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Some of you may know that I, like Joe Biden, have strong ties to Scranton, PA.

Actually, my entire family came from County Mayo, Ireland to that hard working, coal-mining, Catholic city in Lackawanna County generations ago. My paternal grandfather owned a successful butcher shop, and his parents and grandparents before him owned cattle. They were landowners, they could read and write – I know now because it’s all on the census lists over a century ago and I’m on Ancestry.com!

They are all buried in Cathedral Cemetery, at the top of a hill, in Scranton.

What does it mean to come from a particular place?

Even though I left Scranton at a young age, my foster parents, Nell and Daddy Jim, crossed the Delaware Water Gap for a visit with the Flapper, who still couldn’t walk, week after week, year after year. What, if anything, did I take away from Scranton?

I learned early not to complain, to get on with a task I didn’t like doing. It didn’t matter if I wanted to do something else, when it was time to wash my hair for instance, I did it. The Flapper told me that the most beautiful girls in the world came from Pennsylvania! Just look at Grace Kelly! Maybe that’s why she would always pull my wet hair back into “princess braids,” and if I complained she would say we had to suffer to be beautiful.

I gained a certain confidence in Scranton, a sense of self reliance. I remember my Nana telling me that Dolly Madison ice cream was the best ice cream in the world! She would give me money to walk to the store for her, all by myself, and I’d have to count out the change at the store and when I returned. I was only eight or nine, but she trusted me.

I learned that my family expected the best in me. They gave me ballet lessons and my sister Kay was my Professor Higgins; drilling my Jersey accent out of me. .Nana proudly took me to see my very first movie, Picnic in 1955. I was seven years old. She said that children don’t usually go to the movies, but she trusted me not to run up and down the aisles. I didn’t.

Self-sufficiency and fierce independence were highly prized commodities in Scranton. My elderly aunts pickled vegetables. The steps to the cellar were lined with shelves filled with chow chow and other strange sounding things. Kay would love to tell us the story of forcing Nana to give up her ice box because she bought her a new-fangled refrigerator.

Biden had to leave Scranton at the age of 10 because his father found a job in Delaware, but his Irish Catholic roots, like mine, ran deep.

“…his (Biden’s) great-great-grandfather had moved to northeastern Pennsylvania in 1851 after emigrating from Ireland. Scranton was where his grandparents, and his parents, had met, he said. After moving away in the fourth grade, he continued to spend most of his summers and holidays there, visiting his mother’s family in the same middle-class, predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood where he had spent his early years.

“My mother would go on to live in Delaware more than 50 years, but when you asked Jean Finnegan where she was from, she’d say ‘Scranton,’” he added.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/21/trump-biden-scranton-pennsylvania-deserted-delaware/

It’s funny, but Great Grandma Ada always says she’s from Brooklyn, even though she left it 75 years ago.

I might still be living in Pennsylvania if not for The Year of Living Dangerously.

Pennsylvania carries 20 votes in the Electoral College, and is now considered a swing state. Mr T won the state in 2016 by less than one percentage point. Its residents are from the salt of the earth; descendants of coal miners and yes, small business owners like “The Office.” They are a loyal, proud bunch, not afraid of hard work. And they can smell a con from miles away.

Here is a picture of the L’il Pumpkin’s first day at Kindergarten. As Biden would say, “C’MON”!IMG_8148

 

 

 

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This weekend we had our very first double sleepover. We picked up both Grandkids around lunchtime Saturday and returned them to their grateful parents on Sunday. Bob warned me not to get my hopes up, four year olds may meltdown at bedtime and need to go home in his PJs. I however, would have none of that thinking, we were going to have so much fun, my L’il Pumpkin would forget where he was and sleep like an angel. Which, spoiler alert, they both did!

When we arrived at our townhouse it was cold and drizzly with an Amazon box on the front porch. I’d been collecting beads and jewelry making tools for the Love Bug for awhile now, and had recently found a cute craft box for her. She is very much like my daughter, her Mama; type A, hyper-organized, in love with the Container Store. I knew she’d love her craft box, but I needed something for her brother.

Thank goodness for two day delivery service. I ordered a small tackle box and a bunch of kid-sized real tools for the L’il Pumpkin. I had a plan but forgot to tell Bob about it, luckily he pitched right in – explaining each tool, then trudging up the steps together, they began “fixing” things, including the squeaky daybed he and his sister would be sleeping on that night!

I know – raising gender neutral kids is new to me, though I did help the Pumpkin make a Black Panther necklace!

