April Fools

In our family, the first of April is a special day of fun. Each of us has the fun of being wary, of jumping at shadows, of distrusting each other. Paranoia! What a blast!

It all started innocently enough years ago, with a spur-of-the-moment idea of putting rocks and sticks on the dinner plates of my small children. “No, daddy,” they said, appalled, “that’s not right.” I thought for a second. “Oh!” I replied. “I forgot the ketchup!” As I squirted a puddle on each plate, I began to realize the creative potential of this day.

Since then, to be honest, I’ve thought about retiring nearly every year. It’s tough to find practical jokes that are playful and not just mean. But each year, the kids have a genuine – albeit somewhat masochistic – anticipation for the day. They actually seem to want me to pull pranks. So what’s a dad to do? I can’t disappoint them, can I?

Oh, the stories I could tell if I had the time. Of things propped up against and balanced over doors. Of the mock toy sale in the driveway. Of the tuna donut. Some were simple, others extremely elaborate. All were done in good humor, and (mostly) received with the same. And in all those years, only once was I on the receiving end. Ironically, it was with the same sink-sprayer stunt I had planned for them. I had it coming, I know. Just so you know I can take a joke, I went easy on them the following year -- only visiting on them eight of the ten plagues of Egypt. (I had to loosely interpret them, of course. My first-born is alive and well, thank you.)

Though the kids have gotten older, I find the food prank still works. This past year, as they sat down to dinner, I unveiled a jello mould. Imbedded in it were a handful of my one son’s carefully painted orc figurines, grimaces frozen inside the jiggly green. It was truly funny. Well, to me. Until they washed off, my son wasn’t so sure.

It’s all in good fun. They should just get into the spirit of the holiday, like I do.

Wait – did that shadow just move?

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2006 Bruce Van Patter