Friday, March 18, 2005

Alone in a sea of green

St. Patrick's Day.


All I can think of is Dieter from SNL, sneering and saying, "If St. Patrick's Day were a gas, it would be inert." It's a holiday that sparks not an ounce of excitement in me. And this is hard to endure in Boston, where there's an Irish bar on every corner and more than half the city is of Irish heritage. Every year I try to get excited about green beer and leprechauns but I don't think I'm trying hard enough because it hasn't worked so far. This morning I scrounged through my closet looking for something green to wear--even if I didn't feel festive, I could try to fake it and LOOK like I did--but the only green things I own are an old T-shirt and a cardigan sweater, neither of which were particularly work-appropriate, so I threw in the towel and wore pink instead. At least pink makes me *feel* festive.

For my lack of Irish enthusiasm, I have my mother to blame (or thank, depending on who I ask). She got the attitude from her mother, a steely French-Canadian woman with a flat accent who ruled the house with an iron fist and brooked no celebration of either the Irish or Portuguese cultures. My mother grew up near Fall River, MA, where the Irish, Portuguese and French-Canadian immigrant populations lived side by side but never mingled. She once told me that the worst insult in her elementary school was to call someone a Portagee. There must have been something analagous for the Irish, because when I was little my brother and I never got to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. In fact, my mother refused to acknowledge that the holiday existed, much less allow us to wear green, tote clovers or mangle Gaelic like the rest of the kids at school. She looked down her nose at the Irish and, being young and impressionable, I learned to do the same. Then again, it's hard to be impressed when every boy in the fifth grade is running around at recess screaming, "Erin Go BRA!!" Bra--get it? So witty, those boys. It didn't get much better in college, where the partying hordes hung Irish flags out their dorm room windows and threw dogheads (a drinking event at which participants start drinking first thing in the morning and don't stop until they've hit unconsciousness) where the boys gulped as many live goldfish as possible until they puked. Poor fish--drowned in stomach acid and green beer. Not a great way to go.

This is what I get for being raised a Unitarian of Polish/Russian/French Canadian descent. I won't even get into how much it galled my mother that I was going to marry someone whose heritage and last name were so purely Irish (and whose family was from New Bedford) that there was no avoiding the fact. She'll never admit it but she's so relieved that she doesn't have an Irish son-in-law.

The Unitarian part meant no Easter, either. It also meant no parties for First Communion or Bat Mitzvah. There were a lot of years where I felt gypped out of a good party and lots of presents. But every Easter, my brother and I would go looking for some evidence that the Easter bunny remembered our existence, and every year we'd end up scrounging candy from the Catholic kids down the street, who had chocolate bunnies and jelly beans coming out their ears, and who ate Peeps until they threw up.

Now I appreciate my parent's restraint with the Hallmark holidays. I mean, do potatoes, clog dancing and green beer approximate culture in any country? Eeep. That's my mother talking.

No comments: