Recently, I asked the married kids what one of their fondest childhood memories was.
They mentioned family vacations, drives to Pennsylvania, Christmas and the leprechaun.
I didn’t realize how much a simple family tradition, like the leprechaun’s visit to our home, meant to the kids.
I began the leprechaun’s visit about 35 years ago.
On St. Patrick’s Day eve, I placed green paper feet all over the house. The kids liked it enough that today they continue the tradition with their children.
When my kids were young, the week before St Patrick’s Day, I purchased a surplus of green construction paper. Then, a day or two before St. Patrick’s, I spent the night cutting small footprints out of the green construction paper – hundreds of them.
It seemed like an eternity cutting out the green feet. It took even longer, sticking them up all over the house.
But I loved it, even on top of my duties of homework to check, sports practices, dinner and piano lessons.
I always had to wait until the kids were asleep before the leprechaun could sneak in. I’d tape his green feet everywhere. I placed leprechaun footprints on shower doors, ceilings and bedroom walls. I put them on backpacks and doors. I put the leprechaun’s mark on the refrigerator door, trash cans, lamps and bookcases.
One year, I put the foot prints on the kids’ arms and legs while they were sleeping. Talk about funny.
For my kids, the green feet represented a sneaky leprechaun’s visit to our home on St. Patrick’s Day.
The best part of his visit was the pot of gold he left hidden in the house.
During the tight years, the pot of gold held a package of gum for each child. Then, in the prosperous years (I really haven’t gotten there yet), the pot of gold contained a new T-shirt or a green bag filled with candy. No matter what it was, the kids loved it.
Even as teenagers, they’d be the first to admit it.
I recall one busy year (aren’t they all), when I had forgotten to buy green paper. The stores were closed and the gas stations didn’t have paper supplies.
Consequently, I took white typing paper and a green magic marker and colored the white paper, green.
By morning, I was green, too. Anywhere I had scratched my face or body was green, especially my hands, though the kids never noticed. They ran wild looking for the pot of gold.
I think I still have green under my nails today.
The kids are thousands of miles away, except for Kelsey. So I will cut out a few green footprints, for her and hide a pot of gold. It’s fun.
The leprechaun’s visit was a simple family tradition, one we really enjoyed.
Maybe that was the real pot of gold, an annual family tradition, which kept us close.
After all, “The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.