Gimme a smile: April Fools' Day

There’s a bright red caterpillar crawling on your back! April Fool!


You gotta love April Fools’ Day. In the lexicon of holidays, it stands alone. It doesn’t require any gifts, costumes, special food, or telephone calls to family members. Hallmark hasn’t discovered April Fools’ Day yet ­— or figured out how to make money off another sentimental holiday.

April Fools’ Day is all about creative mischief — figuring out how to play the coolest tricks on the people around you. All you need to enjoy the holiday is a gullible friend and a clever sense of humor. You don’t even need to be original — sometimes the best April Fools’ jokes can be recycled year after year.

My husband sees a bear walking through downtown Juneau every year on April 1. He e-mails his co-workers to alert them to this bear sighting, and then settles back to enjoy their reactions. I think he’s seen this bear every year for the past 15 years or so. Lately his co-workers will greet him in the morning with the question, “Seen a bear yet?” But every year he’ll get an excited rush to the windows, just in case there really is a bear. There never is. I’m hoping for the day when a bear really does wake up early and wander down South Franklin Street on April 1. The joke’s on you, darling!

When my kids were young, their favorite thing to do on April Fools’ Day was to wear their clothes backwards, or to wear mismatched socks. My daughter continued to wear two different colored socks, which we called “April Fool socks” for years afterward. Now she’s in middle school, and nobody wears two socks of the same color. You can barely buy a matching pair of socks for girls in the store these days. I don’t think they call them April Fool socks, though.

The other classic April Fools’ joke in our household involves slipping a few drops of food coloring into your sibling’s or parent’s drink when they’re not looking. There’s something really funny about red water or purple milk. You have to guard your drinks at the Barnhills’ on April 1.

The best April Fools’ joke I ever pulled was on my then future husband. We were living in Pittsburgh at the time and Mike’s brother would often borrow his truck without maintaining the proper respect for parking regulations. If you had too many unpaid parking tickets in Pittsburgh, the city would put a boot on your car, making it impossible to drive off into the sunset. The boot was bright orange — I guess they wanted to expose you to all your neighbors as a scofflaw, hoping the resulting shame would prompt you to pay your parking fines more responsibly in the future. The city did not distinguish between the driver who parked the car illegally and the owner of the vehicle. The vehicle owner paid the price for the crime.

A piece of orange posterboard and some all-purpose duct tape was all it took. I sneaked out in the wee hours, and when Mike woke up to go to work, he was greeted by the fear-inspiring sight of a bright orange boot immobilizing his truck. He almost hauled his brother out of bed to face the music before he realized that it was a trick. April Fool!

I don’t know what to expect this year. April Fools’ Day is on a Sunday, Palm Sunday, no less. It’s hard to fool your co-workers into looking out the window for a bear if you’re not even at work. It’s probably not advisable to play April Fools’ jokes at church on Sunday morning — the pastor might not appreciate it if the communion wine had a few drops of green food coloring added to it. I will keep a close eye on my breakfast orange juice, though.

Look out — a tarantula is crawling on your head! April Fool!


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