Since St Patrick’s Day was over a few days ago, I assume the world has had time to finish recovering from an overdose of green dye. There are other religious holidays for other saints, and today is St Joseph’s Day.
The Czech are among the ethnic heritages that celebrate the holiday. My maternal grandmother was Czech, and if you look at the census results for my great- and great-great grandparents on that side, the language spoken in the farmhouse is listed as “Bohemian.” (There being no Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic or Slovakia at that point in time.) I can’t help but imagine them hanging out on the farm wearing berets and listening to jazz records, don’t attempt to dissuade me that it was any different.
One of the ways Czechs (and others) celebrate the day is by wearing red, much like green for the aforementioned St Patrick’s Day. This morning, I reached for a red shirt automatically this morning. I put it on without quite realizing why for a moment, and then I remembered the last of my great-aunts. Aunt Marilyn, who was the youngest and was always my favorite.
My grandmother had four sisters, and their children and the rest of my cousins formed the nucleus of family events growing up. There were family reunions, Thanksgiving parties, birthday parties, weddings, and so forth, and two constants were laughter and the gigantic batches of kolaches that my grandmothers would make. There would be one table for food and one table for desserts, that’s just how my family rolled.
If you’ve never had a kolache, imagine a danish but with a less flaky dough and not-so-sweet fillings. (While there are many varieties, the three accepted in the canon were apricot, cherry, and poppy seed in our family. Apricot was always my kolache drug of choice growing up, consumed in at least quantities of two but hopefully more.)
So I found myself half-awake from lack of coffee, wondering why I was wearing red/ Was it to honor a saint I don’t really know much about? The religious aspect was never emphasized growing up. Was it to show solidarity with a heritage not shared by most of the city where I currently live? Perhaps a little, though I’m sure if I looked, I’d find an enclave I’ve never heard of before.
No, mostly I kept the red shirt on today not only out of a habit of doing it, to remember those who are gone now. The farm mentioned in the census records isn’t in the family anymore. My grandmother and the last of her sisters have all been to their last gatherings, and I live two time zones away from most of the remaining family.
I have the family recipe for kolaches and I keep thinking of making them. But somehow, I have a feeling that no matter how much I try, they’ll just never be as good as when my aunts made them. I suspect when I do give it a while, I’ll make sure to wear a red apron. I’ll take all the help I can get.