On March 17, everyone loves celebrating the Irish. They put on their green outfits , go to parades, and drink green beer. However, when I was younger, I recall some kids wearing red or orange because they were Italian. To me, intentionally ignoring a green shirt for the red was not being very friendly!
Grandma, as we all know, loves her Irish heritage. She had her wall of Irish plaques, and she would greet us that morning by saying, “Éirinn go Brách.” I am not certain if she knew what it meant (Ireland forever) or if she just knew it was an Irish expression.
We never had the American traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage because, well, Grandma did not like it. I believe the first time I had it was with Dad, who, like any good New York Jew, loves corned beef, particularly from a deli.
One of my high school classes went on a field trip to New York on St. Patrick’s Day to see the play Fiddler on the Roof. I remember that our teacher let us wander around the city on our own, so I stopped by to see the parade with some friends. I don’t think today’s teachers would ever be permitted to let their students wander around New York on a school field trip unsupervised (or am I wrong?).
That was the closest I ever came to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on a grand scale until my trip to London in 2014 when I was hanging out with actual Irish citizens. We ate at Flannery’s Pub, where I had my first Irish coffee and the Irish St. Patrick’s Day meal of bacon and cabbage.
But this year will be a more somber day as we celebrate the life of Uncle Bob. We will have his funeral mass at the same church that some of our Irish-born ancestors worshipped—the church where they, and so many of us, celebrated baptisms, first communions, weddings, and other funerals. We will sit in this church and remember his smile and great big bear hugs. We will also smile and shed a few tears as we recall all those other memories.