March is Irish-American Heritage Month, and Geri is Sojourn’s Irish Princess! The oldest of seven, Geri’s sparkling eyes, energetic spirit, and fiery hair all proclaim her heritage. For Geri, her mother is the heart and soul of her Irish heritage. “I have these deep, wonderful feelings when I think of my mother,” she tells us, and whisks us away to 20th century Ireland with her stories.
Olive skinned and black haired, Mary Ryan was a rare Irishwoman in the usually pale gene pool. She grew up in a small village outside of Dublin and lived there until she met a young American soldier on leave during World War II. After falling in love, he brought her back to his family farm in North Dakota.
Geri often wonders about her mother’s transition from Irish to American soil, shifting from emerald hills to flat, golden plains. American food, with its bounty and variety, was a big shock for Mary! Geri fondly remembers one Irish dish that survived the cultural shift—rice pudding, seasoned with raisins and cinnamon. But Mary didn’t formally teach her children about their Irish heritage; Geri sought out information for herself.
After reading about Ireland for many years, Geri finally traveled to Ireland with her sisters in the early 2000s. They visited their ancestral home, explored Dublin, and enjoyed the local culture—especially the castles! It was an eye-opening experience that revived her interest in her heritage—and her love for her mother. By diving into Ireland, Geri learned more about Mary, falling in love with her and the Emerald Isle all over again.
Geri encourages all people to study their heritage. “The way you live your life is affected by your cultures,” she reminds us. Heritage is an interesting and valuable part of identity. While learning about your family, you might learn something about yourself!