Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Well, it's that time of year again, folks! It's Ally writing today, and Nic and I are wishing you a very happy St. Patrick's Day! What's everyone up to?

It's an interesting sort of holiday, and has meant a lot of different things to me over the years. Fun green crafts in elementary school, Shamrock Shakes (which I still maintain taste like toothpaste, ugh :P) in high school and a night of partying so prodigious it required about as much advance planning as New Year's Eve during university. Most recently, as an Irish dancer it usually means shows (hooooooley!) and therefore new choreography it takes me forever to learn :)

But there's a couple of things that are kind of special to my family that have remained pretty consistent over time. One, my Dad's birthday is March 18th and ever since I turned 19 I have been giving him the exact same thing: a night out with steak dinner, a movie and as many pints of Kilkenny as he can handle. Here's the man himself, with the Peanut at the beach:

Last year, timing and busy lives being what they are, this put us having our wee night o' birthday hijinks on St. Patty's Day itself. And although we chose a pretty nice restaurant, it was a pretty nice restaurant with a bar, and so it was packed with people wearing both green, and in some cases, their green beer. Fine by Dad and I -- we sat on a corner of one of the booths and had our drinks and did some people watching. Or rather, person watching. This guy across from us was totally, 100% asleep. His friends thought it was hilarious, and were taking pictures of him, so the rest of us decided to get in on it. Somewhere this guy has about a million group shots of random strangers with him drooling on the table front and centre. And I'm sure you can just imagine what these students thought when they found out what Dad did... "Dude, you're a PROF! That's like, awesome!"

The second is that my Nana left England, and her Irish-born mother, on St. Patrick's Day 1946 to come to Canada and marry my grandfather Carl Gorlick. Here she is, holding up the first quilt I ever made, which was for her, and laughing because Phil is telling her to "work it" :)

A few years ago Nana wrote her story down and this is what she said:

I wanted to go but then, I did not. Why would I leave my mother, my friends, my home town and my country to go to an unknown place. Ah! But then Carl was waiting for me in that unknown place. The taxi arrived to take me to Windsor train station. I turned to Mother to say goodbye. Mother got up, came over to me, put her arms lovingly around me and said "Go with my love, it will always be with you, now go and do not look back!"

Nana never saw her mother again, as she passed away a couple of years later. So St. Patrick's Day has always been a day of remembrance for my family as well as a day of celebration. I remember when I took up Irish dancing (a little later in life than the average), Nana was overwhelmingly supportive right from the beginning. She'd watch my steps, telling me stories about learning the heavy jig from her Mum as a girl. I carry a picture of her, and her mother with me when I compete for good luck. When I'm nervous I imagine them telling me to get on with it :) It really helps!

Nana had a stroke in December 2006 and is now in long-term care. Things aren't the same as they were, of course, but the sassy bright spark that took a leap of hope to come to Canada in 1946 is still in there. She still claps with her good hand when I show her new steps, tells me I wear too much brown and laughs when I tell her stories about the Peanut.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Nana.


Caroline said...

What a sweet entry. Happy St. Patty's!

Shannon said...

This may be the best St. Patrick's day story I've read. Much better than just the green beer and corned beef for no special reason (although there's nothing wrong with that!).

Anonymous said...

That was such a touching story! So glad I found your blog, good reads...

The Rose Cottage said...

Beautiful stories, I can see why St Patricks is so special to your family :)

Anonymous said...

That was one of the sweetest stories I have ever heard. I am Annette, one of your Nana's Companions, and your story brought many tears to my eyes. Your Nana is so very proud of you and speaks of you often. Your mother told me of this site and I couldn't wait to read your article. Your Nana had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, even sang along to some jingles. She spoke of her Mother quite abit this day, told me that her Mother was born in Ireland and used to sing her Irish jingles. Thank you so much for sharing this story. Your Nana is truly a spectacular, wonderful woman, and I am blessed to have her near me. Best wishes, Annette
P.S. Happy Birthday to your Dad as well!

Hyla Waldron said...

I loved reading this blog Ally!

Sonia said...

Aw Ally, that was really sweet! I really enjoyed reading about your Nana.