When I was in Catholic elementary school, the majority of my classmates were Irish-American. My first grade teacher, Ms. Hanafin, was a proud Irish woman who zealously began decorating for St. Patrick’s Day the day after Valentine’s Day. On the morning of March 18, 1983, Ms. Hanafin asked her pupils to take turns telling the class what they had eaten for dinner the evening prior. One by one, each of my classmates answered, “corned beef and cabbage” or “corned beef and potatoes” or “Irish soda bread.” As my turn approached, I began to panic. Should I lie and say that I enjoyed the same St Paddy’s Day meal as the rest of my classmates? But this was Catholic school…I’d be breaking a commandment if I lied! When it reached my turn, and Ms. Hanafin asked, “Michelle, what did you have for dinner last night?”, I nervously answered, “Ravioli.” An expression of horrified disappointment crossed her face as she somewhat hysterically (at least that’s how I remember it), said to me, “Ravioli??? You can’t eat ravioli on St. Patrick’s Day!” My anxiety turned to defiance, and I matter-of-factly responded, “But I’m Italian.” My new resolve gave way to embarrassment as the whole class laughed, but after bristling for a moment, Ms. Hanafin moved on to the next student, who obediently answered, “corned beef and cabbage,” although I’m pretty sure he only said it to avoid the same humiliation I had endured – his parents were Lebanese.
So since the saying goes that everyone is Irish today, I wish you all a Happy St Patrick’s Day…just forgive me if I’ll be eating ravioli.