Dear Lin- I've married into a South Side Irish family Do I cook the potatoes and carrots with the corned beef or separately?
Where is your husband? I mean in the order. If he’s 9th out of 9, he’s either going to be self-sufficient or completely helpless. Does he ask you questions like, ‘Where are my socks?’
By the time the 9th kid rolls around it doesn’t matter if you’re South Side Irish or Northwest Side Polish, you’re left to fend for yourself. You wanna eat some legos?
You want to run down the stairs with scissors.
No one’s gonna stop you.
If he’s first out of nine, he may be bossy. He had to be.
“Sean, we’re going out for a bit. You’re in charge of the kids.”
Oh sure. They’ll listen to their big brother.
“Marty, it’s time you went to bed.”
“You go to bed, pimple head.”
South Side Irish means that you don’t ask what neighborhood someone is from; you ask what Parish they’re from.
With South Side Irish knowing names is not enough. What are their nicknames? Michael might be Skinny, Peter might be Bubba. There’s a Ziggy. There’s a Killer who truth be told probably didn’t kill anybody.
What about families where six sisters all have names that start with Mary. Mary Frances, Mary Colleen, Mary Margaret.
Work on the names. They’re important.
You will need whiskey. Except for Father Jack. He gave up drinking 30 years ago. Or so he says.
Not Scotch whiskey. Not bourbon whiskey. Irish Whiskey. Good Irish Whiskey. That you can pour in a glass neat. For a toast. There will be a toast. There is always a toast.
Have you been to Ireland? Conversations about vacation time will be awkward until you can rave about the fish and chips with a little curry sauce at Harrington’s in Dingle. Oh you went to Jamaica last year? No one cares.
There’s a parade. The South Side Irish Parade. It’s a neighborhood affair, but if you grew up in Beverly and moved to West Virginia for some godforsaken reason, the South Side Irish parade brings you and your husband and your cute little kids back to Western Avenue. No matter what. The parade is a rite of passage. A family reunion. A restrained bacchanalia. If it’s warm and sunny, it can get out of hand. And after the parade, everybody has a party in their backyard.
One year I jumped off the XRT parade float and dragged a small entourage to a few parties. We were looking for someone’s house. Let’s call him Cowboy. I think it’s here on 108th Place, I said. All of a sudden someone yelled ‘Hey Lin’ and sure enough a half a block away, there was a crowd around a house and I said ‘That must be it.’
We were served beer and whiskey and corned beef sandwiches. And my friend Jimmy knew the old guy who used to coach high school football because… well, I forget. We had the best time but after about two hours I realized I didn’t know any of these people. This was not Cowboy’s house. It was just hospitality.
Do you cook the potatoes and carrots with the corned beef or separately? You ask your brother in law on the job with the Chicago Fire Dept. because they make the best corned beef in the world.
And remember this.
South Side is a just a direction. Irish is forever.