Then we went out for a trek in Ms Berdelle’s Secret Garden. We searched in the misty rain for Tinkerbell trim – small, delightful pieces of nature to design and  construct a fairy house: pine cones, bark, leaves, dead flowers, berries, stones, snail shells. Anything glorious and small would do. I didn’t dig up moss for a thatched roof because Bob said it’s still living and we’re not arguing anymore over little things like that.

Every summer at Camp St Joseph for Girls I loved hiking through the woods and coming upon a fairy circle; a large, round patch of sumptuous moss surrounded by ferns in the dappled sunlight. I’m sure my love of mystery and magic began there in the Catskill Mountains many years ago.

When we returned home I started cooking dinner for four again! Mrs Zimmerman’s shallot chicken, mashed potatoes (little clouds), and broccoli (little tress). At Nana and Pop Bob’s house they can watch TV while I’m cooking and eat as little or as much as they want. It warmed my heart to see how much these two love butter! We followed that up with popsicles because we’re saving popsicle sticks for the fairy house. Then we played a good game of Alphabet Fish and the Li’il Pumpkin won!

After pulling out the trundle bed, we read my Editor Lisa Winkler’s book about a girl named Zimmerman, “Amanda at Bat” https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-at-Bat-Lisa-Winkler/dp/1533240094  It is a wonderful story about speaking up and making sure your voice is heard. And their eyes were starting to droop by the end of “Escargot,” while the Frozen night light sent its bat signal onto the ceiling of our 2nd bedroom. Good Night Room.

Long story semi-short, we all slept like babies and Bob made blueberry pancakes in the morning. Then we high-tailed it off to Great Grandma Ada and Hudson’s apartment to build our fairy house. Bob and I had made an executive decision to skip Hebrew School, sorry cousin Nancy! We’ve made a brave start jockeying a glue gun like nobody’s business, and we’re relying on Hudson to carve a tiny crooked fairy door. We have a very special tree stump in mind… then the Bride arrived to pick them up.

I was going to write about orchid and dandelion children. How one needs special care and an exquisite environment, while the other will flourish no matter where they find themselves. That’s the program I was listening to on NPR when I sat down to write, an old rehash of nature vs nurture. My Love Bug was definitely a wild orchid baby, the kind who would wake at the sound of a pin dropping, while her brother could sleep through a smoke alarm.

And I realized that I was a mixture of the two, a child who was smothered by my foster mother Nell, and never allowed to have a sleepover, yet my St Joseph camp mates could never wake me when it was time to head out into the night looking for trouble. But don’t worry, I found my own trouble eventually!

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Who gets to define you? My first step into studying Buddhism asked this very question in a different way – how would you describe yourself? Easier maybe than a definition. I’m a nana and mother, a writer, a wife, stringer etc…easy. These are the simple ways, stating what you DO in the world rather than who you are!

An old friend from high school was visiting this weekend, and though our hair has turned a pale blondish white, we stood out in high school because we were both redheads. Being a “Redhead” has a certain cache. But when I was little I hated my hair, I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and belong. I wanted black hair like Snow White!

Edie and I were also both raised as the one and “Only” child in our families. Does that define us?

I woke up this morning to National Geographic’s special edition on Race through an Instagram video. They contend that science defines us by our DNA, but the environment, our culture defines us by the color of our skin. Their mission is to make us re-examine that paradigm; their example was a pair of fraternal twin girls, about ten years old.

The April edition of the magazine, The Race Issue, features a pair of black and white fraternal twin sisters from the United Kingdom, Marcia and Millie Biggs, on the cover (more here). The Biggs twins on the cover are a catalyst for readers to rethink what they know about race. The full issue is available now at natgeo.com/TheRaceIssue.

Now you know, and I know my DNA because I spit in a tube and sent my sample to Ancestry. Although I really didn’t need to know I was almost 100% Irish, because the priest at Sacred Heart School always told me I had the map of Ireland on my face! And I was mortified whenever he picked me out in class, although I’m sure it was meant as a compliment.

When our L’il Pumpkin was born with my exact shade of flaming strawberry blonde hair I was determined to help him feel proud about his carrot top. Well either that or ignore it altogether. But how will his ghostly white skin affect his journey through life? Will his schoolmates tease him when he’s putting on sunscreen before playing baseball? Will he yearn to have brown skin like some of his friends?

I remember when we visited Duke on the Bride’s college tour, and the Rocker, only 13 at the time, watched a group of African students walk by in colorful traditional dress. He thought it was so cool. Isn’t this what we want for our children, to enlarge their cultural influences, to expand their minds beyond a neighborhood of white privilege.

