Guinness ran a hilarious ad campaign last March. A houseful of guys ran down the stairs like it was Christmas morning, but instead of presents under the tree, there was beer. It looked to me like an attempt to transform St. Patrick's Day into St. Patrick's Month in order to sell more Irish beer.
They succeeded. Target sells St. Patrick's Day Greeting Cards. Green lights on houses abound, and Boulevard, Kansas City's own beer, has a St. Patrick's Day ad campaign with Uncle Sam dressed all in green. It's for a beer that's both all-American and Irish. Just like St. Patrick's Day in this country.
Like it or not, and I like it, St. Pat's is becoming the March version of Falloween, formerly known as Halloween. Expect to see a leprachon carved out of potatos on the cover of Martha Stewart's Real Complicated, I mean, Real Simple magazine.
But here in Midtown/Brookside/Waldo, all this is beside the point because we have always celebrated St. Patrick's Season. When the snow melts and the last Christmas trees make their way to the curb, and the cold rain freezes on window panes, it begins. From February through March, we bring our kids to bars to hear Irish music. We go to parades. We wear "100% Irish" pins, which we found in our junk drawer and have know idea how they got there.
Are we Irish? Maybe. Yesterday, at a St. Patrick's party, I saw a girl wearing a "Kiss Me, I'm Portuguese" T-shirt.
I'm 25 percent Irish. My Papa--John Patrick--the Irish one in our family, tears up when he hears Irish songs like "Four Green Fields" so we sort of stuck with that nationality. My dad--Richard Trosper, on the other hand, doesn't cry when he hears his ancestral English folk songs like "Sing a Song of Six Pence." He likes Irish music.
Everybody does. It describes the mixture of hard work, homesickness and hope that met all of our immigrant ancestors--be they Irish, Polish or Sudanese--in America. "Sing a Song of Six Pence," on the other hand, talks about a blackbird pecking off a woman's nose.
I'm sure it was code for some political struggle back in the day. Based on my keen understanding of English history, the whigs were taking the royal family to task for their bird population control policies, but that has no bearing on the poor and hundled masses that continue to bust their arses to give their kids a better life in America.
To see what I mean, go see Eddie Delahunt. His Web site is linked on this blog and he plays all around town throughout the year. Eddie is from Dublin. His music--and he writes a lot of his own songs--shows why everyone can relate to Irish songs. They tell stories of homesickness and having fun even as sadness hangs over you like a February rain. We've all felt homesick at some point. You can feel homesick even in your own home--the yearning for that cozy, unlonely feeling you should feel, but don't.
Interestingly, Eddie once said that Simon and Garfunkle's "The Boxer" is the perfect Irish song. But it says nothing about Mama, trains, getting drunk or prison, oh wait, I'm thinking about the perfect country western song...again.
For our family, St. Patrick's Season started yesterday. We were a little late in the game, but our little leprochauns do better at the outdoor Irish activities. So we went to the Brookside St. Patrick's Day Warm-Up Parade.
But first, we went to the Shamrock Shindig.
My brother Josh, before he married his Italian lass, Sarah, lived with four buddies from grade school. We all went to St. Elizabeth's, and the school picnic was called the Shamrock Shindig. They live in Brookside and have a pre-parade party named after this picnic.
Because they are in their early-twenties, the party reminds me of what I would have experienced in college if I wasn't so busy studying and saving the world. And that, my un-Irish friends, is called a bunch o' blarney.
Seriously, they are a great bunch of people. And it's nice to have your children not be the wildest people at a party, for once. When one party-goer suggested that Johnny, 5, clear the game table of all it's beer, Johnny looked at him and said, "I don't think so."
By game table, I mean drinking game table. Some of the guys were playing beer ping pong. You try to get a ping pong ball into a cup full of beer. Then you drink the beer. Johnny asked to play and I said that would be all right, minus the beer drinking, obviously.
He and Richie decided to dig in the dirt instead.
The great thing about Josh and his friends and my cousin Brett and his friends, who were also there, is they shoot the breeze with everyone. So they'd sit down beside the boys and ask them what was going on at the subterranean level of the yard.
We ate hotdogs and hamburgers and the kids drank rootbeer. I would have drank a beer if I didn't keep forgetting I had one and knocking it over with my foot. Motherhood has destroyed my attention span, which is actually a good thing when it comes to drinking beer.
My cousin Brett carried baby J.J. in the backpack for a while, and stood in the shade the whole time so that the little guy wouldn't get a sunburn--it was a beautiful day in Kansas City. Some people wore funny outfits. My brother wore a T-shirt that said, "Mom, Dad, I'm Gaelic."
Josh and his friends moved the party to a bar along the parade route and Justin, the boys and I went to the parade.
The kids sat on the curb with their friends and caught candy. Justin fell asleep because he was sick, I mean really sick--not from too much green beer--as some guys in a float suggested as they laughed and threw candy at him. You know the saying, you can sleep through a marching band walking through your living room? Justin actually slept through two marching bands passing by within feet of him. What a great dad, to rally and go to a parade with your family when you feel terrible.
But that didn't stop me from saying between my teeth, "Wake up. People are pointing at you."
After the parade, a leprochaun gave the boys lucky Irish rings. Richie's made him run faster along the Trolley Track Trail that led us to our car. Johnny asked if his ring would still bring him luck if he didn't wear it. I thought it would. The luck of the Irish, after all, is a powerful thing. You get what you get and declare yourself lucky for having it.
Example: you must park two miles away from a parade. You pray, "Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to exercise on this fine day. We are the luckiest parade parkers in the world."
We finished off the day with another party, thrown by our friends from church. They had a pinata for kids and tables where they could decorate their own green cookies. Then they carved potat-o-lanterns. Just joking. But I think Halloween actually did start in Ireland.
Man, the Irish sure know how to rock the world with their holidays.
And if you think I've blown my wad on the subject of St. Patrick's Season, think again. There's still the big downtown parade to write about. And my cousin's party. And Eddie's holiday performances.
Yes, the holiday is a big deal around here. Even before Target's cards, my friend Gram sent St. Patrick's Day cards instead of Christmas cards. And my son John just asked this morning "Is it St. Patrick's Day yet?"
And so I say to you in my annoyingly fake Irish brogue. "Top o' the morning to 'ya."