Our Irish eyes were smiling March 14, 2010Posted by Christine Coleman in Family.
My family celebrates St. Patrick’s Day each year. It’s my Mom’s birthday – and her maiden name was Pat O’Brien, which practically makes it a requirement to celebrate – plus there’s the local St. Patrick’s Day Grand Parade each year. (It’s known for being the only two-state parade in the United States.) My niece Samantha’s birthday is the 14th, adding another cause for celebration – especially when the parade coincides with her birthday as it has the past two years.
Yesterday was the 2010 parade. It wasn’t the best weather, with the threat of rain and windy and cool conditions, but we bundled up and met at our traditional gathering spot. There were ten of us this year, the usual gang. Occasionally one of my brothers will go, some years my aunts from Chicago are here.
Last year was the biggest group ever, yet attending that parade was bittersweet. It was on Samantha’s birthday, something she’d been eagerly anticipating for weeks. She’d made a sign that said it was her birthday, decorating it with a leprechaun and shamrocks, and wanted the Elvises to sing to her. (They’re a group of guys who attend local events dressed up in their white jumpsuits and plastic black pompadours.) Two days before Samantha’s birthday and the parade, my Dad passed away. Our celebration continued, however – and the Elvises did sing “Happy Birthday” to Samantha. It ended up being a nice day.
This year Samantha made another sign, now announcing that tomorrow is her birthday. She received attention for it during the parade, with plenty of people telling her happy birthday and giving her beads. Candy is no longer the appeal for the nieces and nephews at the parade – the beads are. And the distribution of beads at the parade, a relatively recent phenomenon, has grown each year. It started out with just green beads several years ago. Now there also are red, blue, purple, silver and gold that seem more Mardi Gras than St. Patrick’s Day. No matter the color, collecting the most is what’s important. To keep with the family’s baseball rivalry, I always wear my Cardinals beads from the 2004 NLCS. This year Lily wore her Cub beads.
Following the parade, it was our traditional lunch together. Once unbundled from our warm clothing, we could finally see what green shirts everyone was wearing this year – because green clothing is absolutely required. The kids finally removed all their beads, counting the strands to see who collected the most. Remembering last year, when they had root beer served in brown bottles resembling a more grown-up beverage, all ordered root beer again. Much to their disappointment, it was served in styrofoam cups. The waitress tried to make them feel better by stressing that they would get free refills. The lunch was the cap to another enjoyable parade day.
As the kids get older, they are becoming more interested in our family’s heritage and nationalities. There’s a lot of Irish, of course, but also German, English and French – although for generations now, just American. Yet for St. Patrick’s Day and the parade, it’s that Irish ancestry that we honor the most.