For the first time I can remember, an April Fools’ Day passed this week without anyone trying to fool me, or even hearing about anyone trying to fool anyone else. That’s kind of sad, because a good laugh might do us all some good given the current state of things.
Growing up I was exposed to April Fools’ Day more than I’d like to admit. But it was much worse for my father, because my mother took great delight in pulling pranks on April 1st.
One of her first ones I remember is when she woke my father up one night, telling him there was some kind of disastrous issue with the water in our house and that he’d have to do down in the basement and turn the water off — quick. That was a problem, because the entrance to the basement was a door on the floor in a thin, U-shaped hallway in the laundry area of the house. At that time of year the narrow hallway was still blocked with bicycles and other things dad have to move outside before he could even get to the door.
Anyway, he moved them all, finally made it to the basement, and turned the water off. But he could not figure out what the big problem was. He discovered it when he made it back upstairs to find my mother cackling in the kitchen.
Around the same time one April 1st, my father picked me up from track practice, then told me we had to make a quick trip to Lynchburg. I was not happy because I was tired, wanted to go home, and the last thing I needed was to take a ride back and forth to Lynchburg. But evidently mom told dad she had locked her keys in her car, and that since he had the only spare set of keys, we had to get there in a hurry, because she had purchased meat in Lynchburg and it was locked in the car.
It was not unusual for my mother to be in Lynchburg because that’s where all my family is originally from, and there was a store there where mom liked to buy our meat. But there was something unusual that should have tipped us off — she failed to tell my father the car’s location — and since there were no cell phones in this days we were going to have do a little hunting.
So off we went to Lynchburg. When we arrived, we stopped my grandmother’s house, then an aunt’s house. No one seemed to know anything about where mom might be. You would think that since we had the whole ride over there to think about it, it might have dawned on us that something was amiss. But I don’t think it was until we made that second stop, and started to head to another relative’s home, that it finally struck us — it was April 1st, and mom was up to her tricks again. We were not happy, but it’s hard not to laugh at yourself when you know you’ve been had again; and should have known better.
A few years later, after I was out on my own, my mother called me as I was headed to work one morning. She told me dad had ran out of gas somewhere around Hillsboro High School, and asked if I could go help him. I was in a hurry, and didn’t really want to go traipsing around the school. But I grabbed an empty can, went to a gas station and filled it up, then started driving around the school looking for my dad.
When I couldn’t find him, I flagged down a couple people he knew and asked if they had seen him anywhere. After I stopped the second or third person, and was getting ready to walk in the school to ask someone else, it finally came to me. It was April 1st, and I felt like giving the gas can a good kick.
It was about that time that I made a promise to even the score a little.
So the next year, on a Sunday evening when I knew my mom would be about to leave for church (my dad was preaching at a different church that evening), and would be cutting the time as close, as usual, I gave mom a call. I told her that I had an important meeting to get to, my car wouldn’t start, and I needed a ride.
She said she was running late for church, but I told I really needed a ride, so she said she would be there in a couple minutes.
When she hurriedly pulled in my driveway I was standing on my front porch, with my thumbs stuck in my ears, wiggling my fingers and sticking my tongue out at her and yelling “happy April Fools’ Day.” It makes me smile just thinking about the look on her face when she realized the tables had finally been turned on her.
I missed being on either end of a joke this year.
Here’s hoping we’re all in a lighter mood next April 1.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.