For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing is a megacity of 30 million people. Often abbreviated as CQ, and pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring, Chongqing is located in south-central China on the Yangtze River. I’ve come a long, long way – 13 time zones, to be exact – from my small hometown located in south-central Missouri on the Little Dry Fork Creek. CQ is indisputably one of the world’s largest cities but I am on a quest for a simple life. Thus, I publish these observations and admonitions from my 18th Floor Homestead in the middle of a huge metropolis.
March 17 is the holiday known as St. Patrick’s Day. Originally an Irish holiday, it has been adopted around the world and is celebrated with parades and parties and green beer – green being the color associated with Ireland, just as the color red is associated with China. I am happy to share a family tradition about St. Patrick’s Day.
A St. Patrick’s Day Story
This story begins long, long ago. The year was 1969 and the place was a small university town in Missouri, in America. A slender young student followed a local tradition of celebrating the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, March 17, by purchasing and wearing a bright green (the national color associated with Ireland, home of St. Patrick) sweatshirt. It was emblazoned with the year, 1969, and the icon of the local university, Joe Miner. Feeling lonely and yet optimistic, the young student purchased a second, identical sweatshirt. Now, all he had to do was find a young girl willing to wear that matching sweatshirt.
The story of the young boy and his search for a willing young girl was many years ago. The era in which they met and loved and wore those matching sweatshirts is gone. Later, those two sweatshirts, battered and faded over the years, followed the young man as he grew older and went out into the world. The young girl willing to wear the matching sweatshirt disappeared during the journey and was replaced by another girl, who was replaced by yet another and another. Somehow, those green St. Pat’s sweatshirts survived through decades of loves found and lost, careers begun and changed, adventures in various locations, even moves to new countries. Now, each year on St. Patrick’s Day, the young man and his current willing young girl put on those St. Pat’s sweatshirts for photos. Part of the reason for this annual practice is to celebrate the holiday; part of the reason is to celebrate a life that is far behind.
Over time, the young man wasn’t so young anymore but “the wearing of the green” became a family legacy. In moves to different cities, the venerable old sweatshirts were carefully packed. As they aged – and the slender young man wasn’t so slender anymore – those two sweatshirts were respectfully stored and were brought out only for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Each year, the sweatshirts were worn for a few days. They were seen in photos sent to family and friends to show where they were at that moment. Then, they were reverently returned to protective storage for another year. Over the years, conditions changed. Sometimes, locations changed and, often, the people in the photos changed. The only constant was those two green St. Pat’s sweatshirts. Somehow, despite the vicissitudes of life, the two sweatshirts always survived, providing a link back to earlier times.
In the year 2022, we live in a world vastly changed from those innocent times of 1969 when those two sweatshirts were newly purchased and the search for a willing young girl was conducted. Those sweatshirts are still in the same family, still carefully preserved, and still brought out for photos each year around March 17. Sometimes, new faces appear wearing those faded old sweatshirts. Then, the new photos join a long series of annual photographs. The common thread is those two aged St. Patrick’s Day sweatshirts, connecting all the people through all the years and all the places. Now 53 years old, they are treasured relics that have acquired a legacy separate from the individuals who have worn them over the years. With care and with luck, they will be passed along to future generations, a whimsical family tradition and a link to the past.