I spent a good portion of St. Patrick’s season with toddlers, and I’m glad that’s over.
No, not the hanging with kids part, which continues.
St. Patrick’s season, though: do they really need to be holding parades the first weekend in March for it? Who in their right mind drinks green beer?
Corned beef with cabbage isn’t even really Irish. Too many dumbasses call it corn beef. Would that be from cows fed a diet consisting solely of corn? Or would it be from cattle with hoof problems?
Either way, I think something called a Reuben pizza made me ill for three days, so I pretty much don’t want to even be anywhere near corned beef anytime soon. Or Swiss cheese, sauerkraut or Thousand Island dressing.
I was fine by actual St. Patrick’s Day, which started off with a full Irish breakfast at Clarke’s Bakery & Deli in Barrington. I wound up there because McNally’s Irish Pub & Kitchen in St. Charles had canceled the Irish mass and breakfast they were going to have.
I contacted at least six pubs looking for holiday morning eats, to no avail. It’s too labor intensive on the Thursday when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started AND $10 or more cover charges were going into effect at noon at some places.
Clarke’s was a fine choice, though, calm when I arrived around 9 a.m., and a friendly, pleasant place. They even had some grapes and pineapple on the plate instead of baked beans, making it a healthy meal.
Best Fest Buddy Tom had to work a bit, but called me around lunchtime, when we headed to one of our locals, Rosie O’Hare’s in East Dundee. A mostly sunny afternoon, Tom donned his kilt to sit outdoors and have a pint or two.
I wore shorts and a neon yellow hoodie that could be spotted by satellites in space. I bought it at Walmart, opting for it instead of a silly holiday hat.
Easily swayed by peer pressure and Tom’s sexy calves, I wound up putting on a kilt, too, for a trip to the Village Vintner in Algonquin, if nothing else just to rattle one of the owners who might be worried we’d catch a breeze inside his establishment and frighten diners.
We wound up having to pick up Tom’s grandsons at daycare, then took them to a park, dressed as we were for the holiday. Rest assured, neither of us went down a slide or took a turn on the zipline.
The day ended as is our tradition, with a home screening of The Quiet Man.
Friday night turned out to be an alarming one.
See, Tom decided to take the boys to McNally’s to eat and to see Joe Cullen perform. Many folks don’t know this, but Joe was at one time the Irish Raffi. He almost auditioned to be a Teletubby, before the damn English show runners figured out Joe was speaking Irish, not scary tubby babble. Then there was Joe’s ill-fated effort to be Blarney, the talking Donegal dinosaur.
Back to the present.
Even though we went early, McNally’s was packed. As we waited in the back by the host stand, the soon-to-be-4-year-old, JT, started fiddling with a light switch.
Tom warned him not to touch things he shouldn’t touch, in that crabby tone Tom has that draws all the ladies and, occasionally, flies.
After a relatively short wait, the hostess sat us at a table right next to where Joe was playing. What could possibly go wrong with JT having a tight squeeze into a chair with a speaker on a stand right behind him?
I probably glared or growled a bit at Tom. That might have been my stomach growling, as I had my appetite back. Or that I am old and, even though Joe ain’t exactly The Who Live at Leeds, I’m bad with noisy places.
Of course, Tom sat next to Izzy, who was being the calm kid. I was minding the fidgety JT and hoping he didn’t go punk rock and cause the speaker to come tumbling down upon him and me.
Tom had an ulterior motive for choosing McNally’s. A promo guy showed up to etch and give away Guinness pint glasses. So, while waiting for dinner, Tom took Izzy back where the guy set up to get two of them, the limit he could get.
He asked me to get two more, because Lord knows we need more stuff. JT tagged along.
The line was short, but there was still a wait. I started talking to someone, thinking that I had JT positioned where he could do no harm.
As I was having a conversation with another adult, the boy activated the fire alarm.
See, fire alarms these days are at about eye level for toddlers. I found out later from a firefighter friend that this is required by the ADA so that somebody in a wheelchair could reach them. I understand the intention here, but would someone in a wheelchair be the first person to get to an alarm in a pub? Would someone in a wheelchair not be able to lift their arms a little bit?
This particular alarm wasn’t like one I remembered from school that required breaking a bit of glass to set it off or other ones with levers that took a bit to pull.
Nay, this little red one had an elongated toggle, like a wide, red version of a light switch in your home.
It pretty much was there saying, in a cartoon voice, “Hey buddy. See what happens. I probably turn on a light, and it’s kind of dark in this hallway for a kid like you!”
Well, poor JT listened to the switch, which answered with flashing disco lights and incessant chirping. The poor kid immediately fessed up, crying about his hand and scared by the commotion he caused.
I said something dumb like, “Didn’t I tell you not to touch things?” Then I escorted the flustered little guy back to the table.
People had started to leave, but word got out fast that a kid had pulled the alarm, the alarm still chirping, And chirping. And chirping.
Tom, being Tom, told the frightened toddler he might be going to jail. Maybe funny, definitely mean.
I could feel eyes looking at our table, but most seemed kind and either amused or bemused about what happened. Being raised Catholic, this only added a layer of guilt for me to the proceedings.
Embarrassed for the both of us and sad for the tyke, I gave JT a hug. But hey, at least we had the two extra Guinness glasses.
Finally, after a 5-minute eternity, two firefighters arrived to reset the system. Why, in this day in age, that couldn’t have been done remotely, I don’t know.
We ate in relative peace. Tom left very decent tips for the waiter and for Joe.
That should be the end of the story, but for what happened the following Saturday night.
We took the boys that evening to see fireworks set off from a footbridge over the Fox River between East and West Dundee. That’s how St. Patrick’s season officially ends in the two small villages with Scottish names and German roots.
The pyrotechnics’ echoes boomed throughout the valley, scorched eyeballs staring up from the riverbanks and scared ducks with shots that skimmed the water. Izzy sat on my shoulders for an NBA player-like view of things. Yet, easily-jaded toddlers became restless and wanted to leave early.
See, they were intent on getting their dad birthday gifts at Walmart.
They settled on cupcakes instead of cake. But they didn’t have the type of toy car Izzy wanted. So he and Tom looked and looked and looked.
Meanwhile, I tried to keep JT amused with a shopping cart. He proceeded to crawl under it, to where you would put your case of bottled water, and had me push him for a bit.
JT being JT, he trapped himself. One of his feet was stuck under the grating. We managed to get that foot out, only to have JT get the other one stuck.
A nice Hispanic gentleman noticed our plight.
“Can I help Papi?” he inquired.
That was the first time I’ve ever been mistaken for Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer David Ortiz.
Flattered, I gladly took up the man on his kind offer. We freed and quickly calmed the lad.
There’s that overused, now-trite phrase about it taking a village to raise a child. With JT, I thought, it might require divine intervention.
I’m certainly no angel, guardian or otherwise. I’ll keep trying, though, if just for the stories we’ll have along the way.