And so it begins. It’s the annual St Patrick’s day rush, winding up slowly from the beginning of February until the end of March. Growing up in an Irish American family, we did the usual St Patrick’s day celebrations, on St. Patrick’s day. We all wore green and drank green milkshakes and all those goofy things. We even made Irish soda bread. For the past 3 years however, there has been a lot more to the annual green holiday. After seeing some Irish dancing in a parade, my daughter who was already in ballet, decided to go for it. She took to the class like a pro. It was all she did. She bobbed around the living room constantly, her feet flying, making me truly glad to be able to live out my dream vicariously through her. I had never been able to see Riverdance and it’s my solemn belief that I have suffered greatly. That first spring was quite a surprise to me. I was completely unprepared for all of the parades and little shows that the dancers were going to participate in. Far from my blissfully peaceful image of the doting mom (me) watching her adorable little dancer go marching down the street, I ended up being sucked into the entourage of parent helpers who walked the parade route along side of the dancers, carrying banners or providing camera footage. Wow, was I out of shape. Barely a mile, and I had to spend the rest of the day on the couch recovering. It was the best feeling though, at the end. There was such a feeling of camaraderie, and of pride. And the best thing was, that it was only the beginning of the ‘season’ as we call it in the business. Both my daughter and I were immensely proud to be sharing in our Irish heritage, discounting the fact that my grandmother who came from Ireland probably would have rather learned the Tarantella than admit to liking Irish dancing. This feeling of belonging and wellbeing far outweighed the cold of March winds, the inconvenience of having to walk entire parade routes with a small child in tow, and of driving to numerous dark unknown places to watch her dance in front of women’s leagues or half empty school cafeterias. Now, on the cusp of March, I am looking forward to all of the new parades this year with as much excitement as my Irish dancer. At the very least I will be getting some much-needed exercise, which I will make sure to combine with several bags of chocolate chips.
Eire go Brach!
Last week was almost the end of February. Despite the milder temperatures this year, I pulled on another sweater and started to plan…summer? I suppose I had it lucky when I was a kid. My parents even more so, I realize now. Every year was pretty similar. Once school let out in June, hoards of kids with itchy legs, from having to sit so long, would crowd outside to enjoy the summer. We were so excited that there was no homework and no desks or bag lunches. That lasted about a week and a half. Then summer became hot. And sticky. By mid July we were all bored out of our head from sitting in the back yard asking each other what should we do that day. Fortunately there was always the swim club. Our town had two of them. Most kids went to one of those. But for the most part, there was always a parent on hand in the summer; and the only people I knew of who went to sleep away camp were on TV. I really don’t consider myself that old, but things have really changed. First, even in families where there are two parents, most of them both work. That means the kids can’t spend the summer getting bored out of their head and end up being actually happy to start school. Second is a discovery that since no one lets their kids go play by themselves anymore, most of the time there are no large groups congregating on the playgrounds and front yards. My neighborhood is about as lively as a ghost town in Nevada. So even if you were at home during the day, your kids wouldn’t want to go outside. I don’t blame them, I’d much rather be bored out of my head with a couple of friends. Instead , now we register our kids for some kind of activity, some child care (don’t call it that in front of the pre-teen crowd!) from the moment they leave school to the moment it opens again in September. It also means that kids no longer have what we used to call ‘summer vacation.’ For the most part, they all wake up at the same time so their parents can get to work. If they are lucky, there is a summer camp with nice lakes or arts and crafts near by, but of course, the nicer it is the steeper the price. By the end of summer, there is no excitement about school starting anymore, it seems that it’s just a movement from one location to the other, with the added bonus of homework of course. Now, instead of looking forward to summer, I find myself in the midst of a mild panic attack when I think about what used to be the best season of all.
