Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools!

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! 



  1. I confess that I am not good at playing tricks on others, even in what’s supposed to be “good fun,” so I have a tendency to ignore the whole April Fool’s thing. I am certain there was some of it when I was in school . . . mercifully, I seem to have forgotten any specific details.

    The Princess, however, has been looking forward to April Fool’s for several days now and has regaled me with several of what she considers her best “gotcha” ideas, most of which are of the “There’s a spider on you” variety and, thankfully, not at all mean-spirited, so I expect she's going to have a wonderful time today . . . .

  2. I've never been much of an April Fool's participant, although I like the idea of clever rather than mean jokes. My favorite, and I've never done it, only heard of it: You know that spray nozzle on your kitchen sink? Wrap a rubberband tight around it, holding the lever down.

  3. DO NOT, I mean, DO NOT! tell me there's a spider on me. Honestly, I will believe you.

    Julia, what's the deal with the fish? What do fish have to do with APril Fools?

  4. One of my high school teachers (a nun) came into the classroom saying she had a red "bee" in this little box. We all had a chance to peer into the box. Inside was a large letter "B" written in red on the bottom of the box. So, an example of a clever and harmless April Fool's joke.

  5. Hank, I adore you. Over the phone.

    The best AFD joke ever was on my first husband, waaay back in the early 70's. My maiden name was Brenner, and I spun this elaborate yarn about how Yul Brynner was actually my great-uncle, brother to my grandfather (who was also hair-challenged), and who had changed his last name to sound more exotic because of a rift in the family. At first he was skeptical, but as I added more details he started getting excited and was all ready to call his snooty sister-in-law to brag when I called "fool".

    The other time I don't know if I should be really ashamed or not. Our two youngest girls were about 4 and 7, and had been up way too late the night before Easter, which happened to fall on the 1st that year. When they got up, really late for them, expecting to see Easter baskets, we convinced them that they had slept through Easter and had missed the whole thing. When they started to cry (really? Over a basket of candy?), we relented and brought out their baskets.

    I thought that would scar them for life, but neither of them remember it now. Maybe it will all come up in some future psychotherapy session as a repressed memory.

  6. When I was a college freshman we used to go to the room of the faculty chaperone and short-sheet her bed, put cellophane over her toilet seat. . Imagine intelligent kids of an elite school doing such childish pranks!!!! Thelma in Manhattan

  7. Today's Shelf Awareness column reports that the Big 6 are merging! And Borders is coming back with only "adult titles."

    News in the book biz has been so sketchy lately that I actually fell for it... briefly. Then had a good laugh.

  8. I'm not a practical joke fan. So many of them seem to verge on the cruel or mean. So April Fool's Day has never been a favorite of mine.

    It is, however, the opening of National Poetry Month, so in honor of that, here's an April Fool's Day poem of sorts.


    How I fear the witch in me,
    the one in touch
    with power, the one who knows
    without knowing
    how, the secret
    priestess, spirit-bearer, the ugly side
    of woman, the crone—
    and I remember the Cherokee
    legend of Stoneskin, superhuman
    cannibal, devouring whole
    villages, how the People
    set up a fortress of women
    menstruating, how the sight
    of each weakened Stoneskin
    until he died and, dying, told them
    all the secrets, ways
    of power, conjure spells, ways
    to do things. The Cherokee live
    off the wisdom
    of a dying monster and the power
    of bleeding women, and they remember
    this. There is a witch somewhere
    in every woman.

    Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

  9. My youngest daughter was born on April 1 -- which was also Good Friday in 1983 (she is 30 today !!!). I had never given much thought to April Fool's day before Ellie was born, but after that, her older sisters and I would always try to trick her.

    I don't remember even one "trick"! She is now a high school teacher, so maybe her students will fool her.

    I absolutely love the fish/fool illustrations.

    And I totally love Poetry Month!

  10. Linda,

    Thank you for the poem! Wonderful!

