I have a special St. Patrick’s Day story for you all. I hope you enjoy it.
There it was again – March 17th, St Patrick’s Day – ten days away. I knew my darling husband was eager to know what gift I would get him for his sacred holiday. You see, Conor was Irish – a tried and true Irishman. He’d come to this country as a nine-year-old boy with his family, but I don’t think his heart had ever left Ireland. His father, Liam Callahan, was an architectural engineer who helped build bridges and just never left. Liam and his mother, Erin, loved America and eventually applied for citizenship. Conor thinks they just were tired of the Irish Troubles, and America was a safe place to be in those times. Following his family’s example, Conor became a citizen too, but he still dreams of returning to his native country. I wish I could buy him a ticket to his hometown of Cobh in Cork County. Its claim to fame is that it was the last stop before the Titanic set off on its ill-fated journey.
Whenever St. Patrick’s Day comes around, Conor treats the day like Christmas. He had the shivers when he saw the Chicago River turn green. He was first in line to watch the Chicago St. Paddy’s Day parade. He gave everyone a present. In a nutshell, he went way overboard for the day and was crushed if I didn’t share his enthusiasm. We broke up for three months after the first St. Patrick’s Day we were together because I made fun of his green beard. I had to do some fancy mea culpas to resume our relationship. Since then, I have tried to get him a meaningful Irish present each year on the holiday.
After Shamrock chocolates, several different Irish tee shirts over the years, diamond-studded four-leaf clover cuff links, and for our wedding, a sterling silver Claddagh wedding ring; what was I supposed to get him this year? I had been searching all the little stores around our apartment, in catalogs, and online for an unusual gift. The days rolled by, and I was down to two days. I had to find something. An Irish garden flag? Dr. Squatsh’s manly scented soap bars? A book about Ireland? None of these choices seemed unique enough.
On March 16th, I set out to the local bookstore to find a book on Ireland that Conor didn’t have. Fortunately, Daisy Morgan of The Book Cellar Around the Corner had a selection of books and trinkets set out in a special display for St. Patrick’s Day. I unenthusiastically perused the books. Nothing was striking my fancy. Then my eyes set upon the perfect gift for Conor, an Irish gnome! The light green-robed gnome was about 7 inches high. Its pointed hat was about half its size. A hatband ringed the bottom of the hat. This band was intricately carved with a linear Celtic knot, and the band hid the figure’s eyes. A pudgy nose peeked out from the hat – surrounded by a magnificent mustache. He also had an extensive beard carved with more Celtic swirls that fell down almost to the bottom of the figure. His left hand lay by his side, figuring his long beard. His right hand held a dark green lucky Shamrock.
Gnomes are, of course, one of the “Little Folk” that haunt the isle of Ireland. This one was so whimsical that I thought for sure Conor would love him at first sight. Daisy wrapped my present in green paper all the time, chattering on that I was the second person in an hour that had bought one of these little fellas.
“They’re just so cute!” she gushed. She called to me as I left the store, “I hope you enjoy it!”
I awoke the next day a bit nervous, hoping that I had bought the best present for Conor. Carefully I placed the shamrock-decorated green bag next to his bowl of Irish oatmeal made especially for St. Paddy’s Day. I beamed as Conor came into the kitchen.
“You remembered! Irish oatmeal!” In his hand, he had a small box wrapped in green paper and had green ribbons hanging from the middle of the package.
“Of course I did.” I shoved my present toward him.
Conor gave me a big kiss and handed me his present. “Here.” He said unceremoniously. “I hope you like it.”
I couldn’t wait. I tore off the paper but stopped to watch Conor pull out the gnome hidden below the green wrapping paper.
The look on his face when he saw the little green gnome was not what I expected. His brows knitted together; his lips parted into an ‘O’. Then he lifted his head and commanded, “Open yours.”
Disappointed, thinking he was not happy with the gift, I proceeded to tug off the rest of the paper and open the box. There nestled in the box, among a cloud of green crinkle paper, was an exact twin to the gnome that Conor held in his hands. Stunned, I looked up at him. He wore a goofy smile. “Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my love.”
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