My mother Sharon, she of the gimpy knee and gradually-improving Irish accent, teaches four year-olds at an unnamed local preschool. Today was the highlight of the entire year at the school, for today was St. Patrick's Day. OK, it was the day after St. Patrick's Day, but the Tuesday/Thursday/Friday class wasn't at school yesterday, so they celebrated today. It's the culmination of an entire month full of stories about leprechauns and much singing (and beginning again) of the sad tale of Michael Finnegan. Here's how it works:
Earlier in the day, the young'uns, in conjunction with parent volunteers, build a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption designed for the humane trapping of leprechauns. Then, the fun begins.
At Circle Time I, Mrs. Keane tells the children about how, earlier in the day, she heard a rustling in the cupboard. She opened the door, pounced quickly, and caught a leprechaun with her bare hands, she lies. A paper sack is produced, ostensibly holding a plastic sandwich bag with a leprechaun inside. Just as Mrs. Keane is about to open the bag and show the assembled children, she subtly bumps the sack with her knee.
"The leprechaun seems nervous," Mrs. Keane says. "Why don't we put the bag up on a high shelf (not too high - Mrs. Keane is 4'11") where it's dark and quiet? Then, once the leprechaun calms down, we'll bring him out."
The kids agree to the plan, and move on to arts, crafts, and tricycle riding. In the meantime, Mrs. Keane surreptitiously cuts holes in the paper sack, and the bags within. Before Circle Time II, everyone checks the leprechaun trap, and Mrs. Keane places a dish of green paint next to it "just in case he manages to get out, we can track him."
We retire to the other room, for more songs about leprechauns and pin-fishing Irishmen. Of course, while this is going on, the parent confederates are laying a trail of tiny green leprechaun footprints running away from the trap and into the parking lot. When Mrs. Keane brings out the hole-ridden bag, bedlam ensues:
"The leperchaun got out Mrs. Keane!"
"Check the twap!"
"I think it went outside!"
"It's undoh the sink!"
Children are running around, wide-eyed, almost hysterical with excitement. The finishing touch is the leprechaun's escape tool, a tiny toy spade left next to the trap, which one child breathlessly refers to as an "Irish shovel." The leprechaun's cache of gold-wrapped gold coins is discovered, ensuring that the already-hyper children have a little more sugar in their system when they go home, cranked up out of their minds. It's the best day of the whole year, and it's all made possible by our good friend deceit.