Sunday, October 31, 2010

When Two Worlds Meet

As is obvious to even the casual reader, we are not a cookie cutter family in the 'traditional' understanding of that phrase. In reality we are sooooooo very much a 'normal' American family but just not quite the Norman Rockwell painting one-dimensional version! From date one Patrick and I tried to navigate a path we could both be comfortable walking through life on given he was born in Ireland more than a decade before I was born in Chicago. It is actually an easier feat than would seem possible on first consideration. Even though he is a first order farm boy and I am a city girl...even though he left school at 13 and I studied constantly for 22 years...even though he wants burnt meat and mashed potatoes every meal and I'd rather enchiladas suiza or pork lo mein...we had a huge foundation in common. We were both "raised Irish"....

This phrase means so much more than leprechauns and Guinness. It means a lifestyle where family comes first no matter what especially in the worst of times.The race of people who developed and refined the concept of foster-care and blended families. A lifestyle where the spoken word is revered and 'visiting' always means hours of conversation. A lifestyle that not only weathers the emotional extremes of life but embraces the emotions of life. A lifestyle where the strong of mind stand equal with the strong in body no matter their gender. The race of people who epitomize the way to emigrate and blend into their adopted lands. Upon this foundation we happily started our life together.

Then the road presented us with a fork. A choice we needed to make. Do we stay on this well graded roadbed but travel it as a couple alone? Do we head off down a road of uncertain terrain but do it as a family of four? Well it's obvious that we "put a good leg under us" [as the Irish say!] and headed down that uncertain road!! And it is not anything near a smooth stretch of asphalt. It's not just the usual rockfalls that come with children but a slip-sliding, sand shifting path over which we are trying to bring four different families and three different cultures together into one. One of the ways we are trying to make this trip happen is by staying flexible on how we get there...meaning sometimes we do things the American way, and sometimes we do it the Irish way, and sometimes we do it the Guatemalan way! No one choice is "right" or "better" it's just the choice that works at the moment. Take for instance....Halloween. A holiday, that as practiced in the US, takes most of it's traditions from the ancient Irish druids beliefs about the relationship between the living world and the dead! Christianity reshaped the pagan practices and linked them to the feast days of All Saints and All Souls. Then the Christians set out to the New World and again reshaped the existing Mayan traditions to conform with the feast days. And us Mahoney's ?????

Well we DO IT ALL!!! As seen in the previous two posts, we dress up and trick-or-treat like Americans,  carve jack-o-lanterns and go to church like the Irish, and like the people of Guatemala we.....

decorate typical Americans that is!

We gather flowers and candles and set up an ofrenda!

We place food and drink out for the ancestors!

But we 'blend' the Irish and Guatemalan too! We place the mortuary cards of our dearly beloved along with worry dolls and skeletons and Celtic crosses. It make us happy so therefore it's the right way!

Then we light some candles and incense and turn off the lights and sit on the couch and reminisce about those who's cards adorn the altar.  The world of the living meeting the world of the embraced by a family knitted together by the 'worlds' of Ireland, Guatemala, the United States, childhood, adulthood, and adoption! It makes us happy so therefore it's right!!!!


  1. what a perfectly unique and personal tradition you have at the Mahoney homestead. I love that you celebrate Dia de los Muertos, and All Saint sand All Soulds and Halloween, and all together. I just love the homemade altar, so personally yours. so lovely. truly.

  2. Absolutely PERFECT post. I think the traditions in your family are perfect! love the blend! Maya is goign to wear her Dia de los Muertos dress on Tuesday! with layers underneath.