Thursday, March 17

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, March 17, 2011 10 comments
Just for fun, I thought I'd post an entry from one of my high school journals describing my experiences marching in the St. Patrick's day parade in Dublin, Ireland. I haven't altered the words I wrote at 16, except to remove names. Read on to learn about the magic of magpies, dueling saxophones and how to preform emergency surgery on a parade route.

March 17, 19--

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Up at the crack of dawn, we dressed and made our appearance at breakfast. Corn flakes and juice, followed by bacon, mutton sausage and eggs became an all-too-familiar breakfast. After loading the buses with instruments, everyone donned uniforms and boarded. To Dublin, Ho!

Conn [tour guide] told us of an ancient superstition about magpies, those huge crow-like birds of Europe. If you see a single magpie and wave to it, you’ll have good luck all day. If you see two, you needn’t wave, that is automatically good luck. If you wave to three magpies, you’ll have a girl child, and waving to four will bring a boy. We got caught up in the amusing Irish superstitions, to say the least—we waved at every big, black bird we saw for the rest of the week.

Entering the city, we stopped waving at magpies and started waving at the magnificent people. Everyone waved back, even some of the dignified guarde (police). We really got a kick out of that. With a little coaxing and much waving, we urged a peddler to come over to the bus and sell us Irish flags. Now we had flags to wave, as well as hands.

After lining up, we were in for quite a wait. A group of curious, kilted bagpipers came over to talk to us. They were intrigued by American saxophones, and we were intrigued by their bagpipes. One of the bagpipers challenged John S., and alto saxophonist, to a duel. We called it a draw.

The time finally came to enter the parade route. I swear, Dublin’s entire population must have come out to see us. They were so thick, we had to go single file at times. About 5/6 of the onlookers seemed to be under 18. I almost wished we didn’t have to march the parade—I just wanted to reach out and cuddle some of those adorable children. The little rosy-cheeked girls with ponytails in green ribbon and rosy little naughty boys were just too cute! The crowd seemed to love us too, asking as we passed if we knew their cousins in Pittsburgh or Scranton or Philadelphia.

The cord that suspends my xylophone upper keys [like the black keys on a piano] broke as I played the cadence, while we were squeezed into single file formation. One of the parents, Mr. F., saw my grimace, and thinking I’d hurt myself, rushed to my side. We were now two groups away from the judging stand, and I began to feel panicked. I restrung the bars, trying to keep moving and not swing my xylophone into anyone. Then Mr. F. pulled the cord taut and together we tied it, hopefully well enough to make it through our routine for the judges.

At the moment of truth—the Lord Mayor’s judging stand—we did our “Thriller” routine with utmost flash and precision. The crowd went wild. They’d probably never seen a drum major in a sequined glove moonwalk while color guard and instrumentalists alike did a Jackson-esque dance routine.


The entry goes on to describe the sightseeing tour they dragged us on after we’d marched in a parade and were still very jet lagged. We did take first place for our division with that homage to MJ, no irony intended at the time. (I'll bet you can easily guess the decade, if not the year.)

If you have no old journals to dig through, you might enjoy trying your hand at one of the following prompts.

Writing prompts
Write down your most extraordinary holiday or travel memory.
Write a fictional journal entry for a kid traveling abroad for the first time.
Write a story in which a parade goes horribly wrong.
Write a scene in which your character is caught in the crush of a huge crowd.

Have you ever dug out things you wrote in high school? What did you unearth? Are there any memories you wish you'd captured in a journal?


  1. This is very advanced writing for a high schooler in my humble opinion. I have a feeling if I dug through my old high school journals I would find endless entries about boys. Ugh. If only I could go back and shake high-school me and tell her to write about things that I would care about later on. I may go look through them just for fun though.

  2. Wow, thanks for taking me to Ireland and back to the days of marching band...ahhh those were the days!

    I did stumble across a high school paper - ugh! Thought I had the world by the tail! At least it hinted at my love for the written word.

  3. What fun! Loved the tidbit about the magpies! I sure wish I could find my old journal when I visited Europe at age 11. I bed it would be a riot!

  4. Beautiful writing Laurel. You were very lucky to have had that experience. We're going to Ireland this summer. I can't wait. :)

  5. This was so much fun! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  6. Candice: I wish I could go back and shake high school me and tell her not to be a pretentious twit, but keep it real. :-)

    Angela: You, too!

    Leah: Yeah, fun times. And I know what you mean about seeing one's HS writing. I needed a major dose of humility--that came after some college writing workshops that took me down a few needed pegs.

  7. Margo: I hope you find it. It would be awesome to see your kid-musings about travel.

    Robyn: I hope you have an awesome time! I think the people we interacted with over there were what made this an especially great experience.

    Faith: I got a kick out of the evident goofy tendency I had to use big words and take myself too seriously. I pray I've lightened up over the years.

  8. Love your Ireland story. Your 16-year-old self is a lovely writer.

  9. That was fun. I liked seeing that trip through your young eyes. Now, I'm going to have to stop myself from waving at crows.