y eldest niece is Grace, who is seven years old and in second grade this year. (The others are Haley, 5, in kindergarten, and Sophie, just about to turn 3, in preschool.) One of Grace's classmates received a present from a Leprechaun on the morning of Saint Patrick's Day the other year, provoking a minor crisis among the other students of Irish descent, like Grace, who wondered why they
didn't get a visit and a present from a leprechaun. (This, then, became a minor crisis for all the parents of these children: I wonder if this is how national traditions get started.) This has in two years apparently become a phenomenon that makes my nieces' enthusiasm for Santa Claus pale in comparison, for the leprechauns also come into the house and move things around
in my nieces' bedroom at night, or among their other possessions.
This seems the most fun part of the idea to me (for the adults), in just setting up more outlandish possibilities for the girls' excitement: Leslie put the kabosh on my being found by the girls the next morning asleep out on the patio table as though the leprechauns had moved me in my sleep - she didn't want to set a precedent or anticipation of escalation. I settled for the modest contribution of loosely tying the sleeves of their jackets together where they were hanging from pegs in the coatroom, which they apparently didn't even notice in their morning rush. They were impressed, however, with the photograph
I had managed to capture of when I surprised a leprechaun coming to get me in my guest room in the basement. That idea had popped into my head just before I went to bed the night before, after hearing of all this from them: an out-of-focus photograph of someone else's internet leprechaun found through a little Google magic left them sure that I, too, had been harassed by my ancestral foes, although they suspected I might be telling tall tales when I described having had been carried off to wake up in Ireland once by the leprechauns when I was in school, or when my and Mommy's brains had been switched into one another's bodies when we were kids.
The trickster vandalism of these imps has become an object of endless fascination for my nieces, who ascribe anything in the house that seems placed differently to them as the work of leprechauns. They also fantasize about capturing the beasties, because the famed pot of gold holds some attraction, too, although there's some concern about leprechauns pinching at night. Haley got good and truly worked up over this last possibility with me as I babysat them through dinner, squeaking that, "If one tries to pinch me, I'll turn around, I'll grab him, and I'll smash him with a hammer!
" I had a hard time not choking on my own laughter at this unexpectedly violent image, but I did have enough parenting instincts to immediately override her desire to sleep
that night with a hammer in order to defend against such possibilities.
I had had no idea about any of this current leprechaun mythology, and so being here for Saint Patrick's Day turned into something of a wonder. Had I had a camera running through the whole thing as it was unfolding before me and explained to me, I would have had one of the world's funniest documentaries in the end as these little Chinese-Irish-Slovenian Jewish-Polish girls whipped themselves into a state of war-fever against the onslaught of their own imaginations.I
finally heard the girls' perspective about the night when I went down to a local park with them with Leslie after Grace and Haley got home from school on Saint Patrick's Day. I had been feverishly working on getting my green shirts through the laundry before they got home because I knew that I would be the victim of an extraordinary amount of pinching from the two of them if I wasn't wearing green, and they have gotten quite good at that, with their vicious, tiny fingers. As I heard their account of the night, and what had gotten moved around and other such naughty things the leprechauns had done, such as putting up all over the walls pictures of a class pet hedgehog Grace was particularly fond of, I showed them the photograph (pleased that they didn't realize the bar set in the shot wasn't their
basement bar set, which is not so 1970s) and got their reactions to that. Mostly, though, we were far too excited about having a warm day to play outside in, and concerned ourselves with that.