Thursday, April 17, 2008
In the process, the Grove City mother of four also became Caitlin na Si, Seanchai, or Katie of the Fairies, Storyteller.
It was 11 years ago that Smith, who was born in Chillicothe and grew up in the country outside of Circleville, was helping out at Monterey Elementary School, spelling the librarian while she did story time for first-graders, including Smith's daughter.
Spurred by her own abiding interest in her Irish roots, Smith got in on the act, reading from some books to first graders about the Irish roots for Halloween. Smith's enthusiastic presentation, complete with authentic accent, resulted in her being invited to do the same thing for third-graders.
But, Smith felt, the stories she'd been reading to the younger children were just a bit too juvenile for this new group, so she did some rewriting.
"It went over well," she said.
Soon, Smith was doing stories, some from books but increasing her own version of Irish fairy tales, for not only Halloween but also St. Patrick's Day.
"Then, one of the teachers said, 'You know, you can get paid for doing this,' " Smith recalled.
That was news to her.
"I said, 'Really?' "
This was brought home to Smith when, at the suggestion of the teacher, she approached organizers of the Dublin Irish Festival and got hired, sight unseen, stories untold, to participate in the suburb's annual celebration of all things Gaelic. Smith has been participating every year since 2000, and is now even a member of the festival organizing committee.
In addition to her repertoire of stories, Smith has written a book, "Adventures of Seamus McSeamus, an Irish Rover," and a booklet, "Wake Me When It's Over: A Look at Irish-American Funeral Traditions."
She's also a member of local, state and national organizations for storytellers, people devoted to keeping alive a tradition that's not only Irish but also international in nature.
But the tradition of Irish storyteller is dear to the heart of Caitlin na Si.
"There's such a rich heritage of tales in Ireland that I want to pass along," she said recently.
For a devoted storyteller, Smith said that being able to relate some treasured tale is like seeing a favorite movie all over again with someone to whom the film is a new and fresh experience.
"It's a way of sharing something that really excites me," she said.
Smith is a member of the National Storytelling Network, Storytellers of Central Ohio, Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling and the Irish-Language Gaelic League. Participating in such organizations, she said, helps storytellers learn from one another and improve their skills.
"You don't become a Picasso by sketching on your own," Smith said. "You have to study the greats to figure out your own path."
Smith and her husband Steve, who owns a computer system management business for small operations like churches, have four children. The oldest, Jeremiah, 23, is studying engineering at Ohio State University. Joshua, 20, is in basic training with the Air National Guard. The other two remain at home. They are Marita, an 18-year-old senior at Grove City High School, and Caitlin, 15, a sophomore at GCHS.
And, yes, they've all heard mom's stories countless times and, no, they're not bored by them.
"They actually enjoy them," Cathy Smith (or Caitlin na Si) said.
For more information, visit her Web site at http://www.irishteller.com/