Gold coins. Gold coins. I was on a frantic mission to find me some gold coins. Not just shiny gold coins but the kind that are wrapped around milk chocolate. It’s about having the chocolate not the fake money. Or so I learned.
“Our leprechaun didn’t leave the chocolate kind of gold coins,” my daughter reported to the bus stop. The sea of fellow 6-year-olds, most missing a tooth or two, responded with a collective empathic sigh, as if the dog died. A few of the children even offered to share some of their own chocolate coins. After all, they had so many.
He’s a cheap bastard, I wanted tell the children.
“That is very kind of you to offer,” I said. “But we have plenty of chocolate in our house.” I smiled, kissed my disgruntled daughters on the forehead and marched them towards the bus, hoping their school day would not include a round of standardized testing.
As the bus drove away, one of the other moms put a compassionate hand on my shoulder. “I have some extra milk chocolate coins,” she said. “I can drop them by before my yoga class.”
Way to go overachiever, I wanted say.
“No worries…” I said. “I’ve got to dash to work. Besides, our lousy leprechaun will give them something tangible to bang out in therapy when they are 16.” I waved a hand as I sped off to work. They laughed. I thought, THIS will not happen again.
It happened again.
On March 16, 2016 the scarcity of chocolate covered coins drove me near the point of insanity. Earlier that week, I discovered that even my exclusive Amazon Prime membership could not guarantee the delivery of the coveted treats by St. Patrick’s Day. So I hit the ground shopping, or rather hunting, ignited by a rush of dopamine and FOMO mentality that paralleled a passionate quest for a flat screen TV on Black Friday. I scrounged every Walmart, Super Walmart, Target, Hannaford, Market Basket, CVS, and Rite-Aid within a 25 mile radius, only to learn that the beloved treats were more elusive than Whitey Bulger. My last hope was Walgreens. I flew into the store and darted directly to the cashier.
“Do you have any of those milk chocolate gold coins?” I said, gasping for breath. The cashier shot me a disparaging glance and pointed to the long line that snaked around the corner of the register.
“I have cancer,” I informed the line, lifting the on wig my head as proof. “And I need to buy those gold covered chocolate coins for my daughters.” I could feel my cheeks became flushed with panic and frustration.
“We ran out them on Sunday,” said the cashier. ”Ya gotta shop for that stuff early.” She snapped her gum and scanned a pack of Marlboro lights for the next customer. My heart sank.
You’re a lousy mother, is what I heard.
A stocky lady from the back of line spoke up, “I think I saw some at Kmart, the one on Hooksett Road.” In an instant, my world brightened.
“Oh...I didn’t even think of Kmart, thanks.” I said.” Thank you very much.”
The Marlboro Man lifted up his pack of cigarettes and looked at me. “Smoker?” he asked. I shook my head.
“No,“ I said. “Never a puff.”
“BRACA gene?” Asked the lady from the back of the line.
“No,” I said. “Just bad luck,” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Well good luck with the candy,” said the lady from the back of the line. “...and everything else.”
“Thanks,” I said and sped out the door.
I got back in my car, took a few deep breaths, and tried to stomp out the berating voices that echoed in my head.
How did I let this happen? Especially now, when I should have extra time. I thought the pace of life would feel different because of cancer. If I was to be completely honest, I would have to admit that a very, very small and extremely ignorant part of me sighed with relief upon hearing of my diagnosis. Cancer would give me the perfect excuse to have what I so desperately needed: time off.
I could take a leave of absence from work and finally finish my first born’s baby book. She was almost 8, after all. I could quit the school board and wrap my head around Halloween. The layers of that holiday surprise me every year and its duration feels longer than Hanukkah. Look out Elf of the Shelf, I thought, I’ve got magical plans for you!
But I did not have time to scrapbook, dip candy apples, or even take the Elf on the Shelf out of his box. Cancer, as it turns out, is a full time job. Every precious moment is consumed by medical appointments, medical procedures, and managing the side effects of cancer care. Oh...and I live in the United States. Meaning, a huge chunk of my time must be spent arguing with my insurance company about my policy. Or I will pay the price.
“Yes, Sanjaya, I understand that I was charged $5,400 because the anesthesiologist was not in my network. However, I was sedated at the time. Perhaps if we color coded the doctor’s scrubs according to insurance plans, it would be easier for the patient to identify who is in their network.”
