And on the lighter side: Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Usually I tend to get a little
giddy on this day, but this year I celebrate it with a sense of mourning. Loss. And a deep sense of grief. For this is the first St. Patrick's Day I have ever had WITHOUT my precious green Hostess Sno-Ball. And so I leave you to reveiw my musings of happier days in my childhood - days of grassy green smiles and coconut dreams:
When we were kids, my sisters and I could hardly wait for March.
Not because spring was coming, mind you. Oh no. We were excited because we would
get to eat Sno-balls! Those cream filled, coconut and marshmallow covered
chocolate cake treats were cherished among my sisters and I. They were better
than a pot of gold.
You see, growing up, I never got the kinds of lunches
other kids got. While they brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder
Bread, with bags of chips and Twinkies, we were stuck with liverwurst sandwiches
on whole wheat with a hard-boiled egg and carrot. We longed for the treats other
kids ate and would sometimes lament out loud our culinary woes. My mother would
listen with a sympathetic ear, and sometimes she would bake wheat berry cookies,
but overall, there was no reason for morale to improve.
misunderstand me. My mother loved us, and she did the best she could on the
income we had. Every bite of food was packed full of vitamins, fiber and
minerals. We simply ate to live – we certainly did not live to eat. And that was
why St. Patrick’s Day was so special. Because on St. Patrick’s Day, we got to
If there is nothing else my mother taught us as children,
she made sure we knew that we had Irish blood in us. She taught us the Irish
jig. We actually loved corned beef and cabbage. And we learned to never, NEVER
call anyone super! (Actually, the word was ‘souper’, but to a child they sounded
the same, so super was not in our vocabulary.) We knew the real story behind the
potato famine by the time we were in first grade.
And did I mention that we got
to eat Sno-balls on St. Patrick’s Day?
On the morning of St. Patty’s Day,
the Sno-ball effect would begin. We prepared for school like an Olympic athlete
prepares for competition.
Get dressed in an all green outfit, braid hair with
green ribbons, and straighten ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ pin.
March downstairs and eat
green oatmeal and drink green milk, all the while focusing on the green-gold
prize: the Sno-ball.
Wait for Dad to play Irish Night at the Pops and dance the
Irish jig for Mother.
Polite, Vaseline teeth smiles, arms motionless at our
sides as our feet flew wildly to and fro to music only a leprechaun should dance
Sweat pouring off our brow, green ribbons flying.
At last, the school bus would come and we flew out the
door, never looking back, always looking forward. Looking forward. To
We soon found that other kids in our classes looked forward to our
St. Patrick’s Day lunch as well. During the rest of the year, they usually
glanced at out lunches and rolled their eyes or snorted as they scooted a few
scoots away (liverwurst, eggs and milk do not make for the best breath, after
all). But, on St. Patty’s Day, they would actually crowd around us to gaze at
our green feast. A can of Green River soda, a green apple, a few slices of green
pepper and celery sticks with peanut butter. And then, there it was – a very
special, just for St. Patrick’s Day glistening green Sno-ball.
As I ate this
lunch, the kids would ask why my family was so weird on St. Patrick’s Day. I
would then begin to happily babble, between bites of cake and coconut, about St.
Patrick, how one day I would live in Ireland, and about the plight of the
Catholics during the potato famine.
“Famine? What’s a famine?” an older
boy once asked as I licked the last of the green coconut flakes from my
Satiated, I sighed and turned to the poor, uneducated child
before me. “A famine is when there is nothing good to eat for anyone. Sometimes
people get so desperate that they eat strange things, just to stay alive. In
Ireland, they had nothing good to eat and many people died of a disease called
green mouth because all they could eat was grass.”
Looking closely at my
green coconut speckled mouth and the careless remains of my lunch on the table,
he snorted, “Yeah. I’ve seen that before.” And he wandered off to
We laugh at the stories now, but I can also appreciate their
underlying theme. We were taught about our Irish heritage in a way that made my
sisters and I fiercely proud of who we are. Our passion for our history was
stronger than our worries of what others thought of us, and this same passion
allowed us, one day a year, to boldly bring our Catholic faith to others around
us. I pray that I am able to pass along this same passion for our faith to my
children as well.
Your assignment: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!
Irish jig and eat green pizza. Tape a shamrock on every part of your child that
is mentioned in St. Patrick’s Prayer. Discuss the Trinity. One year we had a
Conversion Hunt: I hid 200 popsicle sticks in our yard and 12 kids hunted for
them like Easer eggs. Each stick was a person they found and “converted”, just
as St. Patrick did. Celebrate this day while instilling in your children a
strong connection to and pride for their Catholic heritage – no matter what
nationality they may be!
And remember to get excited about your faith yourself.
Enthusiasm, after all, has a “snowball” effect on everyone!