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First Day of April

287. First Day of April

My first thought on getting up, even on a spring morning in 1973, was to get a cup of coffee. In those years I was not a morning person. My eight-year-old daughter Dara, youngest of four, was a thousand times more bright-eyed than I and she sat eagerly at the kitchen table, watching as I got the water going for that first cup of instant coffee.

I poured it, sat down with her at the table, poured the milk into the cup and stirred in the sugar. My experience was that that first sip of coffee would produce the “Ahhh…” that announced to me that the day had begun, that the sleepiness would recede, and I would slowly start to awaken.

I could not focus quite clearly on this energetic little girl who wiggled on her seat in some kind of anticipation. I took the sip—rushed to the sink and spit it out! Salt in the sugar bowl! Dara squealed as she shouted “April Fool’s Day!”

A year passed and memory faded but the ritual of morning stayed the same. The spring when Dara was nine was a warmer day and I took my cup of coffee and my sleepiness out on the deck to feel the warmth. The bubbly-one came with me, her eyes crinkled with fun. I took the sip and this year leaned to the side of the wooden deck step to spit. She laughed out loud, gleeful that it had worked two years in a row. “April Fool’s Day” and salt in the sugar bowl again.

From that day on I drank my coffee black.

There may have been other tricks, not so memorable. I continued to drink black coffee and Dara grew and one day had a child of her own—a little boy, Zachariah. When he was nine, she called me on the phone and we chatted about this and that and toward the end of the call she said in a offhand way, “Oh Mom—I almost forgot to tell you, Zach was in a fight today.” “A fight?” Inside my voice, you could hear the disbelief I felt. “A fight? You mean a fistfight?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “At school, the principal called. I had to go get him.” My disbelief was not easily dissuaded. “A fight? Like between him and someone else, another kid?” Dara continued, “Yes, another boy and Zach got into an argument and Zach has a bruise around his eye…” I could hear Zach’s voice in the background, shouting, “But Grandma, you should see the other guy!” I stumbled in my voice, “I don’t know what….I can’t believe…What should I say?”

Dara and Zach dissolved into laughs as they shouted “April Fool’s!”

It comes every year, that’s the thing—this foolish, foolish day which invites the tricks, the clowning, the disruption. I was secretly waiting for the year Dara could experience being the brunt of the laughs. The year Zach was ten, Dara knew something was up, some plan afoot, she just didn’t know what.

In the middle of the night, she heard noises, but didn’t get up. Finally things quieted again. The next morning she got up to fix breakfast, get him off to school, fix her own coffee. She opened the cabinets—empty. Everything gone. Vanished. She opened other cabinets—more empty. She turned to see him grinning and bursting with “April Fool’s.” Over time everything was recovered, from under his bed, in his closet, dishes and cups and glasses hidden everywhere.

What a funny, weird day! April Fool’s!

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