In between checking out the many different peace protests planned for the St. Louis area, trying to decide if I want to participate in a planned civil disobedience protest at the local Boeing plant, I remembered that yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. Considering that I’m half Irish – really Irish, not the Kiss Me I’m Irish Irish – you might be a bit surprised that I didn’t flaunt the green. Well, to understand this, you need to know a bit of Powers clan history.
You see, my grandfather’s family left Ireland in the latter part of the 1800’s entering in the United States through Canada, where I still have distant cousins in the Novia Scotia area. Our first stop was in New Hampshire, specifically in the Portsmouth region where my grandfather met my grandmother, who happened to be a Pickering.
This could be a lovely tale of true love except for a wee problem – my grandfather’s family was strict Catholic and the Pickering’s were Protestant. In fact, the Pickering’s were old family in Massachusetts, old enough to be tainted with British blood, silver cup Protestant and all, but we don’t hold that against my grandmother. Over a bit of telling and a pint, Grandmother is as Irish as they come (ignoring all my distant cousins in Portsmouth).
However, when my grandfather married my grandmother, he pissed all sorts of relatives off, most of whom washed their hands of our family, on their way to their new home in Boston.
Now, my grandmother’s family wasn’t as opinionated about religion as my grandfather’s, but they thought my grandmother could do better than a shanty town Irishman. This is patently unfair because the Powers clan was good honest laborers, descended from Irish royalty. In fact, I still have distant cousins who work at the Waterford factory in Ireland. Instead of being shanty town Irish, we were lace curtain Irish I’ll have you know.
Regardless of the Pickering silver cup rejection of my lace curtain Irish grandfather, my grandmother was not a woman who liked to be pushed around and she married my grandfather over her family’s objections.
(I have a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I resemble her to a great deal, including the green eyes, dark auburn/silver Celtic hair, and height – she was close to six feet tall and this is at the turn of the century.)
Still, it’s hard to make a start when surrounded by such disapppointment. The only thing for the newly created Powers-Pickering clan to do at this point was to move to the west and to become Episcopalian.
(Now, Grandmother wasn’t the only Pickering to move west. From what my father has told me, I have distant cousins all throughout the west, including one known to be a horse thief in Yakima. Dad said he was hung. Strung up. Hanged by the neck until no longer kicking.)
After moving to Seattle, my grandfather started a auto repair place in Seattle and he and my grandmother began a family consisting of four boys and one girl (who later became a Jehovah Witness). It wasn’t long after my youngest uncle was born that my grandmother died. This broke my grandfather’s heart and he turned to drink, eventually drinking himself into an early grave. My father and his brothers and sister were shipped out to various family members to raise at that point.
My father and one of his brothers spent a fair amount of time with one uncle who was a fur trapper, living in the back woods of Canada. My Dad liked the cabin, though he got a bit tired of the snow after a time. My mother still has the old snow shoes my father used to wear to get around in during his stay in Canada. Eventually, though, the family thought my father and his brother needed to learn a bit more than fur trapping, so he found a relatively permanent home with my great aunt, my grandfather’s sister, in Seattle.
Now, where does this all lead back to my not celebrating St. Pat’s day? Well, you see, I found out most of this history when another cousin removed was doing geneaology research as part of her conversion to the Mormon faith. She contacted the Irish Catholic cousins in the Boston area during her efforts, telling them of her conversion in the process. Well, this so offending that part of the family that they vowed never to have anything to do with those of us who gave up the Godly ways of the one, true church, to live a life of heathenish sin in the west.
Well, the Powers-Pickering clan isn’t what you would call overly sensitive or refined, but even we know a rebuff when we get one. We vowed to never darken their doors again, and rejected all aspects of our Irish Catholic heritage. Just the mention of St. Patrick or the wearing o’ the green and you can see the hairs rise on the back of any number of second, third, and fourth cousins necks. We’d sooner vote Republican.
So while the rest of you were doing your best to get drunk on ale and stout and green beer, and eating boiled dinner, and watching lithesome young maids dancing about, I was at home quietly refraining from any such nonsense, preferring to spend my time listening to the President.
And you can believe every bit of this story, because I’m Irish, and we Irish, we never tell tales.
Next time, remind me to tell you about my Welsh grandfather who could sing like a prince, and had magic in his soul.