Celebrating Our Differences (And Our Similarities)

Celebrating Our Differences (And Our Similarities)

Last Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day. I didn’t wear any green, it was an accident, not a conscious decision. It wasn’t an act of rebellion. I consider myself Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. Of course, I’m French Creole on Fat Tuesday, and Mexican on Cinco De Mayo. Celebrations are important, and I like to think we’re all in this together.

One of my co-workers, who claims to be Irish, every day, despises Saint Patrick’s Day. He accidentally wore green on Friday. When I wished him a happy Saint Patrick’s Day he swore because he was wearing green. It had been an accident, he said. He would have picked a different shirt if he would have realized what day it was. He never explained why, and he seemed angry enough about it I didn’t want to ask.

We take our foreign nationalism seriously in central Ohio. At various times of the year, we have an Italian festival, a Greek festival, a Macedonian festival, and Oktoberfest.  One suburb here is named Dublin, it has latched onto that identity with gusto. There are three high schools in Dublin, Ohio, the school colors are all green and white, and the mascots are, in alphabetic order, the Celtic Warriors, the Irish, and the Shamrocks. We don’t mind a little blarney stone. But Saint Patrick’s Day seems to have opened a schism here.

There is a parade, the big one, running through downtown. It starts at the Center of Science and Industry and ends at the Convention Center.  This parade blocks important, well-travelled roads during the crucial lunch time bustle.

Then, there is another parade, maybe a renegade parade, a guerilla parade. It runs past the building where I work. It’s a small, solemn procession. Maybe a hundred people. It starts by the Icehouse, right in front of the road closed barricades, with the mounds of falling bricks covering the sidewalk. The broken wires torn loose by the avalanche still hanging loose and limp.

Between the third-floor window where I stand and watch, and the intersection where the parade starts, a length of plastic sheeting is hanging from the phone lines. It had escaped from the construction site across the street from our building. It wrapped itself around the hanging wires so tightly it couldn’t be pulled down, and I saw several people try. Now it’s worked its way in so tightly and thoroughly it will have to wait until the sun reduces it and the wind can shred it into small tatters that spread across the whole area. It was a stark image, green clad marchers stuck between a plastic ghost from tomorrow’s entertainment center and the growing pile of broken bricks from a building time forgot.

It was cold and raining. Not really rain, more of a miserable cold mist, the kind that clings to your clothes and skin, forming little drops that shine with an icy light and lower body temperatures. I watched the parade form and the police cruiser lead them off on the path, past the truck rental business, and the homeless shelter. Nobody stood on the sidewalk to watch. It was a lonely little procession, a ghost parade, with no purpose except celebration. Beautiful, in its solitude and sadness.

There was a small marching band in the middle of the parade, I couldn’t hear what they were playing. Somehow, I almost thought I could feel the music, it came across the empty parking lot in waves. Maybe feel is the wrong word, maybe I could see it, but that doesn’t really seem right, either. I could sense the music. I didn’t know the song, but I didn’t need to.

I’ve never been to the other parade. I’m sure it’s impressive, with hundreds of marchers, and luxury cars carrying parade royalty waving and handing candy to the children whose families are lining the streets. I’m sure the bands are loud and fill the air with celebration and music. It’s well attended and covered by the press. Unlike the little parade down by our building.

Next year I’m going to go down and watch. If I have the chance, I’m going to find out why they go through all the trouble of staging a parade for themselves.

We all need to know there is a place for everybody, those who just enjoy the parade and the people who love the celebration. You just need to find what makes you smile. It might be a lonely walk with a few fellow believers, or it might be a brash, noisy tramp through an appreciative crowd. We are all in this together, even when we’re not in the same place. Sometimes we forget.

Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

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