It's often said that everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, and for my kids this is more than just a little bit true. Both of their paternal great-grandparents were farm folk from County Clare who immigrated over 90 years ago, fleeing their war-torn homeland. My husband grew up hearing the tales of how his Grandma Nora had gotten so involved with the Irish Republican Army that she had little choice but to board that boat in 1920 and set sail for New York - it was a matter of personal safety.
Arriving at Ellis Island at only 19, Nora would create a new life for herself and her soon-to-be born only child William, known to our kids as Grandad Billy. Billy grew up poor but tough in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. He rooted for the Dodgers, played street football and enlisted as a Marine in World War II.
Much to his Irish Mom's relief he returned safely, and thanks to the G.I. Bill of 1944, was able to attend the University of Oklahoma; he was anxious to leave the hardscrabble life of the Big Apple behind. Call it "luck of the Irish" or just plain hard work, he was able to make good on the promise of the "American Dream."
My family and I have celebrated this story at the annual Madison St. Patrick's Day Parade ever since its rebirth in 1998. We love watching local officials like Sheriff Dave Mahoney and Mayor Dave march along side of Irish dancers, Irish wolfhounds and fire trucks. And while I normally prefer my leprechauns animated in cereal commercials, Joe Herr, Madison's real life incarnation of this mythical creature, is a parade highlight.
This past Sunday's parade was the biggest and most delightful to date, with sunny weather and some Irish themed protest signs. You have to appreciate the Emerald Isle spunk of "The Bill is Blarney" and "Get the Snakes out of the Capitol" regardless of your politics.
But I don't just embrace St. Patrick's Day as a shout-out to my kids' Irish heritage or a reason to enjoy a parade. For me, "getting my Irish on" is a reminder that everyone comes from somewhere. We all have a family history, a lineage.
The soundtrack to my people's story is much more a Jazz Singer/Fiddler on the Roof mash-up than Danny Boy and Sinead O'Connor. But I think about my ancestors -- the Cohens, the Rosenthals, and the Ratners -- as I watch the numerous Murphy and O'Malley clans march proudly around the square. I see my own story, not to mention my own ridiculously curly hair, in the Irish Dancers as they high step on by. Whether the corned beef is Katz's or served with cabbage, it is still the salty meat of a proud heritage.
Yes, I guess for me St. Patrick's Day isn't just a chance to drink green beer and shout Erin Go Braugh. I see it as an annual opportunity to honor and cultivate my family tree--even if the garden in which it grows contains a whole lot more than shamrocks.comments powered by Disqus
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.