young Americans any consideration of their cultural background is deemed irrelevant to their daily lives. Having been a part of American culture for several generations, they look beyond themselves as being purely American and being unaffected by the foreign cultures from which their ancestors emigrated (Hayden, 2003). This viewpoint, however, represents a narrowness that ignores the subtleties that remain and a denial that one's historical roots matter.
In my own case, until recently, I have only remotely ever thought about my cultural background. From what I understand from my discussions with my parents and grandparents over the years, my family was originally from Ireland but that at some point in our family's past one of my grandparents married a Native American and so I am the beneficiary of American Indian influence as well. No one seems to know when and how this marriage occurred but everyone is certain that it did. Otherwise, my family is Irish-American through and through although there is little evidence of it or at least this is what I thought before I actually sat down and thought about (Callahan, 1989). Now, I look at the situation differently.
My family, on both the maternal and paternal side, has been living in the United States for several generations. As a result, one would expect that the cultural effects of their being from Ireland would have little impact on their daily lives. As I indicated, I gave little thought to my family background. I did not discuss the issue with my parents or grandparents. I grew up thinking of myself as American, not Irish, but I have learned that such deep seeded influences are not so easily ignored or overcome (McGoldrick, 1996).
The most obvious connection with my Irish heritage is my family's devotion to the Roman Catholic Church (Morris, 1998). From my earliest days, I remember my mother and grandmother's dedication to their faith. Sunday and holidays were special days in our home and it began with our attendance at Church. The entire family would attend Church together and there was never a thought that anyone could either not attend or go to Mass without the family. Our parish priest was considered a role model for me and my siblings and my mother never missed an opportunity to stress this fact. It was always, "Father O'Brien, this" and "Father O'Brien, that." To speak irreverently about the Church or the Father O'Brien was the greatest of sins in my house (Douthat, 2009). It was simply never done.
Until I became engaged with this assignment, I never gave much thought to the fact that my entire family was also avid Democrats. I figured that such loyalty was based on our family's socio-economic situation. I grew up in a comfortable home but it would hardly be described as fancy in any way. Meals were eaten at home. Dining out was a rarity even at fast food places; new clothes were limited to Christmas and back to school; and movies were viewed on video. It was a simple life but I always felt loved and secure. It was this background, however, that I always imagined provided the backdrop for my family's avid political loyalty to the Democratic Party. Little did I know that it went much farther and had lasted several generations.
From conversations with my father I learned that my family's connection with the Democratic family dated back to at least the Great Depression (Ignatiev, 2008). My father was not sure when my family had emigrated to the United States but he was sure that, at least in his side of the family, their political loyalty dated back to President Franklin Roosevelt (Kennedy, 1995). Like the parish priest, Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy were heroes and anyone speaking of them negatively was considered persona non grata in our household from that date forward. I grew up warning my friends of this and encouraged them to hold off on making any such comments. I always thought that such reverence was unusual but find myself adhering to the same beliefs now that I have reached adulthood.
This devotion to the Church and the Democratic Party was reinforced strongly at the various family functions that I attended growing up. On both sides of my family, large families were the rule and so I had numerous aunts and uncles and cousins. Holidays of all sorts, whether religiously-based or otherwise, were occasions for my family to gather with card playing, great food, and heavy drinking part of the festivities. Such events were not much different than spending the day at home with my parents. The activities were just larger. Every one of my aunts and uncles seemed to be clones of my parents in their political and religious leanings and this tendency extended to all of my cousins as well. There were a few exceptions but, generally, it was a large gathering of Catholic Democrats (Scott, 1997).
The unifying force in our family was definitely my grandparents. I never really knew my father's father but his mother and my mother's parents were at the center of our family's social life. I grew up being quite close to all three of them and their fairly recent deaths have impacted on me greatly. It was at their houses that I spend nearly every holiday and it was there that I developed my relationships with my other relatives. These relationships have figured significantly in who I have become and I am hopeful that once I begin having children of my own that I will be able to pass on this tradition of large family holiday gatherings onto my children.
In my immediate family I am the youngest of four children (Kaye, 2011) (Morris, 1998). My siblings, two half sisters and a brother are much older than I am and my relationship with all of them is good but not particularly close. There are a variety of reasons for this including the difference in years and this is something that has caused me concern for a number of years. I largely grew up alone with my parents. My sisters and brother would be there for Sunday dinners occasionally and I would see them at other family functions but on a day-to-day basis I lived the life of an only child. I wish that it would have been otherwise but being the only child did come with its benefits. I received the full attention of my parents and never had to suffer through dressing in hand me down clothes.
My father, believe it or not, was a police officer as were several of my uncles. In the small town where I was raised my father was a sort of a cult figure being one of only eight officers on the force but, in keeping with Irish tradition, several of my uncles who lived in large Eastern cities were also police officers (Bio.true story). This irony was lost on me growing up but I appreciate it now. My father's becoming a policeman had more to do with job availability than it did with his being Irish but the large number of policemen in my family cannot qualify as coincidence. As I understand it, police work was one of the few jobs available for the Irish when they first began coming to America and, apparently, this pattern has continued in my family.
My father's job was a steady one but not a well-paying one. As my mother did not work, we could not afford a large house but it was a comfortable home and, for me, it holds many wonderful memories (Macgregor, 2011). Memories that provide me with the comfort of knowing that I was loved and that my life was always secure. Home cooked meals, help with my homework, and a constant eye on my activities were not appreciated by me growing up but I now recognize how fortunate I was to have those guarantees in my life. Because money was often short in my home, I found myself wanting things that my friends and neighbors had but my parents never apologized or offered excuses. They provided me with what I needed and I learned in time that I the things that I often longed to own and which my parents could not afford were items that I really did not need. Not having them bothered me for the moment but the pain of not having them passed quickly. My parents provided well for me to the extent that they were able and I can state with total confidence that I had a great childhood and hope that I will be able to do the same for my own children.
Remembering the house that I grew up in causes me to think of how live has changed since I was little girl. Our house was nothing fancy but it was comfortable. It had few of all the modern conveniences that seemingly are "musts" in today's home. We all…