Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

St. Patrick’s Day is a family affair


St. Patrick’s Day is a family affair

Is an Irish bar really hell?

Waukesha Freeman 3/14/13 Page A6 Opinion

If I weren’t Irish, what would I be? I’d be ashamed.

One of the advantages of being Irish is that I don’t have to drink green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll drink the good Irish beer without the food coloring.

I also don’t have to look for a good corned beef sandwich. I already know where to find them.

As the proud parent of a Trinity Irish Dancer, my St. Patrick’s Day actually started last week with a performance on Friday and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Milwaukee on Saturday.

It was a cold day for a parade and it was reflected in the smaller crowd. However, I noticed that, even though it was not the biggest civic event of the year in Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett still made it out to greet the crowd.

Maybe it’s because Barrett is Irish, too, but more likely it’s because he at least understands the ceremonial responsibilities of his job. Perhaps his neighbor to the west might take a lesson.

Of course, Milwaukee celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the parade a week early to encourage business at the bars for two weekends instead of one. It succeeds pretty well, and I noticed more than a few parade attendees enjoying an adult beverage on the sidewalks.

I gave up going to the bars years ago on the actual St. Patrick’s Day. It’s just a bunch of people pretending to be Irish for a day just so they can drink themselves silly. It’s just like New Year’s Eve except everyone is wearing green.

Maybe Chris Moltisanti in “The Sopranos” was right when he said, “That’s our hell. It’s an Irish bar where it’s St. Patrick’s Day every day forever.”

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish heritage. My family doesn’t go back too far before there’s a boat involved carrying Irish immigrants to our shore.

My grandmother was a proud Slattery until she watched “Gone with the Wind” and heard the O’Haras mention the scandalous “white-trash Slattery girl.” Then she became a proud McCabe.

Growing up we didn’t make too much of our Irish heritage. When everyone wore green to school, my brother and I wore whatever color we wanted. My wife says it’s because we were raised by wolves.

Now I try to do a better job instilling that sense of family history in our kids. Much of our coming weekend will be spent chasing our daughter from one dance performance to another.

I’m always amazed how well the backstage is organized for the performances. It makes it a lot easier for me. I just show up, drop off the kid, and then watch the performance.

However, like all family events, it’s not quite that easy on my wife, the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha. My wife has to get my daughter’s Irish dance hair ready and then get her dressed in the costume. Doreen is the one that encourages my daughter to practice. She’s also the one who keeps track of my daughter’s schedule.

I go where I’m told and I’m often fed and entertained when I get there. It’s a pretty good deal.

When my son didn’t want to go along one time, I said to him, “At your age, how often do you get to go to an Irish bar?”

I’m not sure if Doreen was more irritated that I used that argument or that it worked.

If tradition holds, Doreen will slow cook a corned beef for dinner on Sunday. Our family will spend the night at home watching “The Quiet Man.” After the kids go to bed, I’ll watch “Michael Collins” with Liam Neeson.

It will be a great way to wind down after a busy St. Patrick’s Day season. We will have a whole week off. And then, it’ll be time for rehearsals to begin for Irish Fest. Plus the kids will be dancing again at Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live. I’m sure my wife already has the schedule.

However you spend your St. Patrick’s Day, spend the day safely and responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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