The Jig is Up

Marianne Lonsdale essays

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I felt like I’d found a four-leaf clover and given the luck of the Irish when I was blessed with the birth of my one and only child, Nick, when I was 41. In first grade, Nick claimed St. Patrick’s Day as his holiday to share with his classmates. Other parents came to talk about Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Chinese New Year, and Easter. But Nick was the only one with a claim on St. Patrick’s Day.

For four years, from first to fourth grades, Nick and I made a presentation to his class on March 17th. We followed the same format each year: food, oral presentation and an Irish jig. Nick had developed a new family and school tradition.

The two of us would rise early to bake loaves of Irish soda bread, using Nick’s great-grandmother’s recipe. Each year we’d argue over the modifications Nick wanted to make—no caraway seeds in all four loaves, no raisins in two of the four. At 6:00 a.m., I just wanted to follow the recipe. I was too lazy to divide the batter into two bowls. But Nick knows what he wants and what the kids would want and he melted my resistance each year like the butter we brushed on top of the loaves.

We varied our oral presentation each year—once reading a picture book, another year finding information on leprechauns and their relations, such as brownies and fairies. The importance of wearing green, even to bed the night before, as a preventive measure against getting pinched was stressed each year.

But the annual highlight, the piece de resistance, was Nick and a friend performing an Irish jig. Nick was not versed in jigs but somehow felt qualified to choreograph and direct himself and a friend. Several rehearsals were held at our home. The same song was used each year, an Irish tune that picks up in speed as the song prances along, forcing Nick and his willing partner to move faster and faster and faster.

Each year I’d wonder if kids would tease my boy for his dancing, for his quirky interest or roll their eyes when he’d once again danced to the same tune. But the kids loved the tradition and vied to be his dancing partner. In third grade, I was stunned when Spencer, a very cool rock-and-roller-in-training, asked to be his partner. I would never have guessed that Spencer would be caught dead dancing a jig. And in fourth grade, Austin, the class toughie and jock, relished being picked.

But now we’re in fifth grade and childish things are being put away. Nick’s not doing any jigs and seems bored with the topic. He’s even scratched me bringing in Irish soda bread. I’ll still be up early mixing the dough so I can sneak some of the warm bread into his lunch, listening to the Irish song whose name I don’t know but call “Nick’s Song,” and peeking at his beautiful, sleeping face. I knew the day would come. What I didn’t know was that the jig being up would be a rite of passage for my green-eyed boy.


About the Author

Marianne Lonsdale

writes personal essays and short stories, and is slowly cranking out a novel set in Oakland in 1991 about a crazy romance. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Mama, Fiction365, Pulse and has aired on KQED.

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March 2015 – Celebration
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