Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 3/15/2010 [Archive]

Happy St Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day

By Martha Randolph Carr

Last St. Patrick's Day I was living in New York City, which you'd think would carry the day for celebrating the Emerald Isle. But, this year I'm perched in Chicago where there are signs everywhere that say, 'Kiss me, I'm Chi-Irish', and the Chicago River has been running green since Saturday.

The trains were already packed early Saturday morning with crowds of people dressed in green beads and funny green hats. It was a Mardi Gras mood but without the liquor or parade. That comes later.

This is a town that celebrates the Irish, who lead the pack in a city packed with ethnic flavor, according to the last census, with over 200,000 citizens who identify themselves as Gaelic every day of the year. This year's census will have to include me as well.

The truth is I'm more of a Gaelic mutt with just as much Welsh and Scot ancestry but it was the Irish traditions we always celebrated. It was only recently that I realized not everyone throws a large party after a funeral where you tell outlandish stories about the dearly departed with a whiskey toast.

We also tend to worship the old furniture passed down to us from someone who's been gone for a hundred years even if the contraption is so uncomfortable to use rendering it practically useless.

I also come from a long line of wonderful storytellers who've been known to conveniently change a couple of facts in order to tell a better tale. I suppose it's very Irish of me to want to rebel against that and become a journalist who fact checks everything and looks for the holes in stories.

I also can't let the holiday go by without mentioning that this would have also been my late father, Dabney's 86th birthday. He was an Irishman born on St. Patrick's Day who was particularly good at getting a laugh and then a few tears out of crowd in under twenty minutes even if they'd heard the story a few times already.

On my father's side we come from a long line that loves to gather in large groups, eat, drink and shout over each other with stories.

In his last years my Dad spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. No matter how often he went in, his five grown children and assorted others would gather with food and decorations as if we were taking over the place. Someone always made sure the nurses also got a plate.

I came to see him in the hospital and on one occasion heard him first. He was in the elevator, in his bed, being wheeled to another floor for tests and was loudly singing a hymn with the nurse. I'm sure it was his idea. He saw me, smiled and kept right on singing as the doors closed.

My mother, Tina, who is more Welsh than Irish, was a good sport and knit each of us an Irish cable sweater that was similar to the Scot's plaid kilts. The type of cable pattern was used a long time ago to identify at a glance the family line. We each have a sweater carefully tucked away somewhere.

Dad even had a potted shamrock plant that he would only water in the warmer months. Every winter it would wither down to nothing and look like it needed to be thrown out. However, every spring right about now he'd start to water it again and the plant would burst back into life and bloom with little white flowers. Dad said that's really why the plant was so linked to the Irish people. You can try and do us in but we'll just wait for better times and then spring back and bloom even more magnificently than ever. Maybe that's why all of America wants to be Irish, even if it's just for one day out of the year. Erin Go Bragh, everyone. Email Martha at:

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