Last Friday was April Fool’s Day, one of the highlights of the year in my mother’s thinking. She would plot and scheme for days in her determination to catch us unawares and have us fall prey to one of her tricks. It was the one day in the year when, for a few hours, it was acceptable to lie through your teeth. You could tell any kind of whopper and the object was to do it so convincingly that the person you were targeting actually believed you until you shouted a triumphant ‘April Fools!’….or as Sheldon Cooper would say, ‘Bazinga!’
In our house you had to succeed on the first attempt or concede defeat for that year. Once people were reminded of what day it was they were on their guard and it was very nearly impossible to trick them. My Dad considered the whole thing foolishness, which was the point of the exercise after all. He never did try any tricks of his own but he would smile indulgently at my Mom’s enthusiastic efforts. I can’t count the number of times she persuaded us to run to the window to see whatever it was that was getting her so excited that she was practically jumping up and down. I have to admit that she was a pretty good actress when she set her mind to it.
I remember with considerable pride the first year that I managed a preemptive strike that caught her completely by surprise and won the day for me before she even had a chance to put her own plans into action. Sometimes the simplest idea works best and that morning I was inspired. Mom was busy out in the kitchen when I woke up and headed to the bathroom. I took a few moments to compose myself in front of the mirror. I had to make sure that I could produce a look of consternation that would be utterly convincing. It wouldn’t do to let a grin slip out to spoil the effect. When I was as ready as I could ever be I flushed the toilet. I gave it a few seconds before letting out a desperate shriek and bursting out the door.
“Mom,” I shouted. “The toilet’s overflowing!”
She didn’t stop to ask questions. She flung open the door of the broom closet, took hold of the mop and rushed past me down the hall and into the bathroom to stem the flood she expected to find spreading over the linoleum. There was a moment of silence before she turned and came back out to face the music. My brother, Tom, and I were falling over ourselves laughing out in the hall.
“April Fools!” I gasped. “I got you! Finally, I got you!” It was a sweet victory.
Years later my husband, Bev, and I happened to be visiting my parents on April 1st. We’d only been married a short while and Bev was still doing his best to make a good impression when we sat down to breakfast. I suppose it was my fault for not warning him. Halfway through the meal my mother looked up at him, hesitated, and then tried to get his attention without alerting the rest of us. When he glanced at her she leaned closer and discreetly touched her upper lip.
“You’ve got something stuck in your mustache,” she whispered.
His face reddened and he immediately began brushing at his mustache trying to dislodge whatever it was that had attracted her attention. The rest of us paused to watch as Mom sat back, her expression lit with smug self-satisfaction as she sang out a gleeful ‘April Fools’. Dad just smiled and shook his head.
“Now you know you’re really part of the family,” I laughed.
I haven’t tried playing an April Fool’s joke in ages. It’s just not the same without my Mom’s unbridled enthusiasm. I made an attempt this year just for old times’ sake. I pulled out our binoculars to peer out across the fields outside our kitchen windows.
“I think that’s a coyote out there,” I announced.
I kept squinting into the binoculars and I heard Bev take two quick steps toward me before he stopped abruptly and turned back to the stove where he was making breakfast.
“I doubt it,” he replied.
He was onto me and I couldn’t keep my face straight for one more second. I guess I’ve lost my touch. It’s just as well. We have a better reason to remember April 1st anyway. It was on that day 31 years ago that we got engaged.