In my house, St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty big deal. I would probably rate it as the 4th most important holiday that we celebrate behind Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. July 4th is almost up there but despite the fireworks and warm weather, the Irish holiday wins out in our house for one reason…we live in Dublin. No not that one, the other one. The land that our little burg is located on was first surveyed in 1810 and named Dublin since it reminded the surveyor of his beautiful homeland in Ireland. It was incorporated as a village in 1881 but didn’t officially become a city until 1987. Since that time in 1987, the city has fully embraced it’s “Irish” heritage. There are limestone fences, brick sidewalks and 19th century architecture throughout but these are just the obvious nods to the Emerald Isle. We host one of the nation’s largest Irish Festivals and have multiple town pubs that pay homage to one of Ireland’s favorite pastimes; throwing back a pint or two. Even the day that St. Patrick’s Day lands on (March 17th or 3/17) is found hidden in every day life that many Dublin residents probably aren’t aware of. The freeway exit to Dublin off of our city’s outerbelt: Exit 17. My zip code ends in 3017. Coincidences…no. This town takes it’s Irish seriously.
(Side note: My wife is associated with the visitor center here so if any of the facts above are wrong, I’m going to hear about it.)
So this past Saturday, under chilly but bright blue skies, Dublin had it’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. It’s the only suburb in our area that holds a parade and the size of the event rivals (or maybe even surpasses) that of our main city. And why not, it’s Dublin! People decked out in green put out their folding chairs two hours before the parade starts. Irish Wolfhounds and Setters are the dogs of choice for the day. Kilts are worn whether they should or shouldn’t be. It really is an event embraced by the community. And since it is a community event where my wife is very well recognized, our family is busy the entire day. From office visitors to prepared lunch functions, the actual parade is our “down” time during an extremely busy morning and early afternoon.
When watching from my fourth row spot this year, my feelings were confirmed that one of the best parts of the parade for me is seeing all of the kids up against the barriers with open hands and bags, waiting for candy. By this time of year, their Halloween stash is long gone (hopefully) and they are all anxious to replenish their sugar supply. During the parade, the kids will cheer for the bands and flinch away from the clowns but they’re most excited to see the politicians, church groups and local organizations that are walking along the route and passing out the sweets. They run the gamut of emotions over what amounts to a two cent Tootsie Roll. This year, there were numerous children in our area; including my daughter and her friends, my nephew (his sister was in the parade), various work associates’ kids and Cam. Cam’s at that odd age that we all go through where he’s too “cool” or “grown-up” to publicly do some things but privately will still participate in them. Given the amount of people at the parade, I was surprised to see him with a candy bag in the front row. Not only was I surprised that he would risk being seen by friends but I was surprised that he would want any candy at all given his Celiac condition. Knowing that he has a good grasp of what he can and can not eat, I still asked him if he understood that he couldn’t have anything he collected (I’m a parent and it’s my job to ask the obvious questions). He acknowledged that he did and we made an agreement that the candy he received, he would give to his cousin when she was done riding in the parade. He was o.k. with this idea…or so he said. My niece was towards the front of the parade so when she finished and arrived in the seating area, the parade was only about halfway done. Once she was settled, I had Cam hand her the bag that he had been adding candy to for the past 30 minutes (he was doing quite a good job due to his long arms). When he handed the bag over, I witnessed a familiar look flash across his face. It was brief but it was there. The joy of the parade slightly went away for what could have been perceived as envy. He may have been jealous that what he collected was no longer his. But I’ve seen the look before and I knew that it was neither envy nor jealousy. The look was resignation. Resignation that, once again, his condition has changed something that he has enjoyed doing his entire life.
This past six months I have developed sympathy and gained the utmost respect for those in our communities that suffer from any type of food allergy or food-related condition. Something that many people take for granted is a thought process that never stops for those affected. Cam’s disease has opened my eyes to these situations but I often ask myself if I am seeing everything. Would I have just assumed him o.k. if I didn’t see the envy/jealously/resignation on his face for those brief few seconds? Did he feel isolated having to pack his own sandwich and not getting to grab a Corned Beef and Swiss on Rye at the lunch we went to after the parade? Was the reason he didn’t stop and speak with his friends earlier in the day due to the fact that they were in line at a coffee shop where he doesn’t feel safe? I may never know the answers to these questions. Since we are still in the first year of his diagnosis, it’s possible that I may be jumping to conclusions and creating situations and feelings in my head that don’t exist. But until we are more comfortable with his condition (if we ever are), my wife and I will continue to look for these signs and find ways to make things better if we can. Currently, the communication between us and Cam is great but I realize that he is two months away from being an “official” teenager and chances of our communication levels being what they are today will take a drastic hit with the introduction to hormones and the pressures of high school. So with the worst in mind, I will keep my eyes open. Open to the changes happening in the food industry. Open to the development of medications to assist with the auto-immune response to gluten. Open to all of Cam’s feelings. And in the end, if we can see these things and maintain the level of communication with Cam that we currently have, Irish eyes will be smiling over this Dublin home for a long time.