It was tough losing six months with my 7-year-old grandsons. It’s a wonderful age and they’re only 7 once.
It turns out, 7 is the Leprechaun Age. With their ginger hair and Irish ancestry, and almost perfect size, Tyler and Bryce were in full leprechaun mode leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. They love playing “luepercon” as Bryce spells it, and they’re mad to catch one, so they’ve been building traps, mostly out of construction paper and masking tape, but showing some technical ingenuity. Their tiny house had a string attached to the front door and threaded through the roof, tied to a bag of gold coins inside (I took their word for it). When the leprechaun — and they assured me one was lurking in the area — pulled the bag, it raised the front door and locked him in (theoretically). To lure a reluctant leprechaun inside the trap, they created enticing signage, such as “Free Toilet Breaks!” How could any self-respecting leprechaun resist that?
Three months removed from Santa Claus, leprechauns are kings in the magic department, besting other relevant beings like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, the latter rising in prominence, however, with the promise of a “Benjamin” under the pillow when they lose their baby teeth (if it ever happens). I ask, “What’s a Benjamin? A $10 bill?” No, Bryce says, “a hundred.” Seven-year-olds have information sources that would impress even QAnon. I tell them I only got a quarter. I’m doubtful about the Benjamins. That’s a lot of inflation.
We read an old Irish folk tale about an encounter with a leprechaun, which contains some valuable advice: If you ever encounter one of the “little people,” never take your eyes off him. Admittedly, that would test the powers of concentration of these leprechaun hunters, not to mention their attention span. But they’re nothing if not determined.
Magic and science comfortably co-habit the 7-year-old mind, which consists of two parts imagination to one part realism.
But first grade has been filling their brains with plenty of competing knowledge. We were discussing where one of their school friends lived, and they were a bit vague. I said, “You mean the general vs. the specific location?” Thought I would stretch their vocabulary. Bryce replied, “You mean the absolute vs. the relative?”
Turns out they’ve become quite adept at navigating Google Earth on their school-provided Chromebooks. Bryce claims he typed in “The End of the Rainbow” and saw a green blur flash across the screen, but they also showed me my apartment building in Oak Park, where they (we) have many happy memories. Then, with Daddy on the other end of our Zoom connection, we traveled to Djibouti, Africa, Chromebook interfacing Chromebook, for a guided tour of the base where Dad is currently deployed.
Speaking of imagination, they also like talking to Alexa, mostly turning her timer on and off, but it seems to give them an intoxicating sense of power.
Which is fine, but magic is more fun. I ask Bryce what he’ll do with the pot of gold when he finds it.
“I’ll buy Mom a castle with a golden bedroom, and I’ll buy you a mansion, and I’ll buy Tyler his own house.”
“Where are you going to live?”
“I’ll live with Mom. I’ll have a silver bedroom.”
Tyler, meanwhile, has drawn a “Tresher Map,” complete with a “Key” and a compass. The key includes “Tool, Path, Tree,” and “Land Mrc” [Landmark], accompanied by a drawing to guide the user.
On St. Patrick’s Day itself, I stopped by while they were in school and left assorted “treshers” acquired at the Irish Shop in Oak Park, including two leprechaun “stuffies,” two green necklaces with dangling shamrocks, and green fortune cookies, one of which reads, “May you find a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.” These I leave on their pillows — after making their beds so they know they’ve been visited by a supernatural force. I leave a pot (actually a shamrock-festooned pail) filled with gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins in the middle of their trampoline in the backyard and a “clue” on the dinner table inside that says, “You’ll find your pot o’ gold in the place where you bounce,” signed “Papa Lepreken.”
Inside the card is a St. Patrick coin. On the back, it reads, “May your troubles be less, your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.”
They call later to give me a full report on the day and relate that they “almost caught the leprechaun.” I tell them the Irish are great ones for blessings, and the two of them are among my greatest blessings.
Someday, when they have moved beyond magic — except, of course, the magic of love — maybe they’ll pick this up and read the following blessing from Ireland’s master, John O’Donohue:
May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless this work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.
But they don’t need to read it now. They’ve got this covered.
It’s their personal pot of gold.