In my memory of childhood, we were only seriously Irish once a year, and not that seriously, not like the neighbors, whose kids sang "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" in a badly imitated Irish brogue. The neighborhood was shrouded in green, demonstrating reverence for the saint whose ethnic origins are argued to this day.
When I was a child, I felt Irish shame that the parade was not as essential to my parents as it was to our neighbors. In fairness to Mom and Dad, we were nine kids. Our neighbors with the unmistakable Irish names (not like "King") ate out after the parade. They could buy warm pretzels on the streets of New York City without selling off one of their children, you know? So we watched the parade on television. We wore green if we had it or we dyed tee shirts in the bath tub. (The least we could do, right?)
We went to a Knights of Columbus dance for St. Patrick's Day over the weekend, and after the party was underway, the lights were dimmed and out came the young Irish dancers as they do each year. They range in age from, say five or six and upwards, all beautiful and fresh-faced. Their costumes twinkled as their feet snapped about, tapping in rhythmic precision while their arms remained stiff at their sides, full, curly hair bouncing away.
The audience, who earlier chattered throughout the meal blessing, was now dead silent, each reliving the vigor of youth, pondering the discipline of the young dancers, their synchronicity (okay, maybe not that), and perhaps damning the multicultural pollution of their Irish genes. My thoughts took me down memory lane (which is an excellent prelude to psychotherapy.)
I recalled a relative who was nostalgic at a family party, he was reminiscing our family members who'd crossed heaven's threshold. He walked up to me and delivered a deep thought.
"I wonder which of us will be dead this time next year," he said.
Startled, I utilized the King family signature response to awkwardness: the chuckle of disbelief, coupled with an answer/question, "Yeah, right?"
That was about twenty years ago. Fortunately he is still alive and I am here to write this.
When the Irish dancers ended their performance there was an awkward transition from their precision movements to finger snapping, bump-and-grind and violent arm swinging. I mean, now the freestyle stuff lost something, which was rather annoying. Why did the river dancers have to show up and ruin a perfect evening of awful dancing?
Eh, after a few moments, people flocked to the dance floor, and I snickered in gratitude that we do not all have to be precision dancers or even bump and grinders. Somewhere in the middle are the people who just want to dash to the cake and coffee table, or prefer to ponder the possibility of death. Then there is me, who no longer thinks she has to join one group or another. I can just be me: somebody with mascara running down her cheeks, thinking Dad would have enjoyed the whole event.
Got to love St. Paddy's Day!