April 15 was Patriots Day in Massachusetts and we celebrated in our usual way.
First, we attended the Red Sox game, the only scheduled MLB game each season scheduled to start before noon. The weather was cold and wet and the Red Sox lost, but it’s still better than going to work on a Monday morning.
Next, we went to watch the runners in the Boston Marathon. We somehow missed seeing all four people we knew running the race, but cheered on lots of strangers at the corner of Hereford and Boylston. This is a fun place to watch since it’s the first place the runners can see the finish line and they get very jubilant at the turn.
We met our guide Erin at St. Paul’s Chapel, and although her name was appropos to the day, she told us she was not actually Irish. The St. Paul’s churchyard has a memorial – but not the actual grave – of Thomas Addis Emmet. He was the elder brother of famed Irish martyr Robert Emmet, and participated in the rebellious United Irishmen in the 1790s. Exiled to the United States, he did pretty well for himself, and even became New York Attorney General.
The next stop was at St. Peter Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic parish in New York, established in 1785. The current church building dates to 1840.
The Marble Palace is under scaffolding right now, but it is a historic landmark that once held America’s first department store. Opened in 1846, it was home to Alexander Turney Stewart’s dry goods store. Stewart was an Irish immigrant made good. The store provided same day tailoring of clothing thanks to dozens of seamstresses working on the top floor, many of them recent immigrants from Ireland.
The Tweed Courthouse is associated with the graft of Tammany Hall, the powerful political machine that was initially nativist but grew to welcome Irish Catholic immigrants in return for votes. Across the street is the former home of Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, founded in 1850 by the Irish Emigrant Society to protect the savings of newly arrived immigrants.
We took a brief tangent from Irish history to discuss the African Burial Ground, which was pretty cool. Nearby in Foley Square, in the midst of a rally opposing discrimination against Muslims, we talked about one of New York’s first suburbs, built on the site of the Collect Pond which was drained in 1811 through a canal at what is now Canal Street. Since it was a natural spring, the water returned, making the houses unstable. As the wealthy moved out, the poor occupied the abandoned houses and created New York’s first slum. A short walk away in a Chinatown playground, we talked about Five Points, the notorious neighborhood known for its mid-19th century gang violence. But it was also a place where Irish immigrants and free blacks got a toehold in the city, and even invented tap dancing!
On Mott Street, the Church of the Transfiguration shows the immigrant heritage of the neighborhood. Initially a place of worship for the growing Irish community in the 1840s, by World War I it was a largely Italian parish, as the names on the World War I memorial plaque indicate. Today the church serves a Chinese Catholic community.
Another fascinating diversion from the Irish theme was passing by the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jewish Graveyard, which is associated with Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, founded in 1654!
Around the corner, we visited another Roman Catholic church, St. James, where the Ancient Order of Hibernians was founded in 1836.
We stopped by Public School 1 to talk about how Irish Americans had their children educated. Erin also noted the architectural design of the school pays tribute to New York’s Dutch heritage. In the heart of Chinatown, we talked about the Chinese Exclusion Act and how an Irish American woman could lose her citizenship if she married a Chinese man. At the final stop, we discussed the notorious riot brought on by the conflict between two street gangs, the Irish American Dead Rabbits and the nativist Bowery Boys.
Finishing our Irish tour in the heart of Chinatown, we of course had lunch at Thai Jasmine. It was yummy. Then we headed uptown to see part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I hadn’t been to the parade since in 22 years, but had a lot of nostalgia for my childhood when it was an annual event. We remembered the year when the wind was so strong it blew wooden police barriers down the street like tumbleweeds, and told stories of family friends we met at the parade. I was impressed that the pipe and drum bands have significantly more women than in my childhood, and that black and latinx people were in the parade as participants as well as spectators, making it a much more diverse celebration than it used to be.
The crowds were light and I didn’t witness any misbehavior, which was also a plus, although it may have been due to the fact that we arrived late in the day and were way uptown. When the winds got too chilly, we decided to drop in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an hour or so. We wandered into a gallery of art from New Guinea, which was fascinating, and definitely not anything I’d ever seen before.
If the day wasn’t full enough already, we finished things of with a performance by the New York Philharmonic, who played Mozart’s Requiem, but only the parts that Mozart wrote. I had a peaceful half-nap to the music in the first half of the perfomance.
On Sunday, we went to the New York Botanical Garden for the Orchid Show. There were significantly fewer orchids on display than last year, and the greenhouses were very crowded, but it’s always a lovely place to visit regardless.
I like how these two photos turned out. One is a picture of the dome of the greenhouse, the other is the reflection of the dome in the water.
To finish out a proper St. Patrick’s Day, we went to An Beal Bocht Cafe in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. They had sweet Guinness poured properly and musicians playing a traditional Irish seisiún (although they snuck in a couple of crowd pleasers like “The Wild Rover”). It was crowded but friendly and definitely a place I’d like to visit again, albeit it’s a steep climb uphill from the subway station!
