I wasn’t going to post anything today, but it’s 25 minutes to midnight and I don’t want to write about April Fool’s day on the very day it happens. So here it is, the end of March and I am writing about jokes we used to pull on April Fool’s day.
It’s no good playing jokes when you are all grown up, unless you happen to have someone around who understands you perfectly, who “gets” your sense of humor, and whose sense of humor happens to be similar. In my life, that set of circumstances ceased when I left home.
My siblings and I all shared a the same sense of humor. We exchanged the salt and the sugar and got up early to watch Dad put salt on his cereal and blow his stack. We put green food coloring on all the butter and margarine. We short-sheeted each other’s beds. We put slimy creatures in the beds. We arranged “accidents” that would leave the victim either all wet, covered with something floury, or muddy. I admit, these are not funny to other people. You had to be one of the Andrews Kids to enjoy these things.
With my friends, practical jokes were not as satisfying. When we were little, my friends and I tried to make a snails-and-worms-and-mud pie, covered with ice cream, and feed it to the littler kids. They were too suspicious to take the bait. How irritating younger siblings and their friends can be!
Another snail prank was to gather a bunch of the slimy creatures into a pile, sit on the side of the street, and hope a car would go by with the window rolled down. The object was to throw a snail into the open car window as it went past, and then run like crazy into the nearest kid’s back yard to escape. It never did work. We always hit the side of the car, and that would make the driver stop and yell at us through the fence behind which he knew we were hiding. It turned out to be too scary to pursue. We tried to think up ways to get someone to taste a snail, but our imaginations failed us.
One time, after watching the monster movie Cal-Tiki on tv (sometime in the early 1960s), my best friend and I lured a neighbor girl to my best friend’s closet and assured our friend that it had been made into an elevator, and it was taking us down to another world where a monster lived. We ended up getting into trouble over that so-called “joke.” Our mothers told us to stop teasing our younger friend.
We did not. We tried hard to make our stories realistic enough to get her to believe us. Once my best friend and her older sister dressed me up in a wig and different clothes and passed me off at a neighborhood get-together as their cousin from the South. I tried to speak in a Southern accent, even though I didn’t know how one was supposed to sound. Our little friend believed us for a while, but I forgot my accent and said something that tipped her off, and she went and told her mother on us again.
To avoid doing things to people who would get us in trouble, we began the time-honored trick of calling random people using numbers picked from the telephone book. This kid rite-of-passage prank can’t be done anymore, now that caller I.D. has gone into effect, alas. We’d all crowd around the receiver, hear the phone ringing on the other end, and when the victim said, “Hello?” one of us would assume our most grownup voice and ask, “Is your refrigerator running?” and when the victim said, “Yes,” we would shout, “I think it ran out the back door!” Then we’d hang up and run outside ourselves to celebrate our success.
My brothers graduated to meaner tricks when they got into high school, and we stopped finding the things they did funny and stopped emulating them. Holding people upside down and sticking their heads in toilets did not sound remotely like something we wanted to be in on. I think the word for that is bullying.
Nowadays April Fool’s day is the day when I reflect on how little I know about myself, life, the universe, and everything. I know I am a fool and behave foolishly still. It’s a day for humility, not humiliation. Maybe that’s actually a form of maturity.
Happy April Fool!