The sky was gray when I woke, but I knew I had to be there.
Music blared from my speakers as I pulled into the church parking lot, distancing me from the splash of the wet city streets. Windshield wipers hummed back and forth, slating away the cold, March rain.
I jolted out the car door and ran through the parking lot, yelling a, “Hi Dave!” to a neighbor from back in the day.
“Aw, hey Brig!” he replied, as he leaned in to dislodge his baby girl from her car seat.
As I entered the side door, my surroundings shifted from dull outdoor dreary to a rush of warm remembrance. The vestibule I would pick up my Sunday bulletin. The crying room to the right, in which I sat with my mom and baby brothers countless masses, muffled and distracted.
It felt like home. I smiled as I silenced my phone and walked into the church past the stained glass.
I didn’t see them right away. I had to walk towards the back. On my way I saw Mrs. Sheehan and gave her a squeeze of the arm, hello, and a smile. I walked through the decorated bag pipers that were lining up for the procession. Such excited anticipation, within the congregation sea of green. I grinned and greeted a past priest or two and took a right up the far aisle.
I spotted my Mom’s curls first, then my Dad’s salt and pepper hair. I slid quietly into the pew just as the low base of the bag pipes started to hum. They both greeted me with an excited smile and a kiss. We picked up our pamphlets after the parade of pipers passed, and began to sing, “Lord of all Hopefulness.”
A flood of memories. So many St. Patrick’s Parade days spent within these walls. Usually a row of Blakes sat in the church pew, side by side. My brothers and sisters and I. Today it was just me and Fran and Peg. I took in the updated alter, the lantern lights that hung from the tall, vaulted ceiling, the stained glass with jagged grout I touched curiously as a child. The look was slightly different, but the glow and smell was the same.
We sat down as mass was starting to begin.
Suddenly, my dad squeezed my resting hand that lay at my side and smiled down at me, “my baby girl,” he confirmed.
A flood of gratitude and love overcame me as I sat with them. Among old friends, within the walls where I was baptized and received all my sacraments.
I’m so happy I was there.