When I was little, my mom gave us kids green milk. Not all the time, of course, just on St. Patrick’s Day.
My mom is of Irish and German ancestry and my dad’s got Italian blood. My mom wanted her children - all six of us - to appreciate our Irish heritage. So on St. Patrick’s day, she put green food coloring in the milk for our morning cereal.
I don’t know about my siblings, but I loved it. It made the whole day special. School was more fun and even math was tolerable. The morning ritual put excitement in the air like a brewing snow storm gives hope for a snow day.
When I had my own children, I chose to carry on the tradition.
The night before St. Patrick’s Day, I would wait until my two boys were in bed. Then I snuck into the kitchen and gathered my supplies: green food coloring, disposable latex gloves, and a half gallon of milk in a cardboard carton. Please note: plastic milk cartons don’t work - you can see the green milk, which completely ruins the surprise. And don’t skip the gloves. Nothing screams “mom playing leprechaun" more than green stained fingers.
After I did the dirty deed, I went to bed smug with the satisfaction of being a fun mom.
In the morning of March 17, St.Patrick’s Day, I made sure to be down in the kitchen before my two sons. When they were say, 4 and 9, as they sat down to eat and the milk splashed onto their Wheat Chex, the drama would unfold like this:
Sons: “Ewww. Green milk? Ha ha! Oh yeah, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.”
Me: “Oh no! Green milk? Really? Lemme see. Wow, the leprechauns must have been here! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”
Sons: “You’re the best mom ever!”
(Hey, it was a long time ago, I can remember it how I want, OK?)
When they were more like 12 and 17, as they poured the green milk over their Lucky Charms (so I got lax on my healthy cereal rules), it would go like this:
Sons, eyes rolling: [Cue sound of crickets chirping.]
Me: “Hey, is that green milk? Wow, the leprechauns must have been here! Happy St. Patrick’s Day, guys!”
Sons, eyes rolling: [Cue sound of crunching.]
Maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they forgot all about it as they went to school. Maybe they told their friends about their wacky mom and the gross milk.
But maybe, deep inside, they drank in the love their mom put in that green milk. Maybe they got a taste of how simple and yet how important it is to make a day special.
If I accomplished only that, I’m a wee bit more magical than a leprechaun.
My sons are adults now - 25 and 30. They eat breakfast in their own kitchens, so I can’t sneak in to color their milk or monitor their cereal choice. They have no kids of their own, and none on the horizon (as far as I know). When they visit, they don’t roll their eyes, even when I may deserve it.
Through the lens of time and the miles between us, I see that the green milk has sprouted some pretty beautiful growth. Just like it did in me so many years ago.
Some people are always chasing after the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but the best in life is not that elusive. It’s within us, waiting to be discovered and celebrated.
Just like green milk on St. Patrick’s Day.