My grandparents on my mother’s side came here with nothing from Ireland and ended up in the Bronx. I always loved visiting them from Long Island because their cramped apartment seemed so exotic with its steam radiators, airshafts, and dumbwaiters for moving the trash. When we went to visit we would always have roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, which was the special occasion fare laid out by Grandma. I’ve tried to recreate that meal at home, but I can’t exactly get it right.
I wish I could repeat the stories they told me of life back in the old country, but truth is their Irish brogues were so thick that I could barely understand a word they said. But I do remember this: when something was especially good, my grandmother pronounced it, “Grand.” That I understood. As for everything else, she might as well have been speaking Hungarian —the language of my wife’s parents when they managed to escape here from Europe.
I’ll tell you what’s grand: that with all our trouble, we still live in a country that’s run to —not away from. Sure we have problems, but that people are still willing to risk everything to get here says something about America, doesn’t it?
Whether you’re name is O’Malley, Kowalski, Rosales, Chung, or Habib: spend a moment celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. You may not be Irish, but one way or another you’re an immigrant.