In an age when most of our 9 year olds can manipulate our smart phones better than us, it is refreshing to come across a situation which is humorously innocent. During the summer my daughter had befriended several girls her own age who lived near her father. I would hear about them from time to time, glad that she had someone to play with besides her younger sister. Apparently the girls had come of an age where they had successfully completed their first communion. This momentous event was unknown to my daughter since we went to a church which did not celebrate that particular milestone. She asked me about it several times and I explained that it was something that some churches did and some did not. I told her we went to a church which gave communion at any age. That was that, or so I thought. One evening after her father had dropped her off, she mentioned that her step brother was also going to be having his first communion shortly. She informed me that he had told her she was not allowed to take communion until the first communion was completed and that we were sadly misinformed. WhenI calmly explained that we can take communion at our church, for the 17th time, she promptly exhibited a category 3 tantrum. She demanded to be taken to any church which did have first communion classes, immediately, otherwise she would never be able to take the sacrament again. Deaf to my explanations and rationalizations, she finally admitted that she hadn’t taken communion since summer, several months before. Apparently the little girls next door to her father’s house knew far more about religion than me, so I did the only thing that a parent, helpless in the face of that particular stubbornness 9 year olds exhibit, can do. I got the priest and deacon from our church to sit down and explain things to her since she couldn’t very well argue theology with them. Fortunately for me, their conversations went well and I had no more histrionics about communion. At least my 5-year-old daughter has a very different way of looking at things. As is her way she generally wanders between sunday school and the back of the church where I sit with the choir. On one such occasion, she came up to me and whispered casually “Did I miss the drinkin’?”
At about the midpoint of summer last year I had gotten myself a bike. Nothing fancy, just your ordinary basic bike, with shiny red paint and nice silvery chrome. It had been a spur of the moment purchase. I bought a bike for my boyfriend for his birthday and had the vague notion that we would go for meandering rides around the neighborhood together. I pictured myself riding down to the park with my daughters, something which actually proved more difficult than I thought, having to stop every 20 feet and wait for my youngest. My boyfriend planned to do some long distance riding; using it as an exercise tool. Not me though, my definition of long distance was a mile. I was content to run around the house with my dust cloth and count that as exercise. And if you have ever had to run up and down the stairs five times before seven o’clock in the morning, that is definitely exercise. Needless to say my daughters were also very excited I had gotten a bike. I think they found it amusing to watch a grown woman making a fool of herself by wobbling around on a bike. My boyfriend took to biking enthusiastically. He would ride before work or with a friend, going for miles and coming back drenched and muddy. I accompanied him on a sedate four mile ride one afternoon feeling like I had run a marathon. But it was exhilarating. Plus I didn’t have to stop every 20 feet for a little kid to catch up which was an added plus. We decided to go on a particularly picturesque ride along the Delaware River, after all I had made it four miles without keeling over, what was another ten. After much pouring over websites of different paths and looking at videos of biking, we decided on a path and made out way toward the river, decked out in appropriate gear and equipped with water and snacks. The day was a beautiful one, less humid than usual for August and sunny. We started off, along the canal that borders the river. I felt wonderful for at least the first two miles. There was something so freeing about riding a bike where no car could get to. Fellow bicyclists passed by or pulled over and let us pass, we all gave each other cheery waves and felt very superior to those poor saps driving cars on highways. The views of the river and canal, as well as the old houses along the way, were incredible and I was feeling very lucky to experience them. The sun shone down on fields and the marshy bit of land by the river and made swaths of light on the water All in all it as breathtaking and I felt like an intrepid explorer discovering amazing views right in my own state. After that it started getting difficult, but I doggedly kept up. Some parts of the path were quite muddy, and I found a childlike joy at riding through the mud puddles and not caring if my socks got dirty. It was very un-mom like. We passed stone bridges which were so low we had to bend over out handlebars when we passed underneath. I needed to stop several times to catch my breath but still insisted that we slog on. Finally we neared the halfway point of the fourteen mile round trip. A quaint town on the river would be perfect for a long rest. Which I needed. By that time I was staggering under the weight of my own body and could barely feel my wrists and hands. Sweat plastered my hair to my head and dripped into my eyes. My boyfriend looked cool and composed of course. We found a place to eat, had some lunch and revived. After that I started to feel almost human again and felt ready for the return trip. I anticipated that he would have to carry my unconscious body half way back to the car. I was in for a surprise however. Once on my bike, I felt great. Energy coursed through me and I pounded the pedals like never before. The wind blew in my face, and a group of little yellow butterflies even flew with me for a while. This was definitely not something you could experience in a car or even on a walk. I only needed one break on the 7 mile return journey even. True, as I slowed to a stop by an old stone bridge overlooking a green meadow, I fell over. I hadn’t exactly mastered the art of getting the bike to stop and getting off yet. But that was OK. Still feeling great, we rested for a few minutes and then rode back to the car. The rest of the day was spent on the couch since I found that my legs had mysteriously disappeared after driving home. The incredibly virtuous feeling held however, and now, as I look toward spring with great anticipation and grab another handful of chocolate chips, I know that this year will hold even more fantastic rides in it.
