Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish rambles

I don't wear green on St. Patrick's day. I figure being Irish is enough. I remember clearly in 5th grade that I very much wanted to wear a little pin my mother kept in her jewelry box. The pin was a circle of white with the word "Sweeney's" stamped across it. The apostrophe, naturally, was a shamrock; Sweeney, my last name. This little pin had been a gift from my dad to my mom when they were dating, picked up at an Irish pub and brought home as a gift to let her know "she was his."

So I loved the idea of wearing the token on St. Patrick's Day and begged my mother to let me wear it to school. Being one of those moms who likes to make her kids happy, she acquiesced but not without a little pressure: "Please don't lose it. It means a lot to me." I assured her that I would not and pinned it to my blouse.

During the day, I'd check my lapel to see that the pin was still there. It was. It drew attention and I got to repeat the little romance story of my parents' love to anyone who asked. By the afternoon, I felt so good. I'd kept it securely fastened in spite of morning recess and lunch. Now it was time for kickball and then a run around the field at Round Meadow (the name of my elementary school - I've always loved it). I'm competitive when I play so I never paid a single bit of attention to my blouse and instead, dove at the ball with all the power a 4' body could muster. Sweaty and happy, we finished the game.

As I walked back to class, I glanced down at my lapel. You already know what's coming. The pin had vanished: somewhere in that round meadow called the back field, my little pin lay lonely under a sea of green grass. Panic swept over me. I got permission to comb the field. I scoured it the way a 5th grader does - not really seeing, not really knowing where to look. Mostly I cried.

Eventually, I got on the bus to head home, scared that my mother would be heart-broken. When I walked into the kichen, she had little green shamrock cookies at our table (she's like that, so thoughtful). I couldn't hold back the tears. And she knew, right then, the whole story. Yet she hardly said a word about it. Not a bit of scolding. She was glad I had gotten the chance to wear the pin to school. She reminded me that she hadn't looked at it in years and at least on its last day, it got some happy use.

I hadn't thought about that story until today when Jon and I were talking about the fact that I never wear green on St. Patrick's day. Made me think of the pin that I did wear. Then I gently chuckled realizing that my parents are divorced and the pin would mean next to nothing now, anyway. I really did enjoy it at the height of its meaningfulness to me. In a strange way it reminded me of how temporary everything is: declarations of love, souvenirs, tokens, seasons of life, irresponsibility, childishness, celebrations, even parents who love each other. Enjoy them while you can, when you have them, then... let them go.


P.S. We used to always say to my little sister, named Erin, "Erin-go-braless" on St. Paddy's. ;-)


brian said...

Not being Irish and being counter-cultural anyway, I hardly ever wear green on St. Patricks' Day. But, yesterday was such a beautiful day, I had to put on a little green and tip back a Guinness as I watched the sun set from my deck.

Your story sounded almost like a Buddhist story about attachment. Everything is temporary so clinging only brings suffering...


SUSAN said...

Loved this story, Julie. That last line is true and sobering. Your story reminds me of my story:

When I was five, I begged my Dad to let me wear his wedding ring and he did and I lost it. Later, after combing the front lawn, it was found.

When I was fifteen, I begged my Dad to wear his high school ring. I lost it while "wrapping" a guys house. It wasn't really possible to go back and look, as it was a secret that I wrapped his house. oy!

Oh, and I never have to wear green because my eyes are green, though some people don't respect that as being enough green to deter pinching!