My husband and I met when he lived in Hoboken, NJ, a town known, in recent decades, as a party destination for the young. St. Patrick’s Day hails big in Hoboken. There’s always a big parade down the long main street that bisects the town. The parade rarely ever ran on St. Patrick’s Day proper. Rather, you would wake up one day, notice that the yellow stripe down the middle of Washington St. had been painted green and would know that the parade was not too far behind.
Hoboken would schedule their parades based on the bag-pipers’ availability. Being a small town with a small operating budget, they couldn’t really afford bag-pipers on the prime weekends – directly before or after St. P’s Day – so they would schedule them when they weren’t in such high demand. Often, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade would emerge in the middle of February, and revelers would come out and get toasted as if it were March 17th itself.
We were never big revelers, so we had our own way of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. One that, thankfully, had nothing to do with either corned beef or cabbage. On March 17th, we would assume Irish names and use them for the entire day. My husband became Timmy O’Shea, and I, Cassidy Muldoon. I’d like to take credit for this idea, but it was my husband’s. I think he was even responsible for naming both of us. I was happy to go along with it, as it had nothing to do with eating fatty meat or ingesting green libations.
Once we had children, we thought the naming ritual might be a fun way to celebrate a day that had nothing to do with any of our heritages. When our oldest son was a toddler, my husband dubbed him Brian O’Brian for the day. It was something we giggled about for 10 minutes in the morning and then it was over. When the next child came along, years later, we resuscitated the ritual, but my husband gave him a name that he didn’t like. So, since the little one is a bit moody and easily offended, we just dropped the ritual altogether.
Today at tennis I was telling the women on the court about our Irish names. We all decided to take on our own Irish names and it added some (extra) silliness to our play. Then one of the women told her own story about St. Patrick’s Day and I loved it so much I wanted to pass it on.
When her youngest daughter was in preschool, the teachers would bring them outside to play on St. Patrick’s Day and when they returned to the classroom all the chairs would be askew and the books out of place. The teachers told the kids that the chaos must have been a result of leprechauns who had obviously entered the classroom while it was unoccupied. Her daughter came to associate leprechauns with the quiet mischief of rearranging furniture, setting bric-a-brac awry.
This morning, when her daughter came downstairs, she announced how excited she was to see what the leprechauns had done in her own house. Her mother (who is Italian) had done nothing to commemorate the day, but she, like me, is a less than stellar housekeeper. So her daughter was not disappointed when she came down to find chairs pulled away from the table, clothes dropped on the floor. “Oh, look what the leprechauns did!” she said. Delighted.
It’s true, I don’t expend an awful lot of energy picking things up and putting them away. But I do silently berate myself for being so lax about housekeeping. No more. Ever since tennis this morning I look at my counter full of dirty dishes, the eight of clubs playing card that has been sitting under the hall table for two weeks, my son’s socks on the TV room floor and it no longer appears to me as a personal (or even a familial) failing. In fact, there’s something about it all that now seems delicious.
I don’t know if that’s why the Irish consider themselves lucky, but that seems like the real key to living a charmed life. To be able to look around you and see the magic in things just the way they are.