According to Ancestry DNA, I have about 20% of Irish DNA. Granted, it’s part of the 75% European piece of the Elissa pie, but it was enough green to shock me. I don’t know why it came as a shock. Since 1981 U2 has been my favorite band. My favorite part of summer camp were the counselors from Northern Ireland as a child. My affinity for all things Irish has been with me as long as I can remember. Even the men in my life have tended to be descended from the Emerald Isle, so why the big surprise?
I have always known I was adopted. There was never a time where I didn’t look around and think “They made this up.” I mean, if you saw my baby pictures, it was kind of obvious. The story always began with “We were so excited when the phone rang announcing your arrival.” Then it would lead into a theory that my birth mother was in the military, that she was too young to take care of me, that she was Mediterranean, and that I was in such a hurry to be born, I was born en route to the hospital in the ambulance. The story always ended with how much my family wanted me. That had to be made clear before we moved on to something else.
As I grew up, I began to notice that there were a few holes in the story. For example, how did we know she was in the military? The hospital where she received her care was a Naval hospital in Chelsea. My birth mother was a patient of a family friend who was her obstetrician. This family friend got in touch with my parents and that is how I was brought to Plymouth. It was never confirmed that she was in fact- part of the US Navy. That was assumed because you had to be in the Navy in order to be treated at this particular hospital. And why did she need to take an ambulance? Didn’t anyone drive?
When people would ask me my nationality, I would say that I was Mediterranean, because that was the answer for a while. After someone told me I looked French, I would say that I was part French. People would ask me if I was Italian. I didn’t think so. When I was in college I was asked if I was French Canadian. At the time people weren’t crazy about French Canadians so I didn’t want to be associated with that dislike. “Nope, the other kind of French.” I would reply, even though my looks said otherwise.
A few years later I went to Montreal with a friend. One night we were on the Tube, and I saw the reflection of a beautiful girl across from me in the mirrored glass. She had greenish eyes, reddish brown hair, and a medium complexion. I thought she was very pretty and was a little envious. Then my eyes caught my reflection right next to hers and I realized that we looked alike. I had the same complexion, hair color and eye color. Our builds were similar. Until that moment, I had been surrounded by people who did not resemble me whatsoever. I felt ugly until that moment where I realized that I shared this look with everyone around me.
That was a great day.
Earlier that summer, my cousin Larry helped me gain access to my birth certificate and I saw my birth mother’s full name for the first time. Patricia Therese Frappier. There it was. My French identity had been sealed with an accent ague. According to the papers, Patricia was living in Newburyport at the time. I was told later that it was a home for unwed mothers. This tells me that she was most likely from a Catholic family from the area. The blank signature line for the Father’s name also told me that she was alone. She took an ambulance to deliver me at the hospital because chances are she didn’t have anyone who could be with her. Her name was the only one on the certificate. He is a complete unknown. I had an idea of what half of me was, what was the other half made up of?
About 5 years ago, I decided to see what my DNA compilation album is and took the Spit Test that comes in the kit. I sent off my vial and didn’t think anything of it until an email found its way into my inbox with the results. 21% Native American. 20% Irish. Well, certainly explains a lot if you know me at all. Took “born to be an alcoholic” to a whole new level. I didn’t see ANY French Canadian, or a lot of Mediterranean. I did see some Greek, small percentage of Italian, and the token below 1% of African which supports the theory that modern humans began in Africa. Irish? Really? Wow. Native American? Even better.
Unfortunately, I know this is just a representation of what my makeup could be. I won’t really know anything until I hear more of my story. The DNA Pie does solve a few puzzles that I struggled with growing up so that was worth the $99 alone. Seeing a glimpse of who I am in such a unique way was truly breathtaking. The years of obsessing about Ireland makes sense to me now.
St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, as the legend goes. Snakes represent old ideas and practices that are considered undesirable and mostly likely were the Pagan religions that were competing with Early Christianity. St. Patrick drove away the snakes and darkness, and brought in the light. My snakes are self-doubt, depression, self-loathing, and insecurity. I want to continue this journey to find out more about my origins but I can sense the fear growing when I see possibilities of where I can find the truth. I don’t want fear to keep me from asking a retired OB questions about Patricia, even though he may be bound not to answer them. Either way, the snakes of discontent need to leave this island. They need to be driven out from under the rocks and dark corners. Today, on this St. Patrick’s Day, I am ready to drive them out.