St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner.
Time to rekindle the family debate.
Let's set the scene.
It's 1961. I'm back in my bedroom.
The door is shut.
This is a good thing.
Little sisters have great difficulty turning a doorknob.
Hunched over my desk, I carefully assemble pieces of gray plastic. Soon, they will form a replica of a World War II-vintage destroyer.
"Mike," my dad yells from the living room. "Hey, Mike, let's go for a ride."
The pieces drop from my hand and fall back into the box. Capping the glue and grabbing my Sox cap, I race into the living room. My bedroom door slams behind me.
Dad's already in the car.
"See ya," I yell in my mother's direction as I head for the driveway.
Few things in life are better than jumping into the old Dodge on a Saturday afternoon and riding "shotgun" with my dad.
Just me and my dad.
No goofy sisters to get in the way.
"Where we goin' ?" I ask.
Dad just smiles as he turns his head and starts backing down the gravel drive.
Hey! I know where we're going. We've been this way before. We're heading into Chicago, back to the old neighborhood.
Dad's taking me to see the "old people."
I don't know their names.
They're much older than my dad. They speak with funny accents.
It's hard for me to understand what they're saying.
But my dad doesn't have any trouble. He smiles and sips a beer as they tell him stories -- about his father and the old days, when my dad was a boy.
Sometimes, after leaving the old people, my dad would take me to the neighborhood tavern.
He'd have a beer or two, and maybe a shot of whiskey, while he talked to the other men gathered there.
In those days, I didn't know much about beer or whiskey, only that my dad and the other men in the tavern seemed to enjoying drinking the stuff.
Strictly "kiddie" cocktails.
After a few hours, we'd jump back in the car and head home.
Dad always would tell me the same thing:
"Remember, no matter what your mother tells you, you're Irish. You remember that. You're Irish."
Other than on St. Patrick's Day, my mum, being from Cornwall in southern England, always talked up the Cornish- English-Scottish side of the family.
That would be HER side, of course.
"So, what are we?" I would ask, as she dressed my sisters and me in Kelly green every
St. Patrick's Day.
She answered the same way every time, "You're Celtic (pronounced Kell-tick in Chicago, never Sell-tick, the way they say it in Boston)."
Now, the debate within the family has raged for decades.
Just which of our Celtic bloodlines is the dominant?
Or, God forbid, English?
Anyway, with virtually no written records available to us, resolution has eluded us.
So, the debate continues today.
It only seems to have intensified over the years, especially so after dad died in the early 1990s.
It was then, after we buried him, that I learned he'd never told my mother exactly where we went on those Saturday afternoon "rides."
I had been sworn to secrecy, after all.
In just a few days, however, the family finally may have the answer to our Celtic quandary.
After years of hit-and-miss hunting, I think I've tracked down grandfather's death certificate.
Dad was barely 18 months old when his father, also named William Mooney, died of complications caused by a particularly virulent strain of tuberculosis, or so goes the family story.
So, my dad had no independent recollections of
That's why those trips he took me on were so important to him, I guess. He needed to know more about who he was and from where he had come.
And he felt it was important for his only son to know, too.
The copy of grandfather's death certificate should be arriving in my mailbox any day. But will it help resolve anything?
This much I do know.
Whatever it reveals about my grandfather's heritage won't change my outlook.
I'll let dad explain it to you the way he always explained it to me, "The Irish in you trumps everything else!"
Éireann go Brách!
Mike Mooney's column appears every Friday in Local News.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2384.