I have always been a lover of all things that are Irish. The color green, the proverbial four leaf clover, my favorite childhood cereal “Lucky Charms” and my gift for gab, or is it called – Blarney! I was born Kathleen Rose Skaj to my parents Rita Flaherty and Melvin Skaj. Growing up, I spent time with my mom, visiting her relatives in one pub or another, and firmly believing (much to the chagrin of my Polish father), that being Irish was what made me special! We would celebrate every St. Patrick’s Day in St. Paul, Minnesota with a parade and getting kissed by many a happy, and slightly inebriated, leprechaun. My mother named all of us kids after her Irish ancestors and if we misbehaved, my father would say it was our Irish that was coming out!
Ireland, for me, is a place that magic and reality mix. It is a place where culture isn’t something that you explore, it’s something that you live: The ocean, the green hills, the mountains, the forests, the castles, the ability to laugh and cry in the hearing of a story. Hearing music that reaches down to your depths and raises you to the most joyful spot in your heart.
I would love to bring my seventy-nine-year-old Irish mama to the place where she inherited all of her stamina, her hard-headedness, her wicked sense of humor, and her ability to produce four children — who, to this day, proclaim their Irish ancestry as their claim to fame. I would love to take my mother to the Barney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. She doesn’t really need the gift of gab – she must have inherited that from a long line of ancestors! It would be lovely to find our family’s history. Where did our Irish ancestors come from? What were their lives like? From where did they leave? What made them leave? Have we followed in their footsteps and would they be proud of what we’ve become? I would love to take my mother to the Barney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Ireland, for me, is the place that made my mother who she is today, and definitely shaped who I am. I want to visit the museums, look at the Book of Kells, taste a good Irish whiskey, and smell a peat fire. I want to listen to the stories of how it used to be and I want to enjoy what Ireland is today! The food that I grew up on Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! Yes, my mother even puts potatoes in her chili, and I can’t forget her boiled potato dinner! I understand that the cuisine in Ireland is some of the best. I’m curious what the chefs in Ireland can do with my favorite vegetable!
I don’t know if the people in Ireland understand how tied we Irish-Americans are to Ireland. My oldest daughter, Erin Kathleen, and her sister, Molly Rose, are prime examples. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota where the streets are all in a jumble. The founders of our city said it was a group of Irish that planned the city streets after a meeting in the local pub. We who live in St. Paul wouldn’t have it any other way. Ireland is where we come from. It’s part of our culture and where we would love to return, even if only for a visit!
“Ireland… is a place where culture isn’t something that you explore, it’s something that you live”
We couldn’t say it better. If you’re looking for culture – and we mean rich, historic, vibrant culture – you have to Travel to Ireland. So many travelers are pleasurably surprised by the amount of variety the country has to offer – just read some of our Authentic Ireland Reviews!