My Mom, was without a doubt, the QUEEN of April Fool’s Day. The April Fools were the scores of people throughout her life that she always managed, somehow, to “get.” Even though it happened every year, and you expected it, she still managed to blindside you with some of the greatest, totally harmless, and completely fun-spirited pranks. She never laughed alone, because the “victim” of her fun always laughed along! She came from a mother who was also an expert at this sort of thing, and was the reigning Queen until Mom “usurped” the throne. She didn’t just equal my grandmother, she improved and refined the art. She must have wanted to be the “forever” Queen, because she failed to pass her skill on to her children. While my pranks are not as elaborate, occasionally I can pull off a good one, but I’m afraid the family tradition of more and more artful April Fool’s Day jokes has ended with her children. Perhaps our sons can pick it up where their Granny left off. My brothers long ago ceded victory to our Mom – but we all try. Just to give you a taste of what life was like in my home on April Fool’s Day, I’ll share with you a small sampling of some of her glorious April 1 fun.
My Mom ALWAYS drank her coffee black, NO sugar. She felt that was the only legitimate way to drink it, and if you wanted it another way, then you had to make it yourself – unless you were an honored guest, in which case, she would “deign” to put out the sugar bowl, creamer, and a couple of spoons. When they were first married, my Dad liked his coffee with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. On their first April Fool’s Day after their marriage (almost a year later), she filled the sugar bowl with salt. When Dad came to the breakfast table, he did as he usually did, and put two spoonful of “sugar” in his coffee. At his first taste, he did what is probably the greatest “spit take” in history. Needless to say, he drank his coffee straight for the rest of his life.
Mom frequently (though not always) served meatballs (the Swedish variety) as the main course on April 1st.. She always wanted to catch you off guard, and so you would not always know what was coming, occasionally she would “change things up.” When she first started serving this entrée on AFD, she put cotton balls in the center of all the meatballs. Some years, the joke was that she didn’t put the cotton inside any of them (she got you another way.) Let me tell you, biting down on a piece of cotton is not the most pleasant sensation in the world, but it is funny. Some years, she would just put the cotton in a few of them, so just when you thought it was going to be one of those “good years,” and were going to get off free and clear, you’d take a bite of another and just like that, you were caught again! Part of what was so funny was watching your family very carefully pick through the food on their plates. You couldn’t take anything for granted on April Fool’s Day. Not in our home, anyway.
On other years she would pull other pranks, some aimed at all of us, and some at each individually. Some were successful, others not. I’m absolutely certain that she made those “unsuccessful” ones easy to detect, just so she could set you up for later and the really good ones. My Mom loved to laugh, as did her mother, and they spent as much time doing it as possible, but as I said, never at the expense of anyone’s feelings, except maybe embarrassment at being caught once again. (Don Rickles and other insult comics could have learned a lesson from her about how to get a laugh without making fun of, but having fun with other people.)
The best prank of all time happened on a day I was not present to witness it, but my brother Dick was. He told this story, which occurred many years ago, at her Memorial Service, in which we celebrated her 85 years of life, very appropriately, on April 1, 2001 – 10 years ago today. (She had died on March 28, so the timing was perfect!):
My parents at the time this particular prank was pulled off, lived in Weston, Connecticut, a suburb and “commuter town” where many who worked in New York City lived. My parents had been chosen by the United Nations to serve as hosts to foreign visitors on occasion, in order to show them a type of “American Life.” (I would say “typical,” which is probably what the UN intended, however, my folks were far from “typical!”) They hosted gatherings on several occasions, and most often for Japanese visitors, though there were many from other nations. That evening, Mom and Dad were also hosting a couple from England, who were friends of theirs of somewhat long standing. My recollection is that there were three or four guests from Japan, along with my brother and maybe one or two other people. The table was full. I do not know what she served for dinner that night, but it was NOT meatballs, as she liked to entertain “royally!” As all sat down at their places at the table, Grace was offered, napkins were placed on laps, and food was passed and served on plates. When everyone was served, the guests waited for the signal from my mother, in the role of “Queen,” to begin eating. She picked up her fork and started. As the guests went to pick up their forks, they found they couldn’t, because she had stitched all their flatware to the tablecloth with a clear nylon thread, invisible to the eye (unless you were looking for it, which no one was!). My mother smiled, and for a while, kept on eating, and asked the guests if perhaps they weren’t hungry. Then came the laughter and explanations of this time-honored tradition of April Fool’s Day! Some “typical American Family!” I will add that all the guests had a great time, and a good meal, to boot, once the tradition was explained, scissors appeared, and they could, finally, eat.
I miss my Mom, and she is always in my thoughts, especially today. While my pranks are not as elaborate, occasionally I can pull off a good one, but never as artfully and skillfully planned as Mom’s. I hope our boys can pick it up, perhaps where their Granny left off. My brothers long ago ceded victory to our Mom – but we all try.
Happy April Fool’s Day, Mom! Since her name is Pearl, I suspect she’s up to some sort of fun around the “Pearly Gates,” pulling a fast one on St. Peter. (BTW, “Pearly Gates” was one of her nicknames!)
Happy, funny, laughter-filled April Fool’s Day to you all! Share your life, love and laughter with everyone you meet. Offer them joy – a gift that will always be enough. . .