JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: For most American adults, the April date they dread is the fifteenth, the ides of April, when the tax man claims his due. But for my husband, the most dreaded day of the year is today. April First. Why? Because he teaches in a K-5 elementary school. For the past eleven years, the beginning of April has brought Ross a seven hour stretch of fake candy, inky handshakes, exhortations to look behind him! and offers of a free car, a million dollars, and more candy (still fake.) All topped off with a gleeful cry of "APRIL FOOLS!"
April Fools Day may be one of the last little holidays that still rests with kids, untouched by adult enthusiasm. Grown-ups have overrun Halloween. May Day has disappeared, unless you attend parochial school. Fourth of July parades have become professionalized, and forget about St. Patrick's. But as yet, April Fools Day's most enthusiastic proponents are all between the ages of three and thirteen.
When I was a child, my favorite trick was to tell my teachers, in what I believed was a quavering voice, that I had forgotten my homework. Then, when they were frowning at me in what I imagined was concern, I would shout, "April Fools!" Looking back, I suspect my ruse wasn't as cunning as I thought.
My mother was a MUCH better recipient of my fake-bad-news schtick. I would come home and tell her I had been suspended, or the school was closing, or some such canard. She would clutch her breast and gasp and say, "No!" Then when I revealed the truth - she had obviously forgotten it was April Fools Day - she would reel back in relief and assure me she had bought it hook, line and sinker. It was all very gratifying and may have influenced my later career choice to make a living by telling stories.
How about you, Reds? Any memories of April Fools gone by? Do you still participate as grown-ups?
HALLIE EPHRON: I confess, I hate practical jokes unless they are exceedingly gentle. Remember short-sheeting a bed? Putting pepper in the salt shaker? Shampoo in the mouthwash? That's about my speed.
My husband's idea of a practical joke is goofy. When I was getting up one April first, he came into the bedroom all in a lather - "There's a fleet in the toilet! There's a fleet in the toilet."
Sure enough, there was a virtual platoon of origami boats floating in it.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh too funny Julia! And Hallie--a fleet! What other husband would come up with that? My family's favorite joke was to watch my father as he tried to put his pajamas on when the legs had been sewn shut. That's about your speed, right Hallie?
John got my nephew pretty good a couple of years ago. When our daughter was married, we went home after the party was over and let the younger set carry on the celebration. Later we heard that our nephew bought a round of drinks for a rather large group and charged it to John's account. On April Fool's day, some months later, John emailed him and told him the bill had come in at $900. My nephew was horrified and embarrassed. It took several rounds of emails to the cousins to realize what day it was...
RHYS BOWEN: We pulled off several good ones at school, the best being the whole class of an absent-minded home room teacher switching with another class. Teacher called the roll and 30 girls answered present for girls who weren't there! Teacher didn't twig until much later!
Best one at home--John was on a diet, trying hard to lose weight and monitoring his progress. I crept into his bathroom on April 1 and re-calibrated the scale to show ten pounds heavier. I heard him go in, then an anguished "No! I can't have gained weight!"
I love clever tricks, but not cruel ones.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am SUCH an April Fools wimp. I really really hate to be tricked or humiliated or made fun of--told you I was a wimp--so I don't play tricks on anyone. (I know, I need more confidence.)
My now-very-cool younger brother Chip used to torment us, growing up. Every April Fools, he would say, with great terror in his voice: "THERE'S A SPIDER ON YOU!"
That being the worst possible thing, of course. I fell for it every time.
Years went by. Me falling for it every time. Then we grew up.
One day, when I was in my 30's, Chip called me in Atlanta from where he lived in Colorado. We chatted for a while, then he said--on the PHONE mind you--THERE'S A SPIDER ON YOU! I shrieked and threw the phone.
Totally fell for it. Totally. Now he does it every year. I look forward to it.
JULIA: Hank, we used to tell my sister, "You have garments on you!" Worked every time.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Once again I'm forced to look back and think - I've never had ANY fun, have I??? I can't remember a single AFD joke I've either played or had played on me. And I'm sure if I played one on Bruce he'd just stare at me until I told him and he said "oh, yeah, April fool's."
But, I will try the spider thing on Hank the next time I see her...
How about you, dear readers? What are/were your favorite jokes, tricks or pranks? And do you think April Fool's Day is kid stuff? Or do you, too, call up your sibling and shout, "THERE'S A SPIDER ON YOU!"
About the illustrations: in France, the First of April is Poisson d'Avril (April Fish) because the first fish of Spring are easily hooked!