On St. Patrick’s Day 2000 I rang the door to the Schterbatsky house. The youngest Schterbatsky opened her arms wide and grinned.
“Kiss me I’m Irish!” she giggled.
I looked at her hair, which is normally long and golden blonde, had been dyed red. Her mother and eldest daughter, my friend Katie, came to the door. Katie’s mother had also dyed her long blonde hair a shade of red and smiled.
“It’ll come out in the wash,” she said.
The Schterbatsky’s had invited me to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with them. I’d lived in Mobile, Alabama the majority of my life and had no idea that there were even St. Patrick’s Day festivities. I’d met Katie during my first year of high school. She was quiet and nice like me, we had a similar way of thinking.
We attended St. Patrick’s Day mass which was followed immediately by a parade. Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras, so hardly a parade goes by without some sort of a “throw” – we caught lots of candy, green beads and pins and wore them to lunch at the Radisson Hotel.
The Schterbatsky’s were good stock. I enjoyed spending time with them and they were nice enough to treat me to such a fun afternoon and a nice meal. The buffet lunch was full of roast meats, dressings, and a dessert table to be rivaled. I had given up sweets for Lent that year. I remember watching them eat pies and pouting.
When I parted with the Schterbatsky’s they drove me home and my mother told me that the family was taking a drive to the mall. When we were nearly there, my father took a turn down a road near the highway known for its rows and rows of car dealerships.
“Your father has to stop by the dealership,” my mother said casually, as if perhaps there was something they needed to take care of for their car. We parked and I saw my parents chatting in the lot with one of the car dealers. I was very uninterested and stayed sitting in the backseat, likely listening to my headphones. My mother came to the car door.
“Come out,” she said. “I want to ask you something.”
I got out and approached she and my father.
“What do you think of this car?” mother asked. She pointed at a green car sitting in the parking lot.
“It’s nice,” I said passively, without even giving it a proper look. I looked at my mother’s face, where her lips were curling into a Cheshire cat grin.
“That’s your car,” she said.
“What?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”
“That’s your car,” mother said. In her hand, she was holding a car key. She couldn’t stop smiling.
“Go check it out, that’s your car,” dad said with a smile too.
“You can’t buy me a car!” I said. “I don’t even have my learners permit!”
My parents both laughed.
“Well you’ll get it,” they said. I got in the passenger seat, and ran my hands along the gray fabric and opened the glove compartment. The new car smell wafted through the air.
We decided to drive it to the mall, and let father drive the other car back home. We did some shopping and I kept saying over and over that I couldn’t believe that I had a brand new green car in honor of the holiday. I wrote my parents a “Thank You” card and put it on their pillow that night. They are the most generous people I have ever known.
I would drive that car from that moment until the moment I moved to New York. In high school I dressed it with an Oxfam sticker (I was a donor back then), my alma mater bumper sticker, and a sticker for my favorite band, The Strokes. My parents kept the car a few months after I’d moved to New York, with the thought (read: hopes) that I’d just move back home and keep driving it. Then eventually, it was sold.
At that age, I was the type of person who believed in luck and fate. I thought it was my luck and fate, for having done some good deed, that the surprise car should come to me. Especially being that it was St. Patrick’s Day, I felt that I was truly lucky. When I was in a six-car accident in my 20s and the car spun round and I blacked out, I woke up also thinking that it was luck and magic that kept me alive.
But oh, how a person can change.
I do not believe in luck, nor karma, nor fate. It’s the one thing I get on my soapbox about, if you catch me in the mood to lecture and debate. When I tell myself the St. Patrick’s Day story I nod my head and say, “Now, I know better.” I often wonder if I could have benefited from this way of thinking back then, or it’s part of being young? If it’s part of the fun in naiveté, or the root of the idea altogether, the unknowing?
Despite this, I still get a kick out of the holiday and I get a kick out of that memory. Thanks to my parents St. Patrick’s Day became the most memorable day of my high-school life.