Thirty-eight years ago today, friends dragged a young art-school dropout living in Hanover, New Hampshire, out to a Saint Patrick’s Day party. She didn’t want to go—drunken green-beer fests weren’t her thing—but as she didn’t have plans that evening, she reluctantly agreed. She chucked her body paints into the car, just in case the evening was really boring and she needed to spice things up a bit.
One of the party’s hosts was a man in his mid-twenties finishing up his duty to Uncle Sam by working in a lab. He’d come home from Vietnam relatively unscathed the year before and welcomed the cold regions lab work as an alternative to a war zone. He and his friends had invited everyone they knew and everyone everyone knew. They readied the green beer (this being America in the 70s and the hosts being not exactly sophisticated gentlemen, they assumed that this was how the Irish celebrated the day). “Let’s celebrate the luck of the Irish!” they said, as they turned on the music and friends began to arrive. Little did they know what kind of luck the evening would bring.
The party was well under way when the lass and her friends walked in the door. Oh dear, the woman thought. I’m not going to like this. Why did I let myself get dragged here? She also, however, notice a guy regaling his friends with a funny story. She also noticed the half-empty mug of green beer in his hands. Still, she thought he was cute, if a bit old. He must be one of the Army guys. His hair is too short.
As for the guy, well, he almost stopped telling the story when she walked in the room. Her long brown hair was in two braids, and she was wearing some kind of gauzy shirt with jeans. He thought she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
The party went along, as green-beer parties tend to do, and the guy finally worked up the courage to go talk to her. Funny and charming, the guy made the woman laugh, and her friends noticed that she liked him. He seemed too old for their friend, but the woman assured her friends that she’d asked, and he was only a few years older than she was (while she appeared to be about seventeen, she was actually twenty-two).
She learned that he had been to Vietnam, that he was from Philadelphia, and that before he got drafted, he’d studied to become an engineer. He already liked the Red Sox. In short, she learned that while she was a bit of a free spirit, he was shockingly normal. He was actually a grownup, too, even if he and his friends entertained themselves by throwing parties with green beer. For some reason, this appealed to her.
“I think I’m going to go get my body paints. He’s so normal. I bet it will shock him,” she told her friends, smiling. The party didn’t need spicing up, but she liked that guy and thought it would be amusing to see his reaction. If he could handle the body paint, then maybe he could handle her.
Out to the car she went, and she returned with her paints. And as she started painting on the man’s chest, he fell head over heels in love. The woman noticed and smiled a bit to herself. She liked him too, so when he asked her out for a date, she said yes. A while later, she and her friends left the party, and her friends tried to talk her out of going out with the old guy. She didn’t let them.
The rest, as they say, is history.
And that, dear readers, is how my parents met and why I owe my existence to Saint Patrick and green beer.