Today I officially celebrate my tenth Father’s Day. My oldest child is only 8 1/2, so you may wonder how that’s possible, but in June of 2007 when my wife was five months pregnant she presented me with this on Father’s Day. So that makes this my tenth celebration of Father’s Day as a father.
I have two children now and neither one of them has ever declared their delight in my library profession (or in archives and records management, where I’ve worked since 2008). This is okay as that’s probably not going to win them many cool points. I do love Father’s Day though. As someone with a birthday in late autumn it’s nice to have a summery day to celebrate on, and my children always make me feel special.
Before I had children, I was concerned that I might not be a good father. This is partially because I’m an anxious person in general and partially because I did not have the best example in my own father. He was prone to anger and was abusive. He worked long hours and traveled a lot, so as a child I could go long hours without seeing him. When I was 8 my parents separated permanently and then were divorced. Around the same time my dad began suffering the effects of a particularly debilitating version of multiple sclerosis and so in my later childhood my sister and I would visit him in the nursing home and need to help him with simple tasks. He died when I was 17.
I do have good memories of my father. While its cliche, we watched sports together on tv and he took us to many games and it formed a nice bond. He also took us on trips to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and California and helped spur my love of travel and visiting museums and historic sites. Despite being a Nixon Republican, he got us the Free to Be .. You and Me album, which probably informed my young political identity. Most importantly, he wasn’t one of those men who couldn’t express their emotions and frequently told me “I love you.”
So in November 2007, this happened
and now I was a dad! There have been some challenges – lack of sleep, a constantly messy house, a near end to “alone time,” and temper tantrums – but being a father is overwhelmingly positive
Since it’s my tenth Father’s Day, here are ten great things about being a father:
Hugs – there is no shortage of physical affection for a dad, and my kids are some of the best huggers around
Shared interests – it’s fun to see the kids taking an interest in doing things I love to do like watching sports and visiting historic sites (just like my dad!) or riding bikes and visiting zoos
Their interests – it’s also fun to see what the kids become passionate about. My son became a fan of Magic 106.7 and thus I learned that Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Pitbul actually have some good songs. My daughter likes comic book heroes and movies and thus I’ve caught up with the rest of the world a bit on what this whole Avengers thing is about.
Children’s books – name a classic children’s book and there’s a good chance I didn’t read it as a child, because even though I was a bookish nerd, I focused on history and biography. Fatherhood has given me a second chance to read for the first time Goodnight Moon,Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Snowy Day, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and a whole bunch of Beverly Cleary books, plus many more.
Children’s tv – don’t tell the Gen Xers who share memes about how great childhood was in the 70s and 80s, but children’s tv is a lot better today than it was then. I’ve enjoyed watching many shows with my kids including Bob the Builder, Curious George, Shaun the Sheep, Dinosaur Train, Paw Patrol, The Magic School Bus, Clifford, Thomas and Friends, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mighty Machines, Doc McStuffins, and that old standby Sesame Street. Plus, my kids have shown only a passing interest in the annoying Dora and Diego shows, so we dodged that bullet.
Kid’s eye view – it’s wonderful to see things from a new perspective where things like riding the MBTA can be an adventure. Plus, on a recent visit to the zoo, I literally got down to my daughter’s eye level and saw some birds I wouldn’t have seen from my tall daddy perspective. They also can bring a spectacular imagination to the mundane.
Play – oh the kids love to play, and while I may complain of being tired and achy, I love to play with them. In backyard baseball, I discovered I was suddenly able to throw and catch a ball, at least with a small child. And bathtime can be an adventure involving the activities of many toy sea creatures. Pretty much anything can become a game. And when I’m really tired, climbing on a prone daddy can still be fun, so I can still be involved.
The introvert advantage – so get this, I go to a social function and I don’t have to talk about myself or justify my existence to anyone, I can just talk about the kids. And when I’ve had enough of the adults, I can just leave them and go play with the kids! Who knew that being a father could be an antidote to social anxiety?
Watching them grow up – every age has its wonders and both kids were unspeakably cute as babies, and while I miss a lot of what they were like when they were little, I continue to be amazed by watching them grow and learn and create identities for themselves. I think it will only get better.
Kindness – at a baby shower someone asked me what I hoped for my son and I replied “I hope he is kind.” I stand by this, and it warms my heart when I see my kids helping out at home, school, or church, when they try to take care of us when we’re down, when they show concern for the less advantaged, and especially when they are kind to one another, overcoming that sibling rivalry.
So that’s my tenth Father’s Day post, and I’m looking forward to many more. To all the dad’s out there, as Ralph Kiner would say, Happy Birthday. And to all of those who are missing their dads or never had dads they could miss, you’re in my thoughts.