    We got an April Fool's trick from the viral kingdom last night - The Boy woke up at 3am with a high fever and nausea. I've got him home from school today, and he's feeling so punky I don't dare make any April Fool's jokes around him...

  11. I'm with Hank; not an April Fool's fan since so many of the "jokes" seem malicious.

    It was harder when I was teaching, because high school kids love their pranks. But as drama teacher, it gave me a chance to play with "trauma" make-up for the day, which was nice because then the second semester kids didn't miss out (for a while I only did it on Halloween).

    Still, this is one day I'd be happy to see fall by the wayside. If that makes me an old fart, I'm good with that! :-)

  12. Poetry... thank you, Linda!

    I am watching the Red Sox - ahead of the Yankees 4-0 - and that is not an April Fool's joke... Go Sox!

  13. yes, thanks for the poem Linda!

    You should see the Key West Citizen (the local paper) today. They did an entire issue of April Fools' news--very elaborate stories about how the Queen of England is visiting, a luxury hotel will be built on our trash mountain, how all the homeless have been adopted by local citizens, and on and on--it's really amazing. You'll be able to see the front page if you google Key West Citizen.

  14. What delightful Fish/Fool's cards!! I love the old-fashioned, charming illustrations, and I love April Fool's Day.

    It was 66 years ago today that a dear cousin was born, and 64 years ago a childhood friend was born. And call me lucky, but I've never had any cruel jokes played on me. In my family silliness like short-sheeting, adding a few drops of food coloring to the milk or switching everyone's toothbrushes around were the extent of our pranks.

    But the absolute best reason I have for loving April Fool's Day is that 28 years ago today, my husband and I got hitched! It's the perfect anniversary date for us - I'd been married and divorced and swore I'd never marry again, and Ron made a bet with a friend in high school that he'd never marry at all. So here we are, 28 years later, happy to admit we were wrong, and looking forward to whatever the future holds.

  15. Happy anniversary Linda,

    what I want to know is has anyone actually thought an april fool's joke was funny?

    (Outside of Hallie's Jerry floating an origami fleet - which actually is sort of funny)

  16. Julia:
    No April Fool's . . . hope your son is feeling better soon . . . .

  17. Yes Jan, I have one for you!

    We moved to Florida from PA when my oldest was 2, and I was pregnant with my 2nd. My whole family (my side) was obsessed with alligators, and convinced that the children were going to be eaten by them.

    Sooooo one April Fool's Day , when my 2nd was 3, I called my mom, and said to her, " Mom, I'm so sorry I didn't listen to you about the alligators. Parker (oldest) came running into the house from the back yard. a little while ago, saying Lucas was hitting this funny looking dog with a stick. And that I had better come fast because the dog kept lunging at Lucas' feet. Well, I went outside and it was a BABY alligator, mom, just about 2-3 feet long. Oh my gosh, I screamed and grabbed Lucas and Parker, and came running in the house, and then I locked the door, Mom. Like the alligator could get in if I didn't lock it. Then I didnt know what to do so I called the police...."

    I went on and on. My mom is going "Oh My god, Oh my god, Oh my god."
    Then when I paused, she asked me if I had gotten the hubby to come home from work, and I said, "Mom? April Fool's." She gasped and then started to laugh.

    So then I called my mother-in-law and said, "You need to PROMISE you won't tell my mom this story if I tell you. Cross your heart and hope to die? Well, Parker and Lucas were playing out back in the yard when Parker comes running in..."

    The story in legendary in our family. :)

  18. Two days late to the party, but this reminded me of my niece's tale of all-day "April Fools" from her elementary students and her "gotcha back" telling them they were to stay at school until 7 pm.
    Mom wouldn't let us play mean tricks, but I do remember "There's an elephant in the backyard."
    My favorite thing to do to students was something I stole from a Masterpiece Theater episode, "Students, there will only be a half-day of school this morning," . . . "the other half will be this afternoon."