They say everybody is a "little bit Irish" on St. Patrick's Day.
Like millions of Americans, my ancestors fit snugly into the stereotypical mold handed down through generations. After all, my grandfathers were an Irish cop and an Italian shoemaker!
My great-grandmother was Maggie Day, a strapping 6-foot-tall Irish nanny who was employed by Theodore Roosevelt's family on Long Island. In fact, when she retired to Unadilla, old "Bull Moose" himself came by to visit her. I am told she met him for lunch at the Unadilla House, where he signed the guest register.
My mother, born Kate Cody in Brooklyn, is as Irish as a fine piece of Tommy Ferguson's sheerest linen. She loves corned beef and cabbage, has a closet full of green clothes, cries when she hears "Danny Boy" and loves all Democrats. In fact, mention John F. Kennedy to her and she is likely to cross herself.
Her father, Joseph Aloysius Cody, was an Irish cop on the beat in New York City in the early 20th century. NYPD records actually show him receiving a commendation once for heroically chasing down and stopping a runaway horse in Manhattan. How proud we all were when we read that! Later, "Pop" Cody retired and moved to Sidney where he became the guard at the Scintilla (now Amphenol) main gate.
He lived with us in the 1950s. He was a kindly old gent with an Irish twinkle in his eye, a love for "a sip of the good stuff" and a master storyteller. He was also a deeply religious man. Pop shared a bedroom with me and my two brothers one year. Bobby, Jim and I would watch from under our blankets as Pop would come home late at night after sharing "a sip" with his friends at the Hotel Cartwright in Sidney.
We would watch the religious pageantry unfold in the dark as he readied himself for bed. He would slowly remove, one by one, all of his holy medals, pins, devotional scapulars and other religious accoutrements. He would kiss each item before he placed it on his dresser. He would then kneel by his bed and launch into a litany of Irish prayers for his loved ones, both living and dead, for at least an hour. Aloud. Sometimes we would watch this little Irish man literally fall asleep while kneeling in mid-prayer. Amazing.
There are 37 million Irish-Americans in our country today _ second only to the German-Americans. For them, St. Patrick's Day is a time for sentiment, family, revelry, passion, food and music. And parades. Oh, how the Irish love a parade!
One of the most unforgettable moments of a St. Paddy's Day parade happened in Albany several years ago. The parade was streaming down State Street with the sunlit New York State Capitol building gleaming at the top. There were numerous marching units. The sound echoed through the canyons of the buildings. And then, here he came. A lone piper. A giant, white-bearded man, in full Irish regalia, including a towering, black fur hat. He was blowing his bagpipe with all his heart. "Amazing Grace."
The crowd of many thousands stood quiet, mesmerized by this single Irish piper. And then I noticed. He was blind. As he was striding down State Street piping to the heavens, another man was walking silently alongside of him, keeping one hand always on the musicians' shoulder to guide him slowly down the street and around the corners. A blind, lone piper playing an ancient lament with a passion like I had never heard. "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound ..." There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.
And so to all of the revelers out and about this week, I salute you. And as my grandfather use to say, "May the road rise to ye, and may your sweet lips never fester." Oh, and if you see a beautiful, white-haired 84-year-old colleen all covered with shamrocks and raising a glass of green beer while singing (slightly off key) "Danny Boy" around Sidney on Wednesday, give a tip of your tam to Katie Cody, my dear old Mum.
As for me, I think I'll have to sneak me a meatball or two. Just don't tell anyone..
Catch you in two ...
Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.