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Given that this is my March post (despite it appearing on April 1st…oops) I thought it might be appropriate to tell you all a little bit about why I have such a fascination with Ireland and her stories.

I don’t remember exactly when the obsession started. Certainly, it was in elementary school or before, but suffice it to say that from a young age I have been interested in anything and everything to do with Ireland. It started as a fascination with the folklore. I remember seeing movies like Darby O’Gill and the Little People, and Luck of the Irish. Both of these movies focused on leprechauns—probably the most well known of Irish characters to Americans. Reading about leprechauns led me to learn about other denizens of the Irish Otherworld such as the Dullahan, the Banshee, and even the famed Tuatha Dé Danann. I read the book Lebor Gabala Erenn and learned about the mythological cycles of Ireland. It evolved from that to an interest in Ireland’s history, culture, and people. I remember trying to learn Irish dancing by watching a VHS tutorial tape (I never did get very far with it), I had a little gold colored Irish Whistle I pretended to know how to play—after all how different could it be from a recorder? I have tried, on a few occasions, to learn the Irish language resulting in the knowledge of a few phrases that I mumble to myself every now and then when lost in a daydream.

Really though, there was an incident when I was in the 3rd grade at Columbia Heights Elementary School that sealed my fate and piqued my interest forever. I once heard it said that if you ask an Irishman if they believe in the Good People, they will tell you ‘No’ but all the same they will respect the Faerie Rings, and Forts, and Trees, and the like because it wouldn’t do to be making the Fair Folk mad. So, I’m not saying the following story has any merit and I’m not saying it doesn’t. It was, however, enough to capture my imagination and never let it go.

In the 3rd grade, I would have been 8 or 9 years old. I believed in many things at that age—most of which I still do. What I did not believe in, and never really had, were things like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and fairy tale creatures like the leprechaun. Such beings just didn’t make sense to me even with my overactive imagination. Every year at school on St. Patrick’s Day the teachers would have us make leprechaun traps out of empty Lucky Charms cereal boxes or other such childish material, and then when we went out to recess, they would trash the room and put chocolate gold coins on all our desks and leave green streamers trailed throughout the room. The teachers would claim a leprechaun had come while we were away, had tossed the room, left us fake gold, and made a mess of our feeble traps. Despite my interest in the diminutive being I did not buy into that nonsense. I would roll my eyes, eat my chocolate, and go back to staring at the ceiling to daydream of grand adventures while the teacher taught…something.

This particular St. Patrick’s Day though, something different occurred. The teacher went through her usual shenanigans during the first recess and as usual I enjoyed the distraction from learning. It wasn’t until the second recess that something unexpected happened. It wasn’t anything grand, or eye catching—I didn’t see a tiny shape go darting underneath the swing-set or some such thing. In fact, it was the tiny, simple, ordinariness of what occurred that enthralled me. I was walking past a little wooden fort, through a sandbox, and out to the soccer field probably thinking about what the world would be like if such imaginary beings like dragons or leprechauns were real when I saw it. There, in the corner of the sandbox, was a footprint. Not a normal size footprint, not even a baby sized footprint, but rather the imprint of a shoe. A narrow, formal shoe segmented with a heel like the imprint of my church shoes would be. It was caught in the corner of the sandbox like someone very small had gone running by and only stepped one foot into the sand as they went past. I stopped and stared. Why would a teacher have come all the way out here just to put the impression of one small shoe into the sand? Where would they have even gotten a little dress shoe that size? In the stories leprechauns are cobblers, they would wear nice shoes, wouldn’t they? What if….?

And just like that, I was caught.

Now, I’m saying they are real and I’m not saying they’re not. I’m just saying what I saw and leaving it at that.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day no matter what day you’re reading this on!

 

Until next time,

Slan!

“I still haven’t told Sam that it was my footprint. I just don’t have the heart.”