Until 1999, I considered St. Patrick’s Day an irrelevant holiday. In my younger days, there were a few times when I peed green into the late hours, but otherwise the holiday affected me no more than Ground Hog Day. Then on St. Patrick’s Day 1999, Clare was born. Now the day runs neck and neck with Christmas in terms of importance.

Nothing will compare to the March 17 of twenty-two years ago, but the St. Patrick’s Day just past was at least out of the ordinary. Several minor, but unique events all fell on the same day, and all were COVID-related. First of all, Clare was home for her birthday. Grinnell College has yet to invite her back to campus, so our family celebrated Clare’s birthday in person during her free time between online classes. I thought the days of Clare being home for her birthday were over. Secondly, I got my second COVID shot. Third, my family’s COVID relief checks showed up in our bank account (and I helped to spur the economy by spending more money than usual for Clare’s birthday present and ordering a fairly expensive takeout birthday dinner from a local restaurant). Fourth, the walls of Jericho came down.

This last one needs explanation. In the classic road movie “It Happened One Night,” Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are relative strangers forced to share a hotel room. To give Colbert’s character some privacy, Clark Gable strings a blanket through the middle of the room and calls it the walls of Jericho. At the end of the movie, the wall comes down. For the past fourteen days, our house has had its own walls of Jericho. Manyu quarantined herself after her flight from Taiwan, so I strung a shower curtain in the hallway dividing one bedroom and one bathroom from the rest of the house. The CDC recommends a ten-day quarantine, but in Taipei (the place of departure for Manyu’s flight home), the recommended quarantine is fourteen days. Manyu tends to be overly cautious with anything relating to the pandemic, and I’d be foolish to disagree with her. Finally, on March 17, my wife had been back in the States for a full two weeks, and I removed the curtain. I didn’t want the thing in the first place, but taking it down felt like a tangible act representing life getting back to normal. 

Steven Simpson