Like a lot of people, I date the start of the pandemic to the lost St. Patrick's Day of 2020.
In a sign of our troubled times, some Irish pubs in Manhattan still have the Paddy's Day decorations up in their dusty windows one year later on.
No one has had the heart - or perhaps the courage - to come in and take them down yet.
Think of all the color and spectacle we missed. As E.B. White once remarked (with waspish irritation), St. Patrick's Day in New York is the only public event you can't ignore. From the well-heeled breakfasts at the Mayor's mansion to blue-collar pub crawls, it's a remarkably egalitarian affair, too.
Think of all the connection we missed. For one day, St. Patrick's Day places Ireland on a global bandwidth and good things come of it.
From the greening of iconic buildings, bridges, opera houses, and castles worldwide, the little nation on the periphery of Europe feels what it's like to throw its voice on the world's stage (and in the White House).
That's because once the Irish get a foot in the door, you discover they're everywhere. Soon our singers, fiddle players, poets, writers, politicians, cops, firemen, even a U.S. President or two will be muscling in.
We like to congregate and we like to celebrate our own resilience. It's a thing that's worth celebrating. It has been hard to forgo that celebration due to this pandemic.
St. Patrick's Day has been a lot of things to me over many years. It's been a pitched battle about who is and who is not an Irish person, it's been an overwhelmingly sad opportunity to commemorate what happened to Manhattan (and its firemen, police officers, and even clergy) that morning on 9/11, it's also been a day to celebrate a resilient people who have made the entire world their next parish.
This St. Patrick's Day will be one like no other. Ireland is still fighting the pandemic and the parades themselves are mostly virtual or canceled, but the tenacity I am speaking of, one of our defining characteristics, will see us through this crisis and on until we can safely assemble.
When that day comes, I hope I will walk Fifth Avenue again with a renewed connection to the Irish who went before me and with a new appreciation for the Irish at my side.
Our own generation has been tested by many hardships, not of our making and we have responded time and again with a courage and forbearance that our ancestors would have recognized.
So we are part of a tradition that lives on – and that will be handed on, despite these troubled times – and every one of us will be Ireland when that longed-for day comes because we are already. I can't wait.