Happy St. Patrick's Day!
I originally wrote, "Top o' the mornin' to ya!" to be cute, but I just read on the Internet that people don't really say that in Ireland.
Just like they don't wear green every day, mainline Guinness or sustain themselves solely on potatoes.
But many of them do live in cute cottages, often on countrysides a brighter shade of green than you'll ever find in a box of crayons.
The holiday has me flipping back five years in my memory bank, when I traveled to Ireland with some cousins.
We stayed in a lakeside cottage in Athlone and road-tripped around the country, visiting Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher, among our stops.
At one of the gift shops, I bought a souvenir bookmark with four little shamrock seeds taped to it. Being the good citizen that I am, on our flight home, I checked the box on my customs slip, indicating I had returned to the U.S. with some seeds.
Note to fellow seed-bearers: don't do it.
I was pulled into a different line, had my luggage gutted of its contents and watched as an airport worker un-taped the seeds and handed me a bare bookmark.
"I don't want that!" I said. "What am I supposed to do? Give my friend a bookmark with a shamrock seed ditty and there's no seeds on it?"
But more than bringing memories of customs agents, St. Patrick's Day reminds me of the Southside Irish Parade.
The bagpipes, the floats, the shouting of names when you see someone you know marching with a group. It's all good.
The parade, on Chicago's South Side as the name implies, was last Sunday. I joined family members as we marched with float No. 23, representing St. Christina Church and Team Kevin.
We waved our Team Kevin flags and wore our Team Kevin shirts and sweatshirts.
Team Kevin is the network of friends and family—and even the Chicago Blackhawks and White Sox—supporting my cousin Kevin Renderman as he recovers from brain tumor injury.
I wrote about Kevin in September 2010, a couple of weeks after a brain tumor forever changed his life. He still struggles to talk and walk and still undergoes every form of therapy imaginable.
But, he hasn't given up.
I get so angry when I see capable people wasting their lives, floating along like debris in a river. While people like Kevin are fighting from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep.
That's strength. That's determination. And, despite the Irish blood that runs in Kevin's veins, the luck of the Irish has nothing to do with his fighting spirit.
Vanessa Renderman is a reporter with The Times. You can contact her at (219) 933-3244.