Mary Higgins Clark On Leading the St. Patrick’s Parade
‘My father came here with five pounds in his pocket’
“On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2011, as the parade goes up Fifth Avenue I will be thinking of the father who came over with five pounds in his pocket and who died when I was only eleven, the mother who encouraged my dreams of being a writer by treating every word I wrote as though it was scripted by the angels, the brothers I loved so dearly and lost so young, the Irish ancestors I never knew who sent their children to seek a better life knowing they might never see them again. They’ll all march with me.”
That is how Mary Higgins Clark, the 2011 Grand Marshal of the New York City parade, the largest in the world, wants to think about this upcoming St.Patrick’s Day as she heads the grandest parade in the world.
On the morning that we meet, at her apartment overlooking Central Park, Mary Higgins Clark had just returned from a television appearance on Fox where she took questions about her new book out in April called I’ll Walk Alone, a thriller based on identity theft.
“I often use song titles, or a line from a song, as my book titles,” she tells me. “And I loved ‘I’ll Walk Alone’ when I was a young teenager during the war. [The war] started when I was thirteen, I never hide my age, it’s useless and unnecessary. But those four years, from the time when I was thirteen to when I was seventeen, that was one of the favorite songs. ‘I’ll walk alone/ because to tell you the truth/ I’ll be lonely/ I don’t mind being lonely/ When my heart tells me/ you are lonely too/ I’ll walk alone . . .’”
On March 17, Mary will certainly not walk alone. As Grand Marshal she will lead the St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Fifth Avenue on the occasion of the parade’s 250th anniversary. In fact, Mary will not walk, she will ride in style, in a horse and carriage.
This is the first time in the history of the parade that the Grand Marshal will not walk the entire length of the parade route, some 40 blocks. Mary, who though she is in fine fettle at 83, told the parade committee that she just couldn’t walk that far. “Look at my ankle,” she says showing me her swollen ankle joint. “I broke it 50 years ago ice skating with the kids and it never healed properly. Twenty years ago I had a triple bone fusion by the doctor who invented the process, only he hadn’t read his own book. It was a horrible job so I went for five years, then I had it done again.”
The committee offered her a golf cart (automobiles are not allowed in the parade) but she suggested another alternative that she thought would be a tad more glamorous. “I said, why don’t you get a horse and carriage? I thought it was appropriate with the 250th anniversary, and they liked the idea.”
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City has often come under fire from gay activists who want to march under their own banner. As far as Mary is concerned, and she is not without her gay friends, the parade is about Irish pride, not gay pride.
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