Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Polly Marches Home

Yesterday was a most unusual day; for starters it wasn't raining and the temperature was relatively mild, plus there was very little wind. For the first time in years St Patrick's Day was actually a pleasure rather than the test of endurance which veterens remember rather too well.

On St Patrick's Day I have often felt something of a pariah; a social outcast. It is an emotion so strongly felt that I've found myself in tears at the roadside; attending the Tullamore St Patrick's Day Parade. The first time I encountered this coincided with my first year spent in Ireland; as an adult. It shook me; particularly as I had no idea what had prompted it.

Each year subsequent to this event I have dreaded our annual feast day. I have hated it and resented it. When kindly employers have gone out of their way to enable my children to attend the parade I have glibly thanked them; and complained bitterly about their kindnesses. On one occasion I even managed to evade the tyranny of my emotions, avoiding the need for attendence. I had rostered myself to work this bloody nuisance of a happy day; my boss was ill and I was in charge of drawing up the off duty. I don't believe in nepotism and we all should work the bad shifts...

As a teenager my Nan-nan; as I would call her, lived in England. In those days we were not so affluent, so stays were often protracted; often incorporating the Christmas period. After three months of living with us she would often make her return journey on St Patrick's Day. As we travelled to the airport we would sometimes see the tail of the Dublin Parade.

Years later, when she was dying I came to realise how much these visits had meant to me; and also how much I had resented them at the time. After all, I had had to surrender my nice warm bedroom; she had cancer and the spare room would have been too cold for her; she was bossy and interferring.

Worst of all I was expected to exchange her weekly library selection for her. This seemingly minor job; which I had enjoyed doing for her many times as a child, resulted in my being bullied by the village children and I came to deeply resent her for it.

I also resented the fact that our family never travelled to Dublin to celebrate St Patrick's Day. Not once did we ever attend a parade of any description and to be honest I felt deprived. The mere fact that we chose to travel to the city on March 17th merely added insult to injury.

As a small child I had lived with my grandparents for a while. My Mom had moved back into her family home and they shared the task of bringing up their grandchild with her; supporting her in her new found state of widowdom. It was a sad time for my Mom; it was also a hard time, she was young and times were different. Some were cruel and judgemental; mistakenly believing her to be unmarried, rather than widowed.

In 1970 Grandad died; leaving a second relatively young widow in the family. I was just five years old and thankfully had no understanding of the events happening around me. In the October of that year Mom remarried and began what was to be the happiest times of her life, which was to last for nearly twenty-five years. My relationship with Nan-nan was cemented.

When I look back into the depths of time it's no wonder that sometimes I feel a sadness; it's a natural occurance which helps us remember those that we have loved. For many that time is Christmas, for me it is St Patrick's Day. I miss both my Nan-nan and my Dad (step-father) and wish that were times different I would have spent this day with them both celebrating the many things that we never had the time or the money to celebrate.

I think that it is for these reasons that I have hated St Patrick's Day for so long, simply because I hated the way my emotions made me feel. I forgot to mention that at the time I realised how I felt standing in the cold and crowded street in 1996 I was in the company of my own husband and little boy, doing what I'd never had the chance to do as a child.

The marriage that this little boy had been born of was unhappy and had been for most of its six years, the move to Ireland had been seen as a new start for us all. In a round about way it was; as we went on to have a second little boy shortly before we separated in August 1998. Meanwhile my Dad had died, leaving my Mom a widow for a second time, but at least this time I was old enough to realise its disasterous consequences and offer the support that she so badly needed.

St Patrick's Day has been and gone so many times since then and finally I am happy once more. This year I marched in the parade for the first time and what's more I enjoyed it! Happy St Patrick's Day everybody; I am alive once more...

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