Green Thumb

Today I had a rare hour with no meetings or school commitments of any kind. I thought about doing something crazy like catching up on work in the morning rather than at midnight. But then I remembered two little words that have been haunting my recent days: Fergal O’Gorman.

Fergal O’Gorman is a force to be reckoned with. No lame-o Elf on The Shelf smiling beatifically down at you, Fergal O’Gorman wrecks the place. He leaves chairs on the kitchen table. He spews toys across the hall. He scatters pillows throughout the house.  He knocks over lamps. And even more disturbing, he leaves elaborate, rhyming notes and St Patrick’s Day candy, which can only be bought at See’s Candies (yes, I have looked at Target). Every single night in March.

I am not sure at this point how Fergal O’Gorman even came to be. Back when my oldest was first in preschool, a leprechaun visited their school and made a small mess. Danny built a trap with his classmates and brought it home. And then he built more. And then Annie built more. And JayJay added some in. And Conwayville, our annual village of old toys and cleat boxes, was born. Fergal O’Gorman emerged as the wilder brother to our Elf on the Shelf Johnny (who incidentally manages to keep his magic despite sleeping with people every night he is here), a sprite who demands gold (and occasionally Irish cheese—for what reason, I really can’t remember, there must have been a sale) and leaves candy in an attempt to win the Conway treasure.

Fergal O’Gorman is in fact the name of a Dubliner I knew in college. He was tall, dark, with wavy hair and a brown suede jacket worthy of Eddie Vedder. I almost dated him my freshman year. Now I run around in my ratty bathrobe destroying my own house on a nightly basis in his name. Fergal, eat your heart out.

Sometimes I think maybe I should just retire the leprechaun. Send a note that says, hey, kids, thanks for all the pennies, I think you’re great. I’ll come every year and leave you some cash and a nice big pot of candy but not until St Patrick’s Day, ok? I mean, Danny barely even look at the traps anymore—except to collect the spoils.

But then tonight I watched as Annie and JayJay constructed what might be the most elaborate trap yet, involving a decoy stuffed animal in shamrock sunglasses, a camera (to film the leprechaun), a slingshot armed with a little green monster, some fake jewels, a Small World doll, a Nerf gun and numerous notes to lure Fergal in. They were having so much fun that they even dragged Danny down and got him into the act. And even as I struggled to figure out how I am going to actually create a picture on their camera tonight, I realized that it is all strangely worth it. And weirdly fun. It may mean I write that press release a bit later, but how often as an adult do you get to play, to let your imagination run as wildly as it might have when you were six?

I might never finish my younger two’s baby books. Pretty soon, when they are in middle school, they will think that I am the lamest mother in the world. The leprechaun traps will just be quaint decorations. But, eventually, when they look back on their childhood and they know that every single night in March their mother crawled around, tripping over her own messes, creating havoc for herself in the name of their fun, they will know how deeply I care. How much I want there to be magic in their lives and joy in their little souls.

And if they don’t, well, when they have kids, Grandma and Fergal O’Gorman might come pay them a visit. And he just might leave their kids some See’s Candies and a promise to return. Every single night in March. Right before Grandma heads out of town.



Let Her Go

In less than a month, my six-year-old Annie will sing “Let It Go” at the school variety show. While this fills me with terror, her biggest concern seems to be with the lighting for her entrance and if she should leap into the audience for her finale.

I’ve bitten my tongue about what I think maybe should be her bigger concern. I think she might be as tone deaf as her mother.

In a quest to try and figure out if this was indeed the case, I took her to a singing teacher a few weeks ago. The thing about Annie is that she is a bundle of manic energy. She talks fast. She moves fast. And that means she is either groping you inappropriately or knocking something over. She is like Mary Katherine Gallagher from the old Saturday Night Live skit. While she doesn’t smell her armpits, she might pick her nose. Apparently she recently even ate a booger in front of a friend’s mother last week while singing “Let It Go” in her face. But, in most scenarios, Annie—with her sheer love for living, her boundless enthusiasm for style and glamour—is able to pull it all off with her own kind of grace. Even if her butt crack is showing more times than not.

The singing teacher, however, was instantly not her biggest fan. While she tried to rein Annie in, my girl bopped along to the piano, belting out “Let It Go” as joyously as if she was in the studio when they recorded “We are the World”.  At one point she even bounded over to my perch in the corner (the teacher had wanted me to stay—I think for protection) and whisper-screamed in my ear, “This is the most fun EVER.”

The signing teacher wasn’t quite as enthusiastic and, after wrapping us up early, she suggested that maybe Annie should find a more appropriate song for her age. She said, “Just because it’s Disney doesn’t mean it’s easy.” And for good measure added, “I hate seeing young girls sing adult songs like Britney Spears.”

Now clearly our beloved Idina Menzel is no such hussy. And thankfully Annie somehow missed the content of all this and took it as a compliment. For me, the question remained: could she sing or not? The teacher had said “good” a few times. But did she say that to everyone? And, seriously, when you are as tone deaf as I am, would I even know?

School vacation came and we kind of forgot about practicing. And then a family friend told us yesterday about the huge national Frozen sing-a-long that Good Morning America was airing today. We saw the site was still taking submissions and quickly videotaped Annie in her Elsa nightgown singing her favorite segment of the song, arm thrusts and all.

So today it aired and Annie of course was not in it. She was devastated. I explained to her that even though the site was open they probably had already wrapped up the video. And then I realized not only was she shocked not to be in the video but she had thought they would have flown her out to be on stage for the live sing-along. I tried to deflect this growing outrage by turning her back to practicing for the variety show. I even intimated that maybe the variety show could end up on Good Morning America.

On the way to her Daisy Scout meeting, she sang along to the karaoke track, with me hovering in and trying to get her back on track when she would get behind tempo. I’d sing over her, trying to get her on key. Frankly, I was starting to get worried. How the hell was she ever going to get up on stage and pull this off? This was going to be an off-key, off-tempo disaster. Annie got sick of me singing, shushing me and then shutting down completely. I felt like the biggest jerk ever.

As we walked out of the car, I told her I was sorry and I said, remember what you need to do to have a great performance? Yes, she said, have fun.

As I drove home alone, I excitedly cranked up that karaoke number and started doing some belting of my own. (I may be tone deaf but I am the most enthusiastic karaoker you will ever meet.) And you know what? Without Annie’s voice there to anchor me, it was really hard. I was cracking all over the place, running out of breath. Annie had been somehow guiding me all along.

And I realized, she might be totally off-key, she might be tone deaf, but that girl has spunk and spirit. Who cares if her voice is as bad as mine. I would never have the guts to get up in front of an entire school and sing, not now let alone at six. My daughter may be a spazz, but she is a confident one. And despite all my training and worries, she held on to the only good piece of advice I had given her.

She is having fun. She’s sweet, spunky and innocent. She has nothing she needs to let go.