Monday, March 17, 2014

In the Time of "Leopardchauns" - and Other Mythical Stories

Godzilla: "Dad, Leprechauns are just a myth...

They lived long ago but now they're just a myth. They lived in the time of cavemen and they were animals...

They were as fast as leopards, and that's why they're called leopardchauns...

Do you want to know how they died? There was a big earthquake..."

And that is where I could no longer keep up, as he started stringing his thoughts together much faster. I would record him telling his tale if he weren't so camera shy, but as soon as I pull it out - no matter how stealthily - he clams up and I lose the story altogether. So, I take to jotting them down like this, catching what I can, or trying to remember exactly how he said it all once he's wrapped it up.

What really struck me about this story was the panic that set in when he first told me that leprechauns were merely mythical. I thought we were on the verge of having the Santa talk. Godzilla is five, and we haven't even had doubts or questions about it yet, and I thought if he had the leprechaun thing figured out, he might connect the dots.

That is the catch to perpetrating the holiday character myths. The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the leprechauns are great, but they offer a great deal of trouble once the gig is up. Kate and I haven't worked out exactly how we'll address the revelation to our kids, but I know it is there, waiting just off the horizon. I don't want to live in fear of having this talk, but I wouldn't trade the magic of belief to escape the responsibility of the truth.

In first grade, Nat's teacher's set up "Leprechaun Traps" for St. Patrick's Day and when the kids got in, they had all been set off, but none were caught. Three years later, she still talks about it, almost wistfully, as your grandfather might talk of gigging for frogs in the local pond ages ago. That is the magic of belief.

When she was three, Santa left a single gift at the foot of Nat's bed, carrying on a tradition from her mom's childhood. The idea that the jolliest of old elfs had been in her room while she slept freaked her out to a degree neither Kate or I predicted, and every year since, he has politely left one special gift outside their door instead of in their room. She knows to expect it. She looks forward to that as much as to finding gifts under the tree. That is the magic of belief.

Living in the Midwest, Easter is seldom warm enough to egg hunt outside, so the Easter Bunny hides his eggs in our living room while we sleep. We never question how he gets in the house. We never question why a bunny has eggs, or why they are brightly colored plastic eggs filled with candy. That is the magic of belief.

When the kids lose their teeth, and place them under their pillows for 7 nights in a row, the Tooth Fairy is really busy, or ran out of change, or is on vacation... All perfectly logical explanations that let mom and dad off the hook for spacing on their momentous achievement. That is the magic of belief.

But a story of Leopardchauns is not just magic. That is imagination. That is childhood. That is a mind ready to go on an adventure. And I don't want to turn that off. I love hearing his mind at work. I trust that even after we have the Santa talk, he will continue to let his imagination run wild.

So, I'll continue to engage with him over stories about dinosaurs cracking the Earth's crust, people having elephant heads, special welding projects to assist with learning to ride a bike without training wheels, or special money from the 80s that bought you love. Who knows, maybe one day his imagination will get him published.

Or perhaps he'll start a blog.

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