“What are you?”
“I know that, but what ARE you – where did your family come from?”
That’s the moment in the standard getting-to-know-you conversation that I realize they are not looking for the answer I want to give: My family is from Ohio and I was born in Columbus.
They want to know if I’m Italian, German, Irish, Polish or some other place of consistent ethnic identity. For my wife, this part of the conversation is easy; she is 100 percent genetically Italian.
For my kids, because they are 50 percent Italian and 50 percent the mangled mix that I am, they say they are Italian. That’s OK with me.
That’s because I’m not really sure about me. I know that the first member of my dad’s family to arrive in America fought in the Revolutionary War. And most people would be proud to say that. Unfortunately, in my case the guy fought as a mercenary on the British side.
Between the ignominious start and today the family on both sides (my mom and dad) has harbored a motley mix of various nationalities. German seems to be the dominant background, but the name was changed from Fehr to Fair at some point when it was more favorable to be of English than German heritage. There are rumors of Bavarian, Hessian, English, Dutch and, perhaps, a snipped of Irish in the gene pool.
In reality, I don’t know, so I’ve always answered the “where are you from” question with, “mostly German.”
However, this is changing from now through St. Patrick’s Day and for the rest of 2015. As of now, I’m Irish (at least partly). And this isn’t because of that possible splotch of Irish DNA in my history.
No, it is because this year my son, Lance, is marrying a beautiful Irish woman, Karen Brady, and they will make their home in Ireland. We’re making plans for the trip to the wedding. It will be a very Irish affair. And as part of it all, I hereby claim to be Irish by association, affiliation and implication. I promise to do my best not to be a disgrace.