My name is Dana. I was visiting my Aunt Sue, with my brother Tony who is two years older to the exact day. We were both born on October 11, me at 9:46 am, Tony at 10:30 pm. Just thought you’d want to know that about us, it’s our conversational icebreaker and one of the things that makes us unique.
Aunt Sue is my mom’s sister. She’s our fancy relative. Aunt Sue lives in a condo in downtown Phoenix, and we lived out in the boonies about an hour away. She was watching us while our parents were on a weekend get-away. Everyone was pretty excited about the plans. Our family doesn’t travel very much…at all. It was a big deal.
The weekend started out in a usual way that weekends in the big city should. We went to a very nice restaurant where the food was good and the people watching amazing. Tony and I love looking at strangers, trying to figure out their stories. We make up funny conversations we think the people around us might be having and before long we’re cracking each other up. Aunt Sue was a quick study and a worthy partner for our people game. It was a ton of fun.
On Saturday we did some touristy stuff in the morning and then we went to nearby Tempe, home of the Arizona State Sun Devils. We walked around the campus and watched students flinging frisbees on something they call the “Quad.” Tony announced he wanted to go to ASU for college. I remained undecided.
It wasn’t until Sunday after church that things got hinky. We are Catholics. March 17th is always a special day for us, because it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Even though my Dad is Italian, and my Mom’s side has only an eighth Irish, still, we like to make a big deal about the holiday. But never in my wildest dreams would I have believed how other people celebrate the patron Saint of Ireland.
So there we were, the three of us walking back from mass in our Sunday clothes, spirits high, and feeling good inside. We walked through the entertainment district down a street that was closed off to traffic. It was a massive St. Paddy Day block party. Bright green lights formed a canopy overhead. Rows of vendors lined the theme decorated street. Nearly every stall sold beer in gigantic green souvenir mugs. There were tables piled high with green light stick jewelry, beads, shamrock headbands, tee-shirts and the like. A couple of food trucks were offering the traditional corned beef and cabbage.
It was a madhouse. People of all ages and sizes were packed tight in the area. There was live music playing Irish jigs. Parents were pushing babies in buggies, older couples walked dogs with bright green kerchiefs, young people were decked out in t-shirts with Irish slogans. Tony and I were dumbfounded. Never had we seen such a hoopla. Aunt Sue didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.
And then I stepped in a pile of barf.
It could have come from one drunken young girl in a white spandex tube dress who was stumbling down the sidewalk. Her breasts were very nearly exposed and Tony put his head down to stop from staring. I admit, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I wondered how her parents let her out of the house looking like that, what was she thinking when she chose the skin tight white mini-dress, why was she drinking alcohol on the Lord’s day and why does she drink at all?
It was a very sobering scene.
And it wasn’t just the girl in the white dress. There were dozens more just like her in one version or another. Incoherent, loud, sick with the excess. Then I thought about the hundreds of people taking part of this – like there was nothing unusual going on. Couldn’t they see this was sin in Biblical proportions?
We made it through the restaurants and bars, past the busy streets of wild-eyed intoxicated zombies and we arrived at Aunt Sue’s condo. The doorman opened the door for us and we stepped in to the lobby. The calm was in extreme contrast to the apocalypse we just experienced and I was grateful.
Tony and I were silent in the elevator ride to the tenth floor. Aunt Sue was chattering away, not noticing our discomfort until we both sank down on the couch in her living room and I burst into tears.
Tony put his arms around me and silently cried too. Then the three of us started to talk about it. To Aunt Sue’s credit, she reminded us, first seek to understand. Show compassion, she urged. Never ever judge, she pleaded. What could we learn from it? She asked.
Her sensible advice was just what we needed to put the entire episode in perspective. How should we, as people of faith, react in a Godly way to very unGodly conduct?
We learned a lot that Sunday St. Patrick’s Day, we learned about sinners and saints, and we didn’t learn it all in church. We learned it on the streets of downtown Phoenix, mingling with the masses, after mass was over.
Aunt Sue said we taught her a thing or two as well. She was reminded to see a situation through the eyes of the innocent. Too keep her guard up against normalizing an abnormality. She learned that you can remain virtuous even when you walk through the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
By Susan Diamond
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