A few days before St. Patrick's Day in 2003, I purchased a beautiful six-piece dessert set of fine bone china from a local shop. As the shop owner carefully packed it up, I read the bottom of one of the tea cups: "Royal Tara-fine bone china-made in Ireland."
I bought the set because it was gorgeous. But knowing it came from Ireland made it even more special to me. At the time, I'd never been to Ireland and my father, Edwin, who died in 2001, had never been to Ireland either. But he was very proud of his Irish heritage and it always made me laugh how he began to speak with a brogue after a few drinks. I miss my father every day, but especially so on St. Patrick's Day.
It was a special day in our home in Guttenberg, Hudson County, while growing up. In the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day, my sister and I could always count on a shopping trip with him so we could purchase a new green outfit. He never missed an opportunity to share Irish history with us or celebrate our Irish heritage.
We often went to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City and waited for the marchers representing County Leitrim to approach. He pointed to the banner and reminded us that Leitrim was the county where his mother's ancestors were from. He encouraged me to visit Ireland one day and go to the area where his mother's family lived. I did for the first time in 2013.
Soon, I will be going to Ireland again — permanently. I will be packing up my Royal Tara tea set and my other possessions and moving to a home I purchased last year in Aughavas, a small village in County Leitrim. Leitrim, which is located in the northwest part of the country, has dramatic hills, mountainous landscapes and several lakes and rivers. It's one of the most rural counties in Ireland, with a population of about 32,000.