without the luck o’ the irish: a haiku

if someone pinches
you for not wearing green, then
he should lose his hand.

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In the South, college football is a religion.

In the South, college football is a religion.

Prior to going to UGA, I never followed sports. The sport I knew most about was basketball (in that I could watch a game and was generally aware of what was happening). But something happens when you’re a student and there’s a home football game.

Saturdays in Athens are sacred.

Before each game, 90,000 fans file into Sanford Stadium. After the Dawgs warm up, the crowd is silent. A solo trumpeter from the Redcoats marching band plays “The Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation.” As the trumpeter holds the last note, the crowd roars and the game begins.

On Saturday mornings during senior year, we pitched our Young Dems tailgating tent on north campus next to Sanford Stadium. We usually arrived around 8AM, when fellow fans were already firing up their grills and drinking beers. Guys wore red or black polos and slacks. Girls wore red, black, and white game day dresses. Students, alumni, and random fans who never went to UGA united to cheer on the Dawgs.

Andrea didn’t get to experience living in a college town, as she went to NYU. Still, she visited us several times a semester. Some people were surprised that she didn’t actually go to school with us, since she was always there for our biggest parties. That year, she was in town for the LSU game. The Dawgs lost that game, but we had one of our best tailgates — booze, food, and a vodka spiked watermelon. Andrea borrowed one of my dresses and we spent the morning drinking and dancing with Ames and our other friends.

Big sunglasses helped shield our eyes from the glaring sun and also hide the drunken progression.

Andrea, me, & Ames. Athens, Georgia. 10.03.09.

Andrea, me, & Ames. Athens, Georgia. 10.03.09.

“Party in the USA” was our theme song that fall, so Andrea made sure to play it on loop.

Andrea blasting "Party in the USA" with a Dems blue party cup. Athens, Georgia. 10.03.09.

Andrea blasting “Party in the USA” with a Dems blue party cup. Athens, Georgia. 10.03.09.

Southern girls wear dresses to football games. Some people think it’s impractical. We call them haters.

Kate, Ames, Andrea, & me. Athens, Georgia. 10.03.09.

Me, Kate, Ames, & Andrea. Athens, Georgia. 10.03.09.

Hopefully, the Dawgs will prevail against the Gamecocks today, in spite of the fact we aren’t going to be there for the game. Go Dawgs!

My baby sister Brie turned twenty-two today.

My baby sister Brie turned twenty-two today.

This past year was her last in high school. In Georgia, special education students can stay in high school until the day after they turn twenty-one. Her program focused on preparing kids to function within the “mainstream” community. She had job sites like Shane’s Rib Shack, where she and her classmates would prepare tables and roll silverware before the restaurant opened. She went on field trips to Target to practice grocery shopping. She took public transit without having a crowd-induced anxiety attacks. School was her constant.

Change doesn’t come easily to Brie. As an autistic girl who has severe OCD, she needs all the stability she can get. This transition has been made easier because she’s currently in a summer camp that’s similar to her high school’s community-based program. While she’s not the typical twenty-two-year-old college graduate, she’s finding her way in “the real world” in her life after school, as well.

It’s the little things that make Brie happy. There are times when our mother will mourn the loss of the life that my baby sister could have had. Our mother has yet to realize that this is the only life my sister knows and she’s unaware of what she’s missing. Brie’s life is made up of routines in which she takes solace; she savors good food, explores the community with her camp friends, and runs on the treadmill or on the trail by our mother’s house. Brie loves people without hesitation or prejudice. She senses when you’re upset or angry and will hug you tightly until you smile.

Tonight, we’ll have Thai & Chinese takeout for dinner with our brother Raf and our mother. On your birthday, you’re supposed to eat long noodles for a long life, so Brie will order her favorites — pad Thai and lo mein. I let her open my present last weekend (Despicable Me on Bluray), but she’ll open her presents from the rest of the family this evening. She’s probably getting more puzzles and UNO card sets to add to her extensive collections.

Before blowing out the candles on her Dairy Queen ice cream cake, Brie will steal bites of frosting and sing to herself while clapping,

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to Brie!

The Golden Rule

Holy Saturday, 2011

“We’re going to hell, bro.”

“Let’s toast to that, sis.”

I tapped my glass with Raf’s — bourbon & Diet Coke and rum & regular Coke respectively — and drank. We delivered the tithing envelope to St. Benedict’s earlier that evening. Rather than staying for Mass, we went to TJ’s, a sports bar, instead.

Our parents were never the wiser after these excursions. Raf always picked up a weekly bulletin from the vestibule and I kept Febreze in my car to neutralize the lingering stench of bar smoke. Reasoning with our parents about our lack of connection to the church resulted in the same monotonous lecture about faith and tradition.

“A toast — to our tradition –”

“– of having fun, instead of sitting through Mass.”

A random Sunday, summer 2012

Starbucks was surprisingly empty for a Sunday morning.

“How about a table on the patio?”

“Will we be able to hear anything?”

“You brought your earbuds, didn’t you?”

“Yeah — plus, we don’t wanna be those people watching a show while people are trying to do work in peace.”

“Watching and reacting to the show, you mean.”

Initially, I was skeptical. Game of Thrones sounded nerdy as hell. However, once we started watching the day before, we only stopped the marathon to eat and sleep. Somehow, we were more compelled by these fictional storylines than by any sermons we had heard.

Easter Sunday, 2013

“What is this — you guys get drunk so you don’t have to go to Mass?!”

We shrugged at our mother, wine glasses in hand.

“Too bad, you’ll just have to sober up. We’re going together as a family.”

An hour later while driving to church, we ignored our parents’ typical pre-church conversation.

“Stupid asshole just cut me off, Ting!”

“He’s probably a Korean. You know they can’t drive, Fran.”

“I hope it’s not Father Charles today. His sermons are so boring.”

“His Nigerian accent is hard to understand.”

I finally cut in. “You always fall asleep during his sermons. So what’s the point of going to Mass, when you get nothing out of it?”

“It’s important to go to Mass, anak.”

We exchanged exasperated looks. Our dad’s Filipino accent suddenly materialized, as it did whenever he was trying to impart wisdom. We tuned out the rest of the lecture. Today was no different from any other Sunday.

Still, we had hope. Treating others the way you wanted to be treated was the message we internalized from years of being dragged to church. Perhaps one day, our parents would realize the same.