I looked up in surprise. I’d only just opened the door to the office when the receptionist blurted those words. Maybe it’s the green hair… maybe it’s my features or skin colour. I’ll never know.
“I’m [insert my real and very Irish name here],” I said awkwardly. “I’m here for my bone density test.”
I could argue that I’m only a quarter Irish… but which quarter? That amount seems so much smaller than the great-grandmother I clearly remember. I sleep in the same bed she once did and curled up on her lap when I was small. Her croon comes out when I cuddle small children or animals.
“You sound Irish,” one of my fellow patients commented as I sang a lullaby one night.
“My Nana and Nanaimo Nana sang like that to me,” I replied simply.
I’m a mixture of English, Irish, and Scottish but how do you measure and by what? Are my eyes English? My hair Scottish? How do we divide ourselves into parts? Each ancestor is important, no matter how far back. Every one of them has value. They all have some part in my existence, just as I’ll have some part in every child who goes on beyond my children. If one of my ancestors didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here.
When I look at myself, I don’t see parts, I see me. I wasn’t born with national borders or clan colours or family crests imprinted on my DNA; each part of me is melded together, woven into blood, sinew, and flesh. A tapestry of various threads… all combining into one whole.
Yes, I’m Irish, and Canadian, and English, and Scottish (and likely a whole jumble of other cultures as well, right down to Neanderthal ancestors sharpening stone blades by firelight). I’m all of those at the same time, all in the same blood.
I remember my hand in my great-grandmother’s. How her skin was paper thin and soft. How her breath smelled like her favourite white peppermints. I am not a quarter of her ancestry. She is bigger than that. I am a part of her and she’s a part of me. I’m 100% part of every person who came before me. We are all canvases woven with the threads of family, blank slates waiting to be painted by time.