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April and Colum at the McLean Avenue parade in Yonkers last year. Photo by: Handout

The Irish Homecoming: Marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at home but thinking of New York

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April and Colum at the McLean Avenue parade in Yonkers last year. Photo by: Handout

Snow, coughs, house-hunting, babysitting and parading . . . it’s all in a week’s work for APRIL DREW as she and her family look forward to St. Patrick’s Day.

The skies have opened up and it’s finally snowing here in Limerick.  In March!

It’s the first snowfall I have seen since our return to live in Ireland last May. We must be getting the tail end of the snow you guys in New York had last Friday.

And I say tail end for a reason, because there are only flurries of snow falling from the sky.  It’s not sticking, but forecasters are promising heavy bouts later tonight and early tomorrow so we will see.
Colum, our 2-year-old son, and Sadie, our 1-year-old daughter, own plenty of snow suits that I was given by friends while living in Yonkers. I’ve yet had to use them. I do hope we get some fun in the snow in the next few days.

So I hear its full steam ahead for St. Patrick’s Day in New York. Some parades have already taken place, and I hear they were a great success. John, my husband, and I spent nine St. Patrick’s Days in New York, and we had many good ones.

The first few years involved a lot of nights out in the city, visitors from Ireland sprawled out on the floor of our Yonkers apartments and a lot of fun memories created.

The Rambling House on Katonah Avenue always had the best bands around and McKeon’s on McLean was fierce lively too. I do miss those nights out.

The latter years were a little tamer, mainly when babies came along.  I was more of a spectator looking on rather than joining in the last few years and that was okay too. It’s not easy, as any parent knows, having a hangover and getting up the next morning with two smallies.
In 2011 I proudly marched my way up Fifth Avenue in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade. I had my son Colum (who was three-months-old at the time) with me, and together we marched with the Kerrymen’s Association. It was a proud moment in more ways than one.

The only downside was the craziness on the streets of the city.  It was certainly a challenge trying to maneuver through the crowds with the stroller, but it was worth it.  It was a memorable day and a beautiful one at that.

Last year my daughter, Sadie, was only three weeks old, so a trip into Manhattan with two babies under two was not an option on one of the busiest days of the year, and my husband was working.
However, we didn’t miss out.  In fact we were in for a real treat last year.

The McLean Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade in Yonkers took place for the first time ever. It was held a week after Paddy’s weekend. 

Thousands of local Irish and Irish Americans marched up McLean Avenue, and it was a whole lot of fun. The weather was beautiful, the atmosphere was electric and everyone enjoyed themselves.
We even got to enjoy a few cold ones at Rory Dolan’s beer garden along the parade route. It was lovely to see so many people we knew march through the streets of their neighborhood so proudly.
I will miss that sense of pride this St. Patrick’s Day.  Living in Ireland means we are Irish and that is it. 

St. Patrick’s Day here is a 24-hour celebration and an excuse to take a day off work.  When we lived away (and it doesn’t matter where one lives) we automatically felt proud to call ourselves Irish.
We wore our nationality on our sleeve, especially during the whole month of March. It’s nice that in New York the parades (and there are many) are spread out throughout the month making them accessible to most.

I must admit, however, I am very excited about attending a parade in Ireland this year. We have two kids -- one with a bad cough at the moment -- so if the weather holds up and the cough subsides we will be joining the hordes of revelers on the banks of the Shannon to cheer on Limerick’s finest on Sunday morning.

Since we left Ireland they changed the rules a little. There is the big St. Patrick’s Day parade on the day itself, and the following day there is another parade featuring all the bands.  Most bands travel to the nation’s capital to participate in the big Dublin parade, so the following day they are afforded the opportunity to do it all again in their home town or city.

If we don’t make Sunday we might hit the streets instead on Monday. We are going to Tralee on Saturday (my home town) to cheer on one of my best friends, Deirdre Power, as she undertakes the insurmountable task of running a marathon, the first of its kind to be held in the town.

She has been training very hard for the past several months, sacrificing several things, to keep up with her training.  She has done a wonderful job, so as her friend it’s my duty (and honor) to be able to stand on the sidelines on Saturday shouting her name. Her sister Grainne is also running, and also several others I know.  It will be a good weekend for the town.

Aside from all the celebrations coming up (and of course we have Easter two weeks later) life in Ireland has been busy.  It’s the middle of March already and I’ve not caught up with my to-do lists I created in January, but I guess that’s always the case, isn’t it?

The plan to lose 10 pounds is still just that, a plan.  I did, however, join the sports club at the University of Limerick, where I work Monday to Friday. I attend classes during my lunch hour or after work when I can, and if anything it has given me more energy and focus during the day.

It hasn’t helped me shed those few pounds, but then again in order to do that I would have to give up the sweet things I enjoy so much and that has been hard.

It was Valentine’s a few weeks ago, Mother’s Day was this past Sunday and now we have St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. There is always an excuse I guess!
We are still on the house hunt. We have seen over a dozen homes at this stage, and if I’m being honest nothing has jumped out at us yet. 

Some were above our budget but they were open to offers. Others were in our budget range but needed work.

I guess we have been spoiled where we currently rent.  We live in the countryside, have amazing views and extreme peace and tranquility (and a mouse according to John about five minutes ago, but I’m not going to think about that).

We are renting a rather large house (too big to keep clean and heat), but the space is fantastic for the kids and our entertaining nights.  The great thing about renting -- and we were advised to do so by so many people prior to moving back home -- is being able to test out the country living, the house size and the bills that come with it.

In this current climate we could afford a decent size house, but the question is do we want to tie up all our savings (and eliminate future savings) on an oversized home with great curb appeal, or do we want to scale back and buy something much more affordable, smaller and possibly in a housing estate.

We are of two minds, but at the moment we have been leaning more on the latter because we would still like to get away on our holidays every year and afford to be able to have a few nights out as well.

We will see. No doubt our minds will change over and over so watch this space.
One thing is for sure, though -- houses in Limerick are selling. Several houses that we have been tracking online (daft.ie) over the past few years have just begun to sell.

The banks are lending again, albeit cautiously and rightly so. It’s nice to see things moving, but it’s putting a little smoke under us also to get going.

In other day to day Irish living news, I registered the children in an Irish speaking school not too far from here last week. There are four Irish speaking primary schools in Limerick, but they all have waiting lists a mile long. Sadie is one and Colum is two. I was told by several parents that I’m leaving it very late to register them. 

We’ve also been in discussions about pulling the children out of the day-care and hiring a babysitter at home or an au-pair.

It breaks my heart to think about pulling them out of their crèche. They love the structure and routine. They have so much fun, learn so much and enjoy the company of other children.

But the figures are getting a little on the high side. It costs us €12,500 a year (about $16,000) to have them there. An au-pair is a little over €5, 000.

Several of our friends have au-pairs from Europe living with them for a year. I do not entirely love the idea, but again watch this space.

Okay New York and America, Happy St. Patrick’s Day and think of us all here in Ireland when ye celebrate over the next few weeks.

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