Thursday, January 20, 2022

Keeping rituals alive gets tough with growing up

On this day, I wake up early and make my way over to my brother’s place for a little morning celebrating. The house smells clean like the inside of a Lysol can, Miller Lites and Coronas keep cool in the bucket of ice in the garage and green bagels sit on the dining room table waiting to be eaten.

It’s the one day a year that I’m overly proud to call Pearl River my home — St. Patrick’s Day (also known as the Rockland County St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but seriously, who calls it that?).

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a large celebration for the small town of Pearl River — more than 20,000 spectators come to salute the troops, cheer for their school’s marching band and wear ridiculous Irish novelty clothes that will end up in the garbage by the next weekend.

The night before the parade, my dad bakes his popular Irish soda bread (best in three counties by the way). My brother buys what seems like an unreasonable amount of alcohol for friends and family but, by the end of the day, totally makes sense. And my Sicilian mother prepares her “I hate St. Patrick’s Day” speech to give to me after the debauchery.

Good or bad, these are traditions I’ve come to know, love and expect every March.

Every year since high school, my friends and I would walk through downtown Pearl River sneaking sips of alcohol from our soda bottles when the cops weren’t looking, snagging hotdogs and burgers from random spectator’s food tables and even joining the parade to march for a bit.

It’s a day where you act a little mischievous. I’m not going out to start trouble or anything, but my comfort zone definitely expands when I’m surrounded by thousands of celebrating and intoxicated people.

There’s only one problem — I’ve got class tomorrow.

This whole celebration got me thinking about traditions and how it’s harder and harder to keep these traditions as we grow up and have prior obligations.

In high school, it was easy to attend this parade and partake in all the festivities. The parade is always the Sunday after the New York City parade, and we got the Monday off from school (for obvious reasons).

But now, Plattsburgh State’s spring break normally ends the day after the parade. It’s difficult preparing for the all-day celebration and the 4 ½-hour drive back up to Plattsburgh.

I almost missed the parade this year. In fact, I skipped a class just to stay for it, and even though it was fun and a day I always look forward to, I felt bad.

I thought keeping up with the tradition is worth missing one 50-minute class in which the teacher doesn’t take attendance and I could probably just get the notes from somebody else, but I still have this feeling of guilt inside me.

Missing class in high school, not that I did it a lot, was easy. Sure, there were probably some immediate repercussions like a phone call home or a lunch detention, but high school sucked, so I didn’t feel bad about skipping out early or taking a “sick day.”

College is different in a mental way. This is where I’m supposed to act like an adult and a professional. I don’t get detention or suspensions anymore, but the guilt for skipping class can sometimes be a little too much to handle.

Now, I fear that when I get a job after college there’s going to be conflict between my career choices and my traditions.

Will I be able to get the day off for the parade? Will I be able to hang out with my brothers who I barely see anymore? Will I be able to hand out the “best in three counties” soda bread to all my friends?

What matters more: where I come from or where I’m going?

Email Griffin Kelly at

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