On the Common 068
Strategies and Shamrocks.
Some of you are clearing out after a snowfall, I expect. While Charlotte did not get any snow this week, we did have some temperatures that caused us to remember what “winter” means — at least, as it’s meant in North Carolina. I have become the stereotypical gardener who worries over the hydrangeas — we have a lot of them! — when there’s a freeze.
The Part Where There’s an Essay: Sláinte
Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day, a holiday that we Americans took from the Irish and made bigger, greener, and gaudier. Expressing the height of an understated American-style celebration, the river in Chicago will be green in honor of the occasion:
Since it falls on a Friday this year, the Irish Roman Catholic population in New England (but not all of New England) can expect a special dispensation from Lenten obligations and eat their corned beef and cabbage with a clear conscience. I seem to remember a Red Sox home opener that fell on a Friday during Lent one time, and the bishop of Boston gave a dispensation for Fenway franks, also. Some things supersede religion in Beantown.
There is a lesser-known holiday in the city limits of Boston, known as Evacuation Day, which marks the day that the colonists drove the last of the British Redcoats from the city. It was George Washington’s first victory of the Revolution. This holiday is celebrated in Suffolk County, the seat of the city of Boston. There is no school; city employees have the day off; some businesses are closed. It just so happens that this holiday also falls on March 17, so citizens can enjoy the St Patrick’s Day parade and general (mostly drunken) frivolity all the earlier. It is understood that the Irish population of Boston played a pivotal role in establishing this holiday. Fancy that.
In kindergarten, my teacher, Mrs. Brown, told us all to come to class with as much green as we could wear on St Patrick’s Day. We would count it all up, and the person with the largest number of green items would win. There was a tie — a boy and a girl had the same number. In a stroke of evil genius, the boy pulled a dollar bill from his pocket as the final item that put him on top. That was the day all the girls decided Jeffrey was our arch-nemesis.
I attended a Catholic school for my high school years. My maiden name is O’Connell; I graduated behind a few O’Briens and before the O’Connors, O’Sheas, and O’Sullivans. My mother’s family is from the north and is Protestant; my father’s family is from the south and is Catholic.
Depending on whose records you consult, my great-grandparents set out for America from a city called either Derry or Londonderry. They were not married when they boarded the ship; when they arrived at Ellis Island, they registered as husband and wife. Did the captain marry them? Or did they just lie? Nobody really knows.
Though I’m several generations removed from the place, the culture still runs like water in Massachusetts. How much is religious? How much is just cultural? It’s tangled up together and difficult to parse out. I can watch Derry Girls or Belfast and identify pieces of my family, still. When Conan O’Brien cited his Irish upbringing as having given him “tall poppy syndrome,” I chuckled in recognition.
Tomorrow night we will open a Guinness and have some beef stew. I have never really gone all in on the corned beef and cabbage. I’m thankful for the heritage that still exists, even though it’s mixed up now with plastic shamrocks and green river water.
For the Anglophiles
It seems like we’re going all-in on St Patrick this week, so let me remind you that this patron saint of Ireland was actually English.
Reads & Listens of the Week
The Surprising Effects of Remote Work: Like many big cities, Charlotte is shifting around its office space in response to the call for more remote positions. Here’s an article from The Atlantic that posits a theory that more remote work has resulted in a baby boom.
The Storming of the Capitol: I thought it might be helpful to remind readers what January 6, 2021, was like, from two reporters on the ground that day. Why now? You can draw your own conclusions.
Innovating Our Way Up: New Strategies to Fight Poverty: An interesting exploration of creative ways to help the poor.
Last week the Office Ladies finally got around to interviewing Steve Carrell, who is a delightful human being. Did you know that he can play the fife?
Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him. ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters