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I remember thinking as a child i ...

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:11pm

I remember thinking as a child it would be horrible to have your birthday on Christmas. You know, you’d never get enough presents, people would forget in all the holiday hoopla, you might be traveling and never be able to have a birthday party with your friends.

So I must have been blessed, since I didn’t have a birthday on Christmas. I got it on April Fool’s Day instead.

This, as you may have imagined, has engendered hundreds of jokes over the years. Some of them have even had class. I’m told my fisherman grandfather’s first comment was “Throw her back–she’s too small!” (Back in the 1950s, 5 lbs. 6 oz., was still the kind of baby you just sent home, because there wasn’t all this whiz-bang preemie stuff.) There have been standard variations on the clear fingernail-polished soap, the Handi-wrapped toilet seat, little pranks of all sorts over the years, all done, as their culprits insisted, in good fun. But three stand out.

The first was in my senior year of high school, when my locker was the first one right outside my humorless English teacher’s homeroom. My dear friends conspired to fill my locker with pingpong balls, balloons and other noisy clap-trap, so when I opened it in the morning, it all fell out on the floor. While Norma was standing there. Giving ME a look like it was all my fault. Did you ever try to contain fifty pingpong balls while the morning class bell was ringing? I bet you didn’t.

The second was when my dashing single father let the woman he was seeing tell me they were getting married. She was horrid to begin with, a prissy little clerical worker of some sort, and she flashed this huge-stoned ring about, talking about how she’d be moving in any day, etc. Granted I was still in high school, and it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have a mother there, so I could quit raising my sisters while my father worked. All the same, it was just some kind of joke, at least to someone.

The last one was the birthday party my sister threw for me some ten years ago, when she served this beautifully decorated cake, cut it and handed the pieces out. She insisted of course, as the birthday girl, that I have the first piece, so I took a big bite, grateful for her effort. It was all I could do not to spit it out–she’d iced and decorated a huge cornbread. What a shock.

I’ve never understood practical jokes. While I appreciate the intent, it seems to me they mostly hurt people who aren’t prepared. By all means, pranksters should tag pranksters– they eat it up. The rest of us? We do enough to ourselves.

Writer Cynthia Heimel says, “When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”

I’ll take the plunge. But I’m taking a parachute along, just in case. This time, I want to share the laugh at the end.

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