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Irish Eyes Are Smiling

March 16, 2017
For many St. Patrick's Days when the college boys were young, I'd wake them to the sound of bagpipes, compliments of an Irish Rovers party mix. The unique, soulful sounds of the pipes would reverberate through the house while the wee ones wiped the sleep from their eyes, and they'd leap out of bed dancing with joy.

"Um, I don't remember any dancing," Jack said from his dorm room in Greencastle, Ind. "I mostly remember being jolted out of bed by some weird music."

Weird music? The pipes? The pipes were calling, Jack. Bet you're thanking me now, John Patrick McCarthy.

"Of course," he said. "It's a big day to be named 'McCarthy.' "

Like any good Irish mother, I love it when my children acknowledge all I've done for them. And I especially love it that the boys love St. Patrick's Day. And so today, arguably the greatest day of the year, is a time to celebrate whether or not you're Irish.

Lucky for me, I am. My favorite color is green every day of the year. My favorite movie is "The Quiet Man," and I know all the words to "Danny Boy." I can go from laughing to crying in 60 seconds.

I know the reason wakes and funerals are so important is that they're not for the dead, but for the living. I've been known to frequent a cemetery or two in the region. And I've been to Ireland and back, compliments of my Irish Aunt Peggy, who can put back a Guinness with the best of them.

What can I say I'm glad to be Irish. A few other nationalities are represented in the family tree, but I learned years ago that at least three of my four maternal great-great grandparents were born in Ireland: Thomas P. Clifford, Margaret Cody and John Kennedy, each of whom emigrated from Ireland to our country sometime before the 1860s.

I'm guessing it had something to do with potatoes, but who can know for sure? My family's story is that Tom Clifford met and married Margaret Cody; John Kennedy met and married a Pennsylvania girl named Catherine Dunn.

Their children, Thomas E. Clifford and Mary Kennedy, met, married and had seven children, one of whom was my grandfather, William Clifford. His favorite song was "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," which happened to be the song I first danced to with my Irish husband when we married nearly 25 years ago. You're welcome, boys.

So today, wear something green. Lift a glass and make a toast. Tell a story and share a laugh. Remember lost loved ones and shed a tear. Sing along to drinking songs. Wake your children to the sounds of bagpipes. Find a parade, or start your own. Remember, Irish eyes are smiling all day long.

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