Tag Archives: Childhood

A Leprechaun Tree Grows in Orange County: Part 3

Such search for identity–identity being code for how we belong to the world–contravenes the logical matriculations of our conscious days. Virginia Woolf writes of time’s superficial “orderly and military progress” and how deep below resonates “a rushing stream of broken dreams, nursery rhymes, street cries, half-finished sentences and sights.” My leprechaun tree in the backyard, my “half-finished sight,” kept me running between garden and house to announce new life–to proclaim that I was part of something larger than myself, something mysterious and beautiful.

These first images of childhood reveal themselves as soulful harbingers within thin spaces. These thin spaces–a Celtic notion that denotes the place of connection between the local material world and the liminal, eternal one–represent a pivot in how we belong to the world, in how the ground of the world opens to us, starting in childhood. The philosopher, Gaston Bachelard, calls psyche’s early landscape the first time wherein the revelation of images hold for us–in eternal fashion–intense, psychological values. Such images return us to a “cosmic memory” which is our earliest memory of belonging to the world. We don’t outgrow the connection to this fecund place that seems outside of time. It weaves the fabric of our being.

As I came of age, I sensed at a deeper level that my Irish inheritance had everything to do with that leprechaun tree, and of how I belonged to the world.  (More on the audio.)


My Irish-Born Grandmother, Molly, with my father, Joe (seated), my Uncle Jack and Aunt Irene. My father would never speak of his childhood. And the same goes with my grandmother. 

A Leprechaun Tree Grows in Orange County

I grew up on the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, not far from those celebrated spindles of the collective imagination: Hollywood and Disneyland.  But by the age of six, the center of my imaginal world revolved around another dazzling spectacle–the apricot tree in my backyard and its spring blooms. In April, I’d gaze up to the branches of this beloved tree, waiting for the arrival of the minuscule green buds. Once spotting them, I’d run into our house and yelp: “The leprechauns are coming!” For me, something magical was simmering, a mystical transubstantiation. The budding “leprechauns” were tricksters, evoking my deep connection to the place I knew my ancestors came from, that fabled island called Ireland…..

Maura Diaries: First Felt so Alive

I love this quote from author Rebecca Solnit:

“What the very young see is literally incomparable—nothing like it has come before—and these encounters are the raw material, the imagery of their psyches.”

Seasons, sounds, smells, the touch of emotion all bring this raw material—the imagery of our psyche—right back to us.

Imagine: The first bite into a summer strawberry, the first snowfall of winter, the smell of grass in late spring or the sound of kids yelping “trick or treat” at Halloween.

We think childhood is long ago and far away, that mental cobwebs drape over that earlier time of our lives.

However, underneath the cobwebs hums the rich imagery of our young psyches; at certain moments, those feeling-images return, zoom out of the blue, resounding like a bell chiming from down the valley.

From deep within, these raw memories of our younger psyches tug at us, saying: Remember this—this is when you first felt so alive!

First Felt so Alive—I don’t think that feeling ever has an expiration date.

My father, a special agent, and pictured here with my brother’s boy scout troop at FBI headquarters in Los Angeles, loved baseball as a kid. He took my siblings and I up to the local field and hit us balls when we were young. On weekends, I often found him in the garage, polishing his black FBI agent shoes while listening to the California Angels on his transistor radio. My father could be in a slight trance, as if the garage had transformed into his dugout, as if the leather from his FBI shoes sported the same whiff as his old childhood mitt. My father was that serious FBI Agent who fought crime all day—but maybe his secret, younger psyche never left the ball field of his youth.

As his watchful daughter who loved spying on him, I could see the wonder in his eyes when he listened to those games. These clues into his mysterious soul shone like jewels. To this day, I smile and think of my father when I hear a ball game on the radio. It’s almost as if we are back on the field together.

“FBI Girl: How I Learned to Crack My Father’s Code” goes into its reprint edition and also is released in audiobook format Fall of 2017. This coming-of-age memoir is a love story about my family, about the place, the sights, tastes, sounds, conversations, longings and silences of where I grew up—a testimony to the raw imagery of my first fourteen years when I first felt so alive.

There is so much to tap into once you realize this inner real estate called “childhood” isn’t so long ago and far away. You can hear a hum, feel the pulse of the wind connecting you back into your own humanity, back into the mystery revealed of what made you, you. And that’s a story worth stepping into.