While looking for good reading this season I was reminded of a book that I had enjoyed not too long ago. The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh by Janet Nolan is a heart-warming story of one Irish immigrant family's way of honoring their roots. At the time of the great famine, a young boy on his journey from Ireland whittles a shillelagh. After his arrival in America, each St. Patrick's Day he takes out the stick and reminds himself of the journey, later sharing the story with his son. Through the passing down of the shillelagh and the simple telling of the story from father to son and daughter (in successive generations), the family's heritage is kept alive from year to year, generation to generation.
I can't help but wonder after reading this book just what my own immigrant ancestor's journey to America was like, and what successive generations knew about his arrival and his early life in the United States. I know one thing for sure: if I had an original memento from his trip (such as the shillelagh in the book), I would give it museum-quality care. What an heirloom that would be!
As I continue to write about my own family's history, I'll take to heart the words spoken by the grandfather in The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh:
"A good story never has to end as long as someone remembers to keep telling it."