With our nation so divided – by political party, by religion, by geography – I wonder if we can turn inward to see what in fact we all share. Has Mr T unleashed this underbelly of white-neo-nazi terror in order to make us choose sides? Can we reject that? I choose to embrace our common sense of decency and civility, our humanity. We ALL want better schools for our children, schools without guns and active shooter drills. We ALL deserve comprehensive healthcare.

America, in our many shades of white/beige/brown/black, is at a tipping point. On the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder, I remember marching in the streets of Boston with my black armband. I was a college student then, and I would have defined myself as a “Dancer!”

Here is our superhero Spiderman. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to see Black Panther.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day to you and yours. It doesn’t matter if you make corned beef and cabbage tonight, or soda bread – recipe for the authentic loaf here: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to-make-real-irish-soda-bread.aspx

And it’s OK not to wear green, or drink a green beer, or eat a green bagel either.

Just pucker up and kiss me if you see me today, cause I’m Irish and worthy of a little smooch!

The priest at Sacred Heart Parish told me I had “The map of Ireland all over your face!” One of my first memories in fact, after Sister Mary Claire in 1st Grade smacking my knees with a ruler for chewing gum in Mass, was being singled out in class for my looks. Nobody laughed, thankfully. The priest’s comment was meant as a compliment I’m sure, but it left me wishing I could blend into the woodwork.

With my red hair, and the freckles all over my nose…I prayed for dark hair, to be like everyone else.

But that didn’t work, and so I grew into my Irishness. After all, it’s rare today to find anyone 100% anything, we are all a conglomeration of ethnic genes in this country, a rainbow of assimilated cultures. Our diversity is what makes us strong. And my wish has come true btw, we have a little ginger grandson! Who is so handsome, the Bride will need a shillelagh to beat the girls away from him (this was a saying in the Flapper’s house about my brother Michael, (let it be said I’m against domestic violence of any sort)!!

And for the first time ever, this year the LGBT community could march in the Boston parade. So let’s all celebrate today because we’ve got a great Pope, the crocus are up, and Spring is right around the corner. Because it’s good for the species to be different. Yesterday it was 80 in Cville!

And I’ll raise a glass of tea to Bob, who is like a saint. He can single-handedly remove poisonous snakes from our yard and find anything I happen to lose.

Here is a picture of me with the Lynn matriarch in Ballina County Mayo, “God Help Us.” I was just getting over West Nile on my first trip to Ireland, and this is our family’s ancestral home on 600 acres. The barn is bigger than the house, and like the Irish people, our hearts are bigger than anything!  Chris and Mary Gilboy Old Homestead 20150317 BIf you’d like to follow my Kiss Me I’m Irish Board on Pinterest, I’m @mpjamma

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I am going to sit on a rock near some water

The Ivy Farms Book Club has asked its members to bring a poem to share at the next meeting. I chose to bring a poem by Billy Collins, our ex-Poet Laureate, who will be a keynote speaker at the KilKenny Arts Festival in Ireland this year. http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/billy-collins-when-i-start-a-poem-i-assume-the-indifference-of-readers-1.1891332?page=1

“When I start a poem, I assume the indifference of readers,” he says. “That there might even be a touch of hostility. There is a line from a Patrick Kavanagh poem that really resonates. It goes: ‘Tomorrow’s Wednesday. Who cares?’ Well, the reader can’t be expected to be interested in your life, the life of a stranger. The job of the poet is to seduce the reader, to make sure they are interested, to make something happen for them that is unexpected.”

When I write I rarely think about the reader, about cajoling her or him to like me or the content. I admit as a journalist I sometimes did, but today I write to make sense of things, I write to flex a muscle in my mind. I figure if the reader doesn’t like what I’m saying, he’ll stop reading! I hope this doesn’t seem cruel dear reader, but I’d rather not presume anything as I begin to write. That’s why I won’t check email or social media when I sit at my desk – later for that. I like to leave that morning space open for the muse of inspiration which will sometimes take hold of my fingers and take me in another direction.

Still I understand poetry may need a bit of a nudge. I like Mr Collins simply because he abhors obscurity or obfuscation in his verse. If he happens to be chopping parsley while listening or thinking about something else, it will find its way into his poem. And he is not writing for someone in an ivory tower, he feels the need to “seduce” us, the general public, with his words. And who doesn’t like to be seduced?

and I am going to stop talking

Last night Bob and I were laying out on the deck in total darkness, we were moon bathing. We wanted to see some shooting stars because it was time for the Perseid meteor shower. It was a perfectly clear night; we stopped talking and watched the enormity of the sky and its brilliant stars. On cue, stars began streaming from one spot in the solar system to another, in the constellation Leo, lying northeast of our ridgeline. I began to understand VanGogh. images

Then Bob said, “Do you hear that?” It was the sawing, symphonic sound of tree frogs chittering away at the edges of our star show. And the silence was broken as he told me more about his boyhood time at Four Bridges, and how much he loved that sound in the midsummer night.

