Day o’ the Leprechaun

At my son’s old school, the teachers would do a whole song n dance about the leprechauns. They built large, elaborate leprechaun traps out of Popsicle sticks. The leprechaun would turn the toilet water green, leave footprints all over the class, and mess up everything.
So now St. Patrick’s Day is Ethan’s FAVORITE HOLIDAY EVER!!! He went to school today wearing a leprechaun hat covered in sequins and got his 1st grade class riled up. I’m sure it was him. He was the only one whose house got visited by leprechauns, and he has the natural ability for riling up his class. The other day, he invented a game wherein rocks got thrown, leading to much injury and admonishments.
And today, today the toilet water in our home was green. The leprechaun shredded newspaper and left it up and down the hallway. He mocked the children by inserting a stuffed green frog into their leprechaun trap. “That dirty leprechaun!” Ethan said, shaking his fist into the air. “Why must he do this?”

He went to school and told the tale. When I arrived at 1 pm to do my weekly volunteering, the kids were in high dudgeon.

The teacher told me her class in previous years had never been like this. “They’ve been looking for the leprechaun all day,” she said.

I immediately suspected my son of rallying the troops and confirmed it when no other kid confessed to having a leprechaun visit.
We made St. Pat’s bracelets, in which the words had to spell out “HAPPY ST PATS” or “LUCK O THE IRISH.” It was highly confusing to some kids, despite me setting out the letters in order, despite the piece of paper spelling them out, despite it being written on the board. It was also highly frustrating, as the beads were small and the plastic elastic slippery and several bracelets bit the dust, resulting in tears or, in the case of the more mature of the children, a cheerful shoulder shrug.
Finally another volunteer showed up and announced, “I just got a call from a leprechaun– he said he hid coins in the grass and I’ll take you out three at a time to find them.”

The shrieking was deafening. Every time someone stopped, another began it again.

My son was one of the first to return from the field, a green coin clutched in his hand. “It’s a shamrock,” he said, showing me and the teacher. “But on the other side, it says MADE IN CHINA.”

“Maybe the leprechauns got together with their Chinese friends,” the teacher said.

The other kids chimed in. “Mine says that too. I don’t think there are leprechauns in China.”

One little girl asked, “Can I eat mine? Is it chocolate?”

“No,” the teacher said, “it’s a coin to treasure forever.”

“But can I eat it?”


She looked at the coin again. It was discolored blue on one edge, a cheap manufacturing defect. “But mine’s BLUE. What happened?”

“Maybe it got colored by the rainbow,” I said.

The other children gathered around her. “Hers was touched by the RAINBOW!” one screamed.

“Yay!” the girl cried. “I’m the happiest GIRL IN THE WORLD!!”

Ah, first grade.

I was proud of Ethan for inspiring their imaginations. Just last week, the teacher and I had been helping kids with their reading. Some struggle a lot. We talked about how some of them simply lack imaginations, and how I saw it in the private school Ethan was at last year, which had mostly upper-income kids; and how she saw it at her low-income school last year. The commonality, we decided, was the lack of free play time; everything is structured; every game or toy does something FOR them. Call it the Age of the Brain-Quivering Video Game. Besides, free play is the Kid Martini; it’s how they relax. They need it.

It was worth the damaged eardrums.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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