A Magical Rant
No doubt it’s because I’m a pagan. Not simply the “non-Christian” kind of pagan, but an actual, practicing pagan, who knows what Samhain and Beltane are, and has the solstices and equinoxes in bright green on her Google calendar. And because I find the word “pagan” a bit academic and stuffy, I call myself a witch. So there it is. Probably the real and true reason why I hate Saint Patrick’s Day.
Okay, hate is a very strong word. What I actually feel is annoyed. Annoyed by all the green glitter, the green frilly dresses and miniature verdant suits in the window at the consignment store, annoyed by the displays of seasonally-dressed chocolate–in this case bags of gold leprechaun candies–and the advertising campaigns that launch them into the local drugstore a week before Valentine’s Day. Exhausted, maybe that’s the word. Exhausted by the relentless consumer parade of hearts and shamrocks and bunnies and flowers and flags and pumpkins and turkeys and angels, and their accelerated annual march across the shelves of every store in America.
I feel alarmed that our local school devotes so much worksheet space to snowmen in the California Bay Area where we never see so much as a snowflake. I feel aggravated when I’m asked to provide some kind of green food for the Leprechaun’s feast replacing Writers’ Workshop in my son’s class, the Friday before the great Irish weekend of green beer. I understand that national holidays can help create a feeling of unity, a commonality of experience (not to mention a regulated rush of consumerism), but I feel offended that Ramadan and Purim don’t make the cut while Christmas and Easter, two holidays deliberately co-opted from pagan tradition by the early Christian church, are yearly standards.
I’ve got my own holidays to celebrate. No one’s selling spring on any shelf in this country–it happens all by its own free self. The pussywillow in the front yard has dropped its golden carpet of catkins in a magical circle on our lawn, and the bees have already found the grape hyacinth and rosemary blossoms. My daughter knows it. Her obsession with dandelions is just beginning to edge out her fascination with landscape rocks, so now instead of denuding the neighbors’ pathways she’s weeding their front lawns.
My son wonders about leprechauns. A week ago he discovered a patch of clover in our backyard with an astounding tendency for quadruple leaves: in just a few days he’s collected more four-leaf clovers than I’ve seen in my lifetime. He scrapes them into macerated green piles on the deck, next to a leprechaun trap strangely composed of an upside-down aluminum pot (how how does the Little Green Man get in?). All over the Momnet are cute and adorable ideas about how to keep the green magic alive in our children’s hearts.
Spasmodically inspired, I tipped a tiny amount of green food dye into the milk pitcher on Friday morning. That’s it, that’s all I did. After all, my children are one-quarter Irish; I figured ought to accommodate this inconvenient holiday somehow. Amazed when green milk poured into his cereal bowl, my son immediately checked my face for the truth. After twice up with his sister the night before, I was too tired to know he was even looking at me, which he took as absolute confirmation of the existence of leprechauns. Immediately, he started investigating the bombed-out kitchen, which I had uncharacteristically abandoned the night before in sticky disarray. He leapt to the conclusion that the leprechaun must have undone all my careful cleaning, and my first thought was: “Now that’s a holiday I can celebrate!” Leave the dishes and floor unscraped, dip my finger into the milk to turn it green, and call it the Eve of St. Patrick’s.
Except that it wasn’t. Confused by my own pagan, anti-consumerist ignorance, I’d mistakenly dressed both my children in green on Friday morning, the day of the first grade “Leprechaun Lunch,” to make sure that my children wouldn’t be shamed by their maternal association with witches and other dodgy folk who don’t believe in heaven. Only to be informed by my son, after his conclusive and confirming search of the house for evidence of leprechaun mischief, that it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day at all.
“Yes it is,” I insisted, “that Leprechaun thingy is today at school.”
“I know,” he said, with all the patience of a six-year old already familiar with parental limitations. “But St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until later.”
“Well, maybe the Leprechaun was attracted to the four-leaf clovers, and wanted to make an advance visit,” I offered lamely, averse to crushing his new-found faith in small green people. This explanation he eagerly accepted, and perhaps repeated to the first child he met at school, only to be met with scorn. Because just an hour after dropping him off, he had called home with his first-ever “headache.”
This is the child who’d already gotten himself into a cauldron of hot water by insisting at Halloween that his mother really was a witch. So, I went to retrieve my poor, misfit son–social outcast prohibited from video games and t.v., ignorant of good Christian dogma, excluded from the easy enjoyment of candy canes and baskets full of shredded green plastic and other sundry synthetics at expected seasonal intervals. Possibly I had saved him from a miserable day of persecution and pinching, since in the full morning light his shorts looked more grey than green. But maybe he just didn’t feel like eating green food that day.
As for us, we’ll be setting out dishes of milk for the Little Folk on Spring Equinox this Wednesday, and dyeing eggs in honor of the coming of Spring, with its eternal, recurring refreshment of the world and our spirits.