As many of you already know, I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood in NJ. 9 out of 10 families being Italian-American. So, as far as St. Patrick’s Day went… well, it wasn’t the biggest day of the year. Although, we still celebrated in school. Almost everyone wore a little something green on that day. A green ribbon in our hair, maybe green socks, a green belt, or a shamrock button we could pin to our jean jacket. Just enough to have a little fun.
Then there was Peter. Peter O’Kelly. Peter was not one of the cool kids. He was a tiny kid for his age, total brainiac, and pretty quiet on any given day. But on St. Patrick’s Day? This kid was ON IT!
Every single year, Peter would stroll into school with an ENTIRELY green suit. Head to toe. Green hat, shirt, tie, jacket, pants, belt, socks, shoes… it was quite the get-up. I just remember thinking the very first year (which honestly, was Kindergarten), “Oh Peter. How will you possibly survive this day? A meek nerdy kid, dressed like a leprechaun in a school full of Italians? Oh Lord. Maybe you should consider toning it down just a bit? You know, just for your own well-being?” 🙂
Well, how foolish I was for thinking that! Peter didn’t need anyone worrying about him on St. Patrick’s Day. He walked into school with his HAT held high, a huge smile on his face, bows and ribbons and streamers hanging from every part of him, and the biggest sense of Irish pride a young kid could have! That boy celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with pure abandon. Every single year.
The rest of us kids may not have been Irish, but we all had to give Peter kudos for the pride he had in his heritage. Even more so, for the guts he had to say it loud. As the years went on, we all looked forward to Peter’s arrival to school on St. Patrick’s Day – he made the day fun! It’s amazing what can happen when you have the courage to “own it”.
Peter, I hope you are still out there donning your Irish duds each and every St. Pat’s Day — and owning it just like you did as a kid!
Happy St. Patrick’s to all!