Her curly blonde hair was clipped back with a shamrock, and she sat high above us on her Dad’s shoulders. Their home-made sign was covered in glitter pen, and it buckled in the breeze. But she didn’t care.
Across Fifth Avenue, the crowd wore Aran knitwear, peak caps and Celtic gear. Anything they’d collected on a trip to Ireland was now proudly displayed.
The hot dog stands were selling green fairy floss and shamrock-shaped cookies. And on the side streets, doughnuts with green sprinkles and fluro-green bagels coloured the shop windows.
On the street, high-school cheerleaders twirled batons, marching bands thrashed on drums and policemen paraded past. A couple of boy scouts ran from over to the metal barricades, and high-fived me in excitement as they ran by. It was so American. Just like I’d thought it would be – and I loved it!
I celebrated among generations of Irish-Americans and hundreds who had made the pilgrimage to the biggest St. Paddy’s Day parade in the world.
At night the beer flowed green, the Empire State building flickered green and a billboard at Times Square flashed green, asking “Who’s your Paddy?”.
It was the first St. Paddy’s I’d celebrated since researching my Irish ancestry and finding my relatives in Dublin. And although I couldn’t be with them, or my own family in Australia, in New York I shared a sense of patriotism and belonging with others who’d come to call Ireland home.