I Love the sound of your voice

like a little saxophone

telling me what I could never know

unless I dug a hole all the way down

through the core of my self 

That was a verse in Collins’ poem “Orient. The other snippets are from “A Question About Birds.”                    Everyday Moments Caught in Time  

Sitting on a Bench to Watch Geese

Sitting on a Bench to Watch Geese

 

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We’ve all heard them. Ethnic jokes weave seamlessly through our society. I cut my teeth on Polish jokes, like, “How many Poles does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” I didn’t even know any Polish people, but I sat with the Irish girls in the mess hall at Camp St Joseph. And we had a distinct rivalry with the Italian girls. Just don’t ask me to tell a joke, I’ll screw up the punch line before you can say “Was that supposed to be funny?”

Then I married a Jewish guy. And one day in the 90s, when the Bride was studying to be a Bat Mitzvah, I found myself in the Temple when the world’s first woman rabbi, our very own Monmouth Reform Rabbi Sally Priesand, gave us a lecture sermon about Jewish American Princess (JAP) jokes. Priesand-SallyShe told us they weren’t really funny, they were distortions of a stereotype. They were ugly, thinly veiled anti-woman, antiSemitic nonsense that we would perpetuate by spreading around our community.

Sally said these jokes are insulting, and she asked us to stop someone who was telling a JAP joke, and explain our distaste. “Silence and indifference” helped fuel hatred around Europe in the buildup to WWII…I saw the light.

I had always hated dumb blond jokes. My feminist fire was forged on this stuff! I thought sexist, ethnic humor had been laid to rest, finally. But now we have a Bravo series about Long Island Princesses that is equally stupid and insulting. And recently I received one of those long email forwards titled, “On Being Jewish.” Maybe you’ve seen it in your inbox?

Q: Have you seen the newest Jewish-American-Princess horror movie?
A: It’s called “Debbie Does Dishes.”

There were lots more where that came from, and I challenged the sender. I told her that I find that kind of humor offensive. I deleted it. I think she understood.

On this 50th Anniversary of the assassination of our first Irish American President, I came across this article about Irish jokes in the Irish Central online magazine. And now I have to think about the subtle things we say about being Irish. Even our new VA Gov Terry McAuliffe was quoted: “as an Irish Catholic I’m adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done.” Let’s all stop perpetuating stereotypes shall we.

Now a female priest and a male rabbi walk into a bar….hey with this Pope, we can dream can’t we.

Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/Top-insulting-Irish-signs-and-jokes-need-to-stop-PHOTOS-232720221.html#ixzz2lZWNDfYX
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook

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We’ve been to Ireland twice. The first time right after I survived my bout with West Nile, and the second time was to take the newly graduated Bride on a trip to our ancestral homeland. It was my brother, Michael E, who dug up the Lynn Family tree. The original Michael J Lynn has his portrait on a wall in some bank in Pawley County, PA. It is said he was a “…Democrat, broad and liberal in his views, …filled the offices of collector, an overseer of the poor, and overseer of roads.”

He was a son of a cattle dealer in Ireland, who came over from Mayo to Scranton, PA in 1854 with “…four pounds sterling.” Or about $20. Starting out in the coal mines, he built a mini-empire of farming, lumbering and a butchering business; he owned over 200 acres of land. Michael H Lynn was the second born son, one of 15 children. My Grandfather took over the cattle business. I believe it was frowned upon when my Father, Robert, decided to study pharmacy instead of the meat business. And it was doubly frowned upon by his family when my Father married the Flapper. A widow with 2 children. She may not have been born high enough for their Irish Catholic tastes.

The Irish Cousins


Mary Gilboy is our remaining cousin in Ballina, Ireland; she is a beautiful woman, a widow in her 80s. She was a teacher of Irish who lives on the sheep farm her Husband worked with her son, John. They have a black and white border collie who likes to wind down a day of sheep herding by watching TV in the evening. She has 2 daughters, Deirdre and Fiona. Deirdre owns the “Wild Haven” youth hostel on Achill Island, and Fiona’s family make rugs in the Gaelic way: http://www.ceadogan.ie/.
Mary has brought us to see the Lynn Family Homestead and been wonderfully hospitable on our visits.

The Irish Christmas package is speeding along across the ocean with my long letter and a few CDs of “Dogs” for the kids. And now I can feel the ancient pull of family, the tidal yearning for belonging. No matter the separation, we Lynns are a strong and brave breed.

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