The Wrong Side of the Rainbow
Every year St. Patrick’s Day comes and goes and every year I’m reminded of this classic tale from my own family’s tapestry.
The Vinopal side, my dad's side of the family, has some Irish lineage so as young as I can remember, we acknowledged the American holiday at the very least. My dad‘s mom’s maiden name was Gracie Fallon, so some standard traditions were included in family gatherings annually come St. Patrick’s Day. Corn beef and cabbage. Wearing green. That sort of thing.
My younger sister, Lauren and I loved to use our imaginations, which has carried forward into adulthood, so the tales of leprechauns enthralled us. It was awesome to imagine leprechauns committing mischievous acts and possessing a fortune of gold sitting in a pot at the end of a rainbow. The kind of shit really got us excited!
Lauren, even from an early age, was incredible. Even now, when she sets her mind on something, she’s going to make that shit happen. She got it in her head one St. Patrick’s Day that she was going to catch herself a leprechaun. A bona-fide, emerald green leprechaun! And she was going to catch it by building a state-of-the-art leprechaun trap.
What that looked like was digging a crude hole in the side-yard at our childhood home without Dad‘s permission. Mom didn’t seem to mind. How did we bait the trap, you ask? Well, my sister being the sharp cookie she is, deduced from the iconic Lucky Charms cereal that you should bait your leprechaun traps with yes, you guessed it, marshmallows.
She had expertly deduced that the inclusion of marshmallows in the Lucky Charms cereal indicated that marshmallows were indeed leprechaun bait. But we did not have Lucky Charms on hand and we were merely kids. Sure we could’ve ridden our bikes to the nearest store and purchased a box of the coveted Lucky Charms with our pooled allowance money, but this isn’t a movie. Besides, when I contested my sister's use of regular standard white marshmallows to bait her trap, she looked at me and said, “A marshmallow is a fuckin’ marshmallow,” and that settled that.
So at this point we're standing there, looking at this hole, crudely dug in the dirt, surrounded with marshmallows (the standard white kind), with some piled carefully at the bottom of the hole. We then scoured the yard for the proper stick to pair with the proper cardboard box to prop above the hole. With that we had created the most rudimentary of Rube Goldberg Machines possible.
The plan was simple, flawless really. The leprechaun, drawn by the marshmallows, would greedily gobble and gather our baits, triggering the trap, causing the box to entomb the leprechaun in the hole with the ‘mallows.
We couldn’t lose.
Now all we had to do was wait and return to the trap later to collect our leprechaun. At that point he would lead us to the gold. Easy peasy. We’re rich!
As the sun set and dusk took hold that fateful St. Patrick’s Day, my sister Lauren returned to her trap and low and behold, the trap had been sprung! The leprechaun was surely in her grasp.
She gingerly approached her trap, preparing to lift the box and collect the leprechaun, being careful not to let him scurry away with our ‘mallows and our hopes of gold in pots.
She lifted the box and peered beneath, snatching up the flash of green beneath in her tiny hands.
It was at this point that my mom and I came outside to join my little sister and see what she had caught. Lauren had called out with excitement moments before, "I got one! I got one!"
As mom and I approached and Lauren lifted her leprechaun out of the whole, terror dawned in my mother’s eyes. At that moment I realized what was about to happen and everything went into full slow-motion, mom yelling, “No! Put that down!"
Little Lauren stood there squishing a green plastic bag in her hands, thinking perhaps the leprechaun was inside. Some inconsiderate individual had flung their dog’s bagged turds in the general direction of the garbage cans on the side of our house, in turn tripping the trap. Perhaps inadvertently. Perhaps not.
I think of that memory often. I think of it because it was funny and innocent, but also a wonderful metaphor for how life actually is, but few have the guts to tell you when you’re young, for fear of crushing your spirit.
You can plan everything, build the perfect trap, using the perfect bait, waiting patiently, but despite all that planning and all that thought and care, sometimes life will just give you a bag of dog shit in return. Roll with the punches. Guess it’s better than nothing. At least you got a ridiculous story out of it. And you’ll likely recount the tale many times over in your life and even laugh along at it someday. I’ll leave you with an old Irish blessing.
May all your dog turds turn to gold. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.