Today brings up wonderful memories of past Irish parties with Jan the piano player, Dad the entertainer, Mom the hostess with the mostess, and more fun, singing and laughter than oughta be legal! The annual St. Patrick’s Day singalong was a tradition that began way before my time but ended up including generations of O’Connor friends and family. While I’m sad because it’s over, I’m smiling because it happened. And I miss it ALL!!
I do. I think I can say without question that anyone who was ever involved in any of these get-togethers, from the early 1950’s until the last one in 2005, has happy, joyful memories. My mom always says no one does sing-alongs anymore, and I think she’s right. At least not like they did. There was always a piano player, from Ag, Kevin, and John, to Mom, Joe, and finally Jan…wonderful, amazing, talented Jan, a life-long professional entertainer who, in her twilight years, chose to play piano at the O’Connors’ St. Patrick’s Day party rather than anywhere else that would have PAID her to play. She could play anything, and she could follow Dad’s ‘singing’ like they’d been performing together for years.
Chloe (“Ya don’t say!”), Me and My Shadow (Dad and Carl), and a personal favorite, Shanty Town, along with every Irish song we knew. Why, someone finally made up our own songbooks — pages and pages of the words to all the songs we could think of. Charlie’s Songbook, and we had loads of them. But even with so many copies, people had to share. After every song, you’d hear someone shout out, “Number 28!”, “Number 103!”, or just the name of the song they wanted. And then, “What PAGE?!?” Then Jan would play.
And the harmonizing! We of course had to include some of the musicals, especially Dad’s favorite, “The Music Man.” We’d split into two groups, and the guys would start Lida Rose. When the time was right — and often when it wasn’t — the girls would join in with Sweet and Low, each group leaning into themselves to hear if they were following their own song or getting distracted by the louder bunch. While I’ll have to admit some years were better than others, when we’d finally hit that last, sweet harmonized note, with everyone reaching the right tone…why, THAT was something else. And the memory of those satisfied smiles on our faces and the cheers all around — either because we were that good or because it was finally over — will be tucked away to bring out and enjoy year after year. (Charlie O: “We should take this on the road!”)
Typing this, the past floods in when, as children on Kingston, we would be lined up at the top of the stairs, legs dangling through the railings, listening to the laughter, the singing, hearing Dad with his crazy one-liners, and more laughter. We learned the old songs that way, songs that are slowly dying out for lack of singing them, sharing them. 30 years later, to be a part of that tradition, hosting those same parties and sharing them with my own kids, was a gift I wasn’t aware of until now, when it’s over.
I was one of the lucky 11. I was lucky enough to be born into a family who cherished and celebrated its Irish heritage. I never knew my mother wasn’t Irish until years later when were exploring our family tree. She’d embraced Dad’s love o’ the Irish as if she were born into it and encouraged it in all of us.
We see this saying used in many ways, but in what I consider its original form, If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.