My daughter was asking me today about St.Patrick and why he needed to drive away snakes. I was getting her ready for school at the time, selecting the proper combination of green to ward off pinches. I keep forgetting that her in Canada it is not verboten to discuss religion in schools, so Katy is often reciting to me the public school version of my own Catholic school education. To tell the truth, I don’t remember the circumstances that led up to Patrick’s expelling of the snakes. Patrick was not Irish but a missionary from Britain trying to convert the heathen Irish. His snake trick has more ties to the paganism in practice there at the time to anything he may have actually done. I told Katy I didn’t remember why which prompted another question. Ignorance is not an out. She just keeps asking questions until I know an answer.
“How did he drive out the snakes?”
“Who helped him?”
“So God was his assistant?”
I had to smile. It’s an odd way to put it but in a way she is right. God is just there for the assist. Everything else is up to us.
“Who is God?”
“He’s the one who created the universe.”
“How’d he do that?”
“I have no idea.”
This time she let me off the hook. Perfectly green and sure of her Irishness, she bounced off.
I’d forgotten that it was the 17th. St.Patrick’s isn’t one of those holidays I paid much attention to even as a child. As a teacher, I took care to remember the days when I was expected to wear specific colors, but the emphasis on drinking that is so heavily associated with the day where I grew up and where I settled as an adult, really turned me off to marking the holiday beyond color coordination. One of the things that struck me about today this year was that Katy knew she was Irish. She is more Irish in ethnic heritage than she is any thing else thanks to me. But, this is relatively new information. When I was a child and a teen, I wore green not really knowing if I was Irish in any part at all. Being adopted, I did what I had always done which was to adopt my parents genetic make-up as my own even though I was clearly different in most aspects from the physical to the intellectual to personality. I was in college when I learned that I was indeed half Irish though I suspected from my red hair and fair skin that I likely was. Still, it was such a big deal to be able to say that my ancestors came from Ireland. Mine. Not the ones I borrowed. People who gave me a true genetic link to that far away island.
It’s just an odd thing that came to me today in an innocent moment with my child.