It was about 2 years ago, one of those crisp springlike days after a winter which was a lot colder and longer than this one. I had gone to the store and filled the trunk of the car with all sorts of nutritious and tasty snacks, chicken, ground meat, and other essentials, enough to fill my little freezer in the garage. I drove home feeling awfully virtuous. I had planned on unloading the car, putting everything away and getting a headstart on my cleaning. Then I could have the rest of the weekend to myself. Getting home I quickly opened the garage, and popped the trunk. I got the meat out first, that should be taken care of and wrapped before the dry goods. Leaving the meat on the floor, along with my purse, I trotted back to the car to get a second helping of cold groceries, so I could deal with them all at once. I balanced my load on one hip and made for the door handle, noticing as I did so that it wasn’t moving. My door has a habit, sometimes, of deciding to lock itself, and this was one of those times. Unfortunately for me, I had left my keys in the house, along with a super sized pack of ground meat. I was left to rattle the door handle fruitlessly, I could almost hear the door laughing at me too, almost. Not one to panic at the first sign of adversity. (Ha, the door said) I thought about what I could do. I could put the chicken in the garage freezer. (Take that, door.) I had had the foresight to stick my cell phone in my back pocket. I could call my parents, they lived an hour away though , and then I remembered that I had fortuitously given my best friend a key as well. She was one of those invaluable people who was always on hand to feed your cat or help you get into your house when you locked youself out. Once I called and explained the situation, she promised to come as soon as she could, which happened to be about an hour, but I didn’t have to feel guilty since she lived one town over. Feeling like I had everything under control, I decided that it was such a nice day that instead of sitting in my car and waiting for my rescuer, I would wash the car. It looked pretty grimy, after all, from the last bout of winter weather, and with temperatures near sixty degrees, I couldn’t very well waste the afternoon. Lucky for me I had a hose and found a few spare cloths as well, even a bucket. I almost felt like the door had been meant to lock. After all, If it hadn’t locked on me I would’nt be out doors enjoying the weather, I would be cooped up with my groceries and cleaning supplies. I filled the bucket in short order, and soaked a cloth. Scrubbing the carwas always a satisfying job, especially after a particularly messy snow. It looked almost new. The sun sparkled on the water and although it was true that my hands were getting pretty cold, I felt great. That was before pickng up the bucket, and spilling it half down my legs. The sun which so recently bounced merrily off of the water droplets and seemed to warm the afternoon mocked me and my heavy jeans which were now soaked with dirty water. Cold trickled down into my socks as I looked down in dismay and uttered the words which I have so often … “Why me?” Wringing myself out as much as I could, I found one of the dryer cloths, spread it on the front seat of my car and sat, trying not to shiver too much as I waited for my friend having learned that maybe being too efficient is not the best thing after all.