Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thoughts on St Patrick's Day and Evacuation Day

St Patrick's Day was always a special day in our house growing up. It was my father's favorite holiday. We never had corned beef but instead had a New England Boiled Dinner-a pork shoulder or picnic ham, potatoes, carrots and cabbage, all cooked together. Delicious. And I can still  see my father, sitting at the head of the kitchen table, having a few sips of liquid refreshment and singing tura lura lura, his favorite Irish lullaby.

I am only part Irish but my wife and her family are 100% Irish- My wife's name is Kathleen Maura Sullivan. That's about as Irish as you can get or as Irish as Patty's pig!! My wife had a sister named Patricia Sullivan and she was born on March 17. So every year for the past 40 plus years, this was a big party in the family. We would have the party in Massachusetts and for many years, when we lived in Connecticut, we had the party there. And often we would make the drive back to Massachusetts for the party. We would have corned beef and all the trimmings. I would make Irish Soda bread and my wife would make a birthday cake in the shape of a shamrock. We would have some Irish Cream and sing happy birthday to Patty. It was her favorite day of the year and she would open all her presents. The house would be decorated with shamrocks and lots of green.

But Patty died last year, 3 days before her birthday. And a few months later, her mother, my mother in law and good friend, died.  So for the first time since I can remember we did not have a party. I don't think anyone was in the mood. We did go out to diner and toasted Patty. Maybe next year.

And we can't talk about St Patrick's Day without mentioning Evacuation Day. This is a special day in American history and doesn't get the attention it deserves. If it hadn't been for what happened on this day, we might have lost the Revolution. Henry Knox owned a book store in Boston and became friends with George Washington. The Americans had recently captured several large cannon at Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Knox was asked to bring those cannons back to Boston in the winter of 1776. . This is one of the great achievements of the war. Knox loaded the cannons on sleds, and had oxen pull them through the snow, down towards Albany and then east across the Berkshires, to Cambridge and Dorchester Heights. It took 6 weeks and they didn't lose a man.

The British General Howe and his staff looked up one morning, and saw these cannons on Dorchester Heights and in Charleston. Howe decided to retreat, and the British left Boston for Nova Scotia on March 17, 1776. This was the first victory of the war and a great morale booster for the 13 Colonies.

Each year on March 17 I have a tradition. I put on some Irish music and pour a glass of Irish Cream on the rocks and I toast all my family, friends, classmates and relatives who have gone before us. I start with my grandparents and work my way forward. I recite each one of their names individually & hoist my glass in their memory. In recent years I usually have to pour a second glass since so many have passed on. In just the last year I have lost a sister in law, mother in law, college room mate and a good friend. They are gone but not forgotten.

In closing, to all my  family, friends and relatives who are on the other side,  "May all your days be sunny and your skies always blue, and wherever you are now, I will always  remember you."