Being Irish used to fascinate me. It was impressive enough for me to band together with a couple of my classmates in fifth grade to present our heritage at our class's cultural fair. We had a corner of our room all decked out in shamrocks and leprechauns, and between the three of us we managed to create the tricolor flag from orange, white and green construction paper. With a little help from our parents, we baked a couple of sheets of Irish shortbread: shortening, flour and sugar in what I recall were equal amounts. We had a few visitors that day, but since there was nothing particularly foreign or dangerous about our exhibit. We ate a lot of our own shortbread that day.
The joke was on me, it seems, since years later after a painstaking study of our family's genealogy for my older brother's fiftieth birthday, it was discovered that our bloodlines did in fact go all the way back to the old country: Scotland. All those years of touting my right to pound an extra few pints because of my connections in the Emerald Isle were out the window. All the stories that I had accumulated over the years, most of at the foot of my father, turned out to be sadly mistaken. There is a county Cavan in Ireland, and while it is easy enough to twist a vowel as so many immigrants did on Ellis Island back in the day, or dropped the "augh" from the Cavan to describe our locality, that really wasn't the story of my family.
But it was a good story, and it held sway for forty-some years in my world. It was how I introduced myself. It was how I was identified. While I was suddenly left without an explanation for my affinity for U2, I inherited the Scottish associations of Rob Roy and and the brave heart of Mel Gibson. I am also anxious to sample the recipe for Scottish shortbread.