“No, Jaideep, my wig is not for cosmetic reasons. Therefore, according to my policy, all $675.00 should be covered. Please note my prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Yes, I will hold. Again.”
“Hello, Hessan. Though I appreciate the one $110 prosthetic bra, can we please recognize that undergarments need to be washed. Personal hygiene is important, particularly given my compromised immune system. How can I provide feedback on this policy?”
The critical, complex and urgent nature of cancer treatment was easily eclipsed by the value of milk chocolate coins wrapped in gold. Except at Kmart as they too, sold out of them.
Discouraged but not defeated, I stopped by a bank and took out a couple rolls of quarters. That night, as my children were nestled, all snug in their beds, I sprinkled quarters across their bedroom floor while applauding my creative problem solving skills. This, I thought, will be brilliant.
My plan bombed.
On the morning of March 17th, I greeted my daughters at a breakfast table garnished with Shamrock napkins and plates of Green Eggs and Ham.
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!“ I exclaimed. The girls were quiet and I was surprised that the air was draped in disappointment rather than celebration. I wondered if the dog had died.
“What are these?” demanded the 6-year-old holding up a handful of shiny quarters.
“Quarters,” responded the 8-year-old, before I had the chance to speak. Her hands were empty as she already deposited her quarters into her piggy bank and needed free fingers to pull up the stock market report.
“You don’t know what quarters are?“ I said, rethinking my decision to quit the School Board.
“I know THAT!” spat the six-year-old, stomping a foot to punctuate her frustration. “But can you eat these kind of quarters?” I stared at her blankly, distracted by the perilous flames of Option B.
“No!!!” replied the 8-year-old, “They are real!”
“Who raised you?” I asked.
“Then WHAT can I do with them?” demanded the 6-year-old. She wrinkled her forehead with defiant disapproval and kidnapped her charming, missing-one-tooth smile with a purse of her lips. How I loved her toothless grin, so perfect in its imperfection.
“You can pick out your own candy!” I said, “Anyone kind of candy you want. Or you can do a couple loads of laundry.”
Both were clearly wrong and unacceptable answers. Did she not understand that every cell of my being was unconditionally devoted to her well being?
No, she did not.
She was six and that memo will not arrive until she is at least 26, if it arrives at all. Instead, she bemoaned a flagrant, rhetorical wail, reminiscent of the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan attack:
“WHY!!! WHY!! WHY!!! “ She bawled. “Why does our leprechaun never leave us gold chocolate coins!!!!” Overwhelmed with grief, she collapsed her body on kitchen table, knocking her plate of green eggs and ham to the floor. The dog was elated.
I couldn’t take it. Anymore.
“I am the leprechaun,” I proclaimed. The room fell silent as the wizard behind the curtain was revealed as a mere ordinary mortal.
“Apparently I’m a lousy leprechaun, “ I said. “I am sorry.” I let the truth stretch out and watched as my oldest daughter connected the holiday dots in her head. Within seconds, she assassinated the Easter Bunny and was gearing up to execute Santa Claus.
“So, if there is no Leprechaun then there must be no...” began the 8-year-old.
“So then, “ I interrupted, catching their eyes with my authority. I leaned in dramatically and whispered, “Do you know what you really need to know in order to celebrate the best St. Patrick’s day ever?” They looked at each other and then shook their heads.
“No,” they said.
“A good Irish pub song,” I said. “Alexa play the Unicorn Song, ” I commanded. How I love that Alexa follows directions. I sang as the music filled my kitchen:
A long time ago, when the earth was green
There were more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen
They’d run around free while the earth was being born
But the loveliest of all was the unicorn
When the chorus began, I modeled every hand motion with impeccable accuracy:
There was green alligators and long-necked geese
(Clap hands long for an alligator snout and waive right arm twice for a gooseneck )
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
(Undulate right arm in a wave and scratch armpits mimicking a monkey)
Some cats and rats and elephants
(Hands on head for cat ears then both hands face for whiskers. Swing arms like elephant trunk)
but sure as you’re born
(cradle and rock an imaginary baby)
The loveliest of all was a unicorn
(Loser sign on my head)
Before the unicorns met their breathless fate because they did not get their irresponsible arses on Noah’s Ark, my girls too were singing and dancing on the kitchen floor. I thought, I am the luckiest lass in the world. After all, milk chocolate coins wrapped in gold melt in your mouth. But a good Irish pub song will last forever.