I spray my hair green every St Patrick’s Day. I fancied that I was at least half Irish, but couldn’t resist the temptation to get my DNA read. I thought it would be a really fun thing for my family to all send in our DNA, with a surprise reveal on Thanksgiving.
I read up on it, and came away with the impression it could take up to four months for the DNA to get processed, so I bought the kits in July and demanded everyone spit in the tube forthwith. Four of us did. My son and his lovely wife gently declined.
I did not see that coming, but understood intellectually their concern about sending their DNA out there into the ozone, not knowing where, or with whom, it might end up. I still struggle to stop living like it’s 1960, when such concerns did not exist. I know. That’s living dangerously these days. Still, it made me a little sad. And I was still curious just how Irish and/or German I was.
Meanwhile, the results came rolling in within weeks. Now the decision was whether to wait and make the reveal an event or satisfy our extreme curiosity. Curiosity won. It quickly became clear that there were no real surprises lurking in my gene pool. Based on our predictable heritage, having my son participate was almost unnecessary.
I was gleeful to confirm that my incredibly fair-skinned husband did, indeed, have a large chunk of Scandinavian in him. He always insisted he was just French Huguenot, but one look at his total lack of melanin said otherwise to me.
I was a bit crushed to find that I was less Irish than I thought, presuming 50 percent, since my dad, his mom and dad and their moms and dads were straight from the Emerald Isle. Irish, it seems, is a rather vague definition. This makes perfect sense, of course, based on how Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England are cheek-by-jowl with one another, never mind all the raping and pillaging in European history. Everybody traveled everywhere and, well, made friends.
So, I am allegedly 32 percent Irish, Welsh, Scottish and 26 percent Northern European, which is basically my mother’s German-Dutch lineage. The other 22 percent was British, which seems a logical mix with the Irish, Welsh and Scottish. The remaining portion included some charming wanderer from Spain or Portugal. I wish he’d been around during Spanish class. In the really small bits, there were hints of Finnish, Russian, Italian and Greek. Clearly, my ancestors were open-minded and equal-opportunity procreators.
The final blow was that my buxom, blonde daughter, who looks just exactly like every one of my maternal German-Dutch aunts, is more Irish than I am. She will enjoy gloating about that for some time to come, but it should lead to some terrific St. Patrick’s Day parties.
In fact, I see the entire exercise as a great excuse to celebrate even more international holidays. So prost, slainte, na zdrowie, kippis and salud! One of my relatives is bound to be throwing a party somewhere.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who now admits she’s something of a mutt. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.