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I hang my head a little as I admit my family doesn't do much to preserve or celebrate cultural traditions or heritage.
An uncle on my mother's side is heavy into genealogy and has traced the family back to the 1300s in France. A distant cousin on my father's father's side has traced us back to the 1500s in Germany. On my father's mother's side--now that's where the Irish fits in. I embrace my Irishness more than any other piece of my ethnic puzzle. I always have.
When I was in 7th grade, my social studies teacher lit my imagination and passion for Ireland. When an opportunity presented itself to study there in 1987, I was thrilled to take it. It was my first international flight, my first time away from family for an extended time, and the first time that no one knew me from my family.
During my trip, a distant local relative connected me with some Irish relatives. It was surreal to meet family I didn't know existed (they knew we existed)! And it was really cool that I was living in the county my family came from.