Green-eyed exiles


Once upon a time I was the size of a leprechaun and just as mischievous. I went to school with hundreds of children just like myself. On St. Patrick’s Day, you had to wear green or you would have to spend recess running away from little green-clad people intent on pinching you. Any other day of the year, you would be punished for tormenting one another that way, but on St. Patrick’s Day you could do so with abandonment.


My imagination didn’t respond to my inquiry about the source of St. Patrick’s Day pinching, so I had to search online. One source said it began in America in the early 1700s. Irish immigrants would have brought over the idea that green made you invisible to leprechauns, who apparently honored St. Patrick by pinching people. If you drink a few beers, it will start to make sense to you. Since America was under English rule during the early 1700s, I can imagine that the Irish enjoyed pinching their unsuspecting English neighbors.


I usually remembered to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, but even if I forgot, I felt protected because I had green eyes. That was the only day of the year I was happy about my eye color.


Both of my parents had blue eyes, as did my older sister, K. Besides the fact that for a while I took my eye color as proof that I was adopted, my mother often quoted this little ditty:


Blue-eyed beauty does her mother’s duty,

Green-eyed greedy gut eats the whole world up.

Later I would discover that two of my mother’s secrets were green-eyed: her first two children. Connie, the oldest, was in familial exile, her name not to be mentioned at home. Clyde, her brother, was working on a record, a discography of petty crimes. Since I shared the same eye color as the exile and the criminal, I assumed I would grow up to be like one of them.


I gave up on a life of crime at an early age after my father called the police about my tampering with the U.S. mail. You can read about it here. Since the age of six, I’ve been more or less a law-abiding citizen. But I have been an exile all my life. My family never banished me, but all of my life I have wanted to belong to that blue-eyed world. And all of my life, I have felt outside of it.


So, today, in honor of St. Patrick, the exiles from Ireland, and all who are looking for their one true home, I want to share a music video by Karan Casey and John Doyle called Exiles Return.  I couldn’t find all of the lyrics, but the chorus goes like this:


And though we bid farewell in sorrow

We may meet again in distant lands

And drink our health in joy for parting

When the Exile will return again.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!