Five wristbands, secured, we were checked through the gateway, towards the GPO. The elderly lady behind us didn’t have a wristband, but it didn’t matter. The woman on security told her so – the lady’s years of experience were enough she said. One Dub to another. Hearts warmed. Then right up to the fence, a child’s eye view. Green hats, orange beards, face-painted tricolours.
A long wait. Parents persuaded children to hold their spots at the front. Trying in gentle but urgent tones to explain that leaving now would mean losing a front-row position and missing the parade. Hoping not to sound too anxious about something so minor, but so important. We had all waited forty-five minutes already.
Children were complaining of tiredness and boredom and cold. Grown-ups all around us were reassuring, with half-truths and promises; I think I hear something, there’s definitely something happening just up the street.
And then eventually, St Patrick himself arrived, just as the first requests to go home were floating up from the front row. He saved us all. An exchange of glances between the adults; a unified sigh of relief.
The couple beside us were from Illinois, here to see their daughter in a marching band. They had lost two days of their trip because of threatened strikes and cancelled flights, but were upbeat and determined to see the Book of Kells before leaving tomorrow morning. Their excitement was infectious. They took a photo of my daughter because of her red curls. They gave a quarter to each of the kids, their first foreign coins, an American souvenir of an Irish day.
It started to rain but stopped just as quickly. As if to tick the box – it’s Ireland, it’s St Patrick’s Day, so there should be rain. But not enough to dampen the smiles of entertainers or audience.
The marching band from Illinois came by, our new friends cheered and we did too. Then it was over, we went our separate ways, weaving through the green sea of O’Connell Street. The kids declared it to be the best St. Patrick’s Day ever, the long wait now forgotten. Their ability to live in the moment reminding me to do the same. Because in the end, it hardly rained at all.