April Fools Day
April Fool’s Day is seen by some as an invitation to play the game of “Gotcha”

Good-natured pranks can be a lot of fun. A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves is essential to our emotional well being and good physical health. In fact, many believe laughing is the best physical and emotional therapy we can get.

On one April Fool’s day, a long time ago, my daughter took great delight in creating card board cookies to take to school as a special treat for her teacher. She carefully frosted the “cookies” and arranged them in a gift box. She put the box of cookies on her teacher’s desk and waited, holding back the urge to give the joke away by laughing. Her teacher made a show of choosing just the right cookie. She picked up first one and then another. When she finally put one of the cookies to her mouth and attempted to take a bite, my daughter wailed with delight, “April Fool”. The teacher and the fun loving little girl shared a good laugh. That same day, while combing my daughter’s hair I had added a third braid down the middle of the back of her head. She was unaware of my having done this. When her classmates teased her, she responded, “my mother believes in laughing.” Both pranks were harmless and were taken in the spirit intended.

If we’re going to dish it out however, we’d best be prepared to take it. When we play a prank or an April Fool joke on someone we’re inviting that person to give us a pay back.

My daughter was involved in another prank at girl-scout camp. The scouts took shaving cream and wrote on their leader’s car, “Grandma Girl Scout Strikes Again”. Unfortunately the shaving cream ate through the paint and the words would not come off. Grandma Girl Scout was a good sport and didn’t seem to mind that her old rusty car had been permanently autographed. In return, she staged a mock search for mice. At midnight, she and some other leaders barged into the sleeping girl’s cabin loudly banging kettles, hooting and shouting to scare the phantom mice away. The girls knew it was a pay back and were delighted to be playing with their leaders.

Some practical jokes can backfire and the prankster ends up being the April Fool. A woman put plastic wrap on her toilet bowl. She got the appropriate response when her husband attempted to use the toilet. However, she ended up having to clean up the mess. Fortunately, they both had a good laugh in the end. In fact they still tease each other and laugh about the incident.

My father had one of the greatest paybacks. He didn’t say “gotcha”, he said, “I’m gonna getcha.” He’d make us wait anxiously anticipating what he was going to do in retaliation for the prank we’d played on him. I can still see the contrived sardonic look on his face when he said, “You’ll pull the shortest end.” His gocha’s were never as bad as his threats.

Just like other games, the game of practical jokes has rules. First, of course, we have to be willing to accept a practical joke in return. Next, when we up the ante, that is give back a little more than received, we’re inviting the other person to do likewise. We have to be willing to pay the higher consequences.

Sometimes practical jokes can get out of hand. When Steve pulled into the driveway in a brand new sports car, Ginny had a tantrum. Steve laughed so hard he thought his sides would split, and Ginny took off for the local mall before he had the chance to explain that the car had been borrowed from a friend who was a dealer. When Ginny returned she was sporting a new outfit from head to toe, including a very expensive cashmere coat and the trunk of her car was filled with other expensive purchases.  The first thing she saw was Steve’s old car in the drive where the sports car had been. She had to blink her eyes real hard to make sure she was seeing what she was seeing. When she realized that Steve had played a prank on her, she offered to take her purchases back for a refund, but Steve was angry and hurt that Ginny took his joke seriously. To him, her retaliation meant that his wife didn’t trust him. He stomped off to the local casino and proceeded to lose a rather large chunk of money. When Ginny found out about Steve’s gambling debt, she refused to return her purchases. It took the couple several years to get out of debt, and they never quite trusted each other again where money matters were concerned.

Go ahead, have some fun this April Fool’s Day. Just make sure that if you dish it out, you’re prepared to take it, and be careful about upping the ante.

—M. LaCourt

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