Saturday Diversion – St. Patrick’s Day Memories by Michele O’Whitney

No sleepy Saturday for me today because unfortunately I have to work. I thought I would take a diversion from the topic for this month because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and this day always sparks a couple of childhood memories for me.

The first memory is from when I was in the 1st grade. On St. Patrick’s Day our teacher had us change our names for the day. We had always been required to write our names at the top of the paper on our school work for the day, but because “everyone is Irish” on St. Patrick’s Day, our teacher required us to change our names by putting an “O” in front of our last name. So for the day, I was Michele O’Whitney. Or if your name was James Smith, you would be James O’Smith for the day. You were required to write your “Irish name” on all the work you did for the day. I don’t know if other teachers did that kind of stuff, or if that’s something they would even be allowed to do now, given political incorrectness and all, but it gives me the chuckles every time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around and I want to call myself Michele O’Whitney.

The second memory that is always sparked on St. Patrick’s Day happened many years later in my adolescence. It’s the memory of me playing flute in my high school marching band for the previously cancelled, now resurrected Chicago South Side Irish Parade. My high school colors were green and white, so that meant our band uniforms were also green and white. But they were really, really green. Like think of a dark Kermit. And the material was suffocating. My mom says it was some kind of wool. The problem was that the uniforms we wore were all previously used and I had to find one that fit. I was always a “chubby” girl, so the only uniform that I could find to fit me was a man’s uniform and it had pants legs and arm legs that were at least 10 inches too long.

Thank God my mama could sew. Thank God for my mama. She cut and sewed and worked with that tough material until she figured out how to get it to look somewhat decent.

Then there was the hat. We had to wear these plastic green and white hats that looked like upside down buckets on our heads, and that along with the suffocating wool uniform made excessive perspiration inevitable.

The particular St. Patty’s Day Parade that I remember, it rained all during the parade. But the show must go on. So not only was I in this hot uniform with the plastic bucket hat, I had to march and play the flute in the rain. I was completely soaked and sweaty as the drunken parade viewers yelled and screamed in joyous celebration of their Irish heritage. At the end of that parade, I didn’t feel like celebrating.

I needed a shower.

It’s funny, while I am typing this blog post, I am literally talking and laughing with my mom as we are both remembering this now. She says

“it was raining so hard and so cold out there, and I was waiting out there to see ya’ll [the band], and it must have been 98 bands and ya’ll was number 97. But I wanted to see ya’ll perform. You do whatcha have to do.”

Memories are so much fun. 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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