I did my own culture. Cleveland is a melting pot and it was embraced by the people living there. It wasn’t until we were living in Wisconsin and almost 100% of our church was from Norway that I learned the importance of really knowing where you come from and how to embrace it. The pride in their heritage and the ethnicity was incredible. It was something that was celebrated and lived everyday. Not something to be ashamed of as I felt as a part Irish lass. I became more aware of my heritage and wanted to know more. When our son had the opportunity to study in Ireland we were so excited to visit the country where my Great-Grandfather came from. I started digging into what I could find out about my Grandma’s family, which was a very difficult task when the particulars of births, deaths, date of immigration were unknown. It was at that time that I regretted and wished I had pressed my Grandma more to find out more about her family. I wish we had learned to celebrate our heritage as the people of our church did. But, it was too late as my Grandma was no longer with us and all those memories and information were never discovered. I am saddened that she was embarrassed to talk about being Irish.
We live in a country that was built on immigrants. If it weren’t for my great grandparents on both side coming to the US or Canada (my Scottish grands immigrated to PEI) I wouldn’t be here today. We have the opportunity to embrace and learn about so many different cultures that make us who we all are. Each one different, but the same in some way. So I guess my bottom line is that we should all be proud of where we come from. Don’t be ashamed or intimidated by the “go back where you came from”. Well, wait a minute! I did kind of go back to where I came from when I visited Ireland and I’m so grateful and thankful that I’ve had that chance not once but several times. It’s the homeland where I instantly felt a connection. . So, I guess maybe we could take the “go back where you came from” and turn it into a positive phrase by ignoring the hateful meaning behind it and turning it into a time to really discover where we came from and who we really are!