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Playing the fool, every time

At noon last Friday I suddenly realized it was April Fools’ Day, and that I had neither known it, nor planned any tricks, nor been tricked. The day was like any other. I was depressed.When I was growing up, April Fools’ was a big day in our house. My father systematically and gleefully knocked off every one of us, every year.Mom, all agreed, was a pushover. All Dad had to do was get out of bed, go into the bathroom, and ask, “Nancy, when did we get termites?” and she’d freak. For us four kids, he started simply (“There’s a shipwreck on the beach!”) and progressed to sending empty envelopes in the mail three days ahead, or enlisting our friends to call, yell, “April Fool,” and hang up on us. One April when we were teens, he called my brother’s girlfriend, posing as a college-admissions official.When I was 10, he actually woke me at midnight to tell me my swordtail was finally having its babies. Somehow I opened my eyes saying, “You’re April Fooling me.”No one tried harder than I to resist. One year, I succeeded all day, until, at 10 p.m., I walked through the kitchen, and asked, “Where’s Meg?” “On the porch,” he said, which she wasn’t – and I turned my head.We tried to trick him, too, baking cakes laced with pepper, the usual. But the main events were his.One year, I – a lifelong comics reader – looked high and low for the Sunday paper, finally giving up in mystification. It later turned out that he – also a comics reader – had found so many references to April Fools’ that he hid the paper.For several years, he placed a Whitman’s Sampler, or a Dunkin’ Donuts box on the kitchen table. After the first year that we (all) opened an empty container, he baited it with rocks, and got us again. The third year, I weighed the box. Something was in it. Never would I open it! But … wouldn’t it be just like him if the joke was that we refrained, and this one held candy after all? I ripped it open – to rocks.I have since played the rock-box trick on at least two groups of officemates, to wild success (my opinion) and censure (theirs).One year, when I was studying overseas and on spring vacation, I gloated that he’d never find me. And at the end of April 1, my triumph gave way to disappointment. “You didn’t do anything!” I said months later when I came home.”I couldn’t,” he said. “You were in Switzerland.”I whined to my mother, “He could have tried!”Pranksters bond with others. A nurse at the hospital where my father worked told him that she had put methylene blue in her husband’s coffee, to make him pee blue. (In revenge, the husband never acknowledged it.)Last Friday I trudged home and, without much conviction, asked my sons if they wanted to try to fool Grandmother. (Last year Teddy convinced her that an avalanche off Mount Sopris had just caught three skiers.)”Sure,” said Teddy, and we huddled.He dialed, while his brother Roy and I giggled. My stepfather, Fred, answered.”Hi, Grandpa,” said Teddy in weary tones. “We’re just leaving the E.R. Roy broke his arm. He’s going to be OK, though.”We all, straining, heard the burst of sympathy and concern.”Yeah, both bones,” said Teddy sadly. “Skiing.”I clapped my hand over my mouth; Roy jumped up and down.”Yeah, he just snapped ’em. … April Fool!”Grandmother was out at a book-club meeting, but Teddy instructed Grandpa to repeat everything. He did, apparently faithfully, because she believed every word.Some things never change.Extremely cheery now, I called one of my sisters. “Lucy,” I said, “we’re just leaving the -“”Nice try,” she said. “I know what day it is. Don’t even bother.”Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.com.


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