I was listening to the news on NPR. In case you haven’t noticed or are living on the distant Planet Bliss where there is no news, period, what gets reported as ‘news’ is rarely upbeat. In fact, it’s consistently tragic and paints a dire picture of humanity, no matter what continent we’re on.
At the same time, most of us are confronted with bad news much closer to home. Together we contend with the new virus strains, climate change, fires, hurricanes—all this along with our own personal challenges to manage.
So, over the weekend, I found myself reminiscing about brighter, lighter days in our lives. When we laughed a lot, sought out mischief, played jokes, planned pranks. Okay – most of the aforementioned happened before the age of crushing responsibility – otherwise known as adulthood. But I was one of those forever-young souls whose funny bone failed to evolve until April 2019 – when the relentless and mutable Coronavirus changed life as we knew it. Now I feel like a full-fledged, burdened adult whose face might crack if I smile too much. I channel my highly superstitious Polish grandmother, who cautioned, “Don’t laugh too much because that means you’re going to cry.”
But I remember the former ‘me.’ The one who loved to plan and pull pranks on people – pranks that sent me (probably not my targeted victims) into gales of nearly unstoppable laughter. As Mary Hopkin crooned in the 1960’s – “Those were the days, my friend. Oh yes, those were the days.” And to briefly relive those days, I want to share a few of my finest prankster moments with you.
1. I begin with an event that took me most of an afternoon to execute. And another in the vice principal’s office as atonement. Before lunch in the high school cafeteria, I borrowed a fuzzy green beanie hat from Don Burleigh’s locker. At lunch, I told him I had psychic powers and that he was going to be delivered something very special later in the day. After my small circle of friends left for class, I remained inside the cafeteria and ladled leftovers from plates into a paper bag. I then went into the girls’ lavatory, ripped open a seam in Don’s hat, filled it with cafeteria garbage, and stapled it shut again. Near the end of Don’s civic class, taught by Mr. Wilson, who already hated me, I opened the classroom door and, much like a quarterback throwing a pass, lobbed the fuzzy football toward Don’s desk where it landed with a thud and started to leak its contents. I was in stitches. Don was stunned. Mr. Wilson was purple. I ran back to the girls’ room and laughed till I cried - and had to report to the vice principal's office.
2. As a high school senior, solid member of the thespian crowd, and first chair violist in the orchestra, I helped create an unforgettable experience under the stars, atop Garvin Heights where young people went to experience puppy love (as we called it then, “necking). A friend slated to be valedictorian at our upcoming graduation and trusted with the family sedan drove our group of five friends up the winding hill where we parked and picked out a grey Chevy in which the windows were steaming up. With animal stealth and viola and bow in my hands, I crept up to the rear of the Chevy, gave the rest of my crew a high-sign, and started to play “The Anniversary Waltz” while my friends carefully wrapped the victims’ car in fathoms of toilet paper. (We’d successfully done this before, by the way). However, this young lover wasn’t amused, and as we piled back in the getaway car, he chased us. Once speeding down the hill, we attracted the attention of a local police car, ended up stopped, and escorted home to parents who were not (unlike all of us except for the valedictorian) laughing.
3. Let’s jump head by about 45 years to demonstrate how long an adult woman can desperately hang onto immaturity. My husband (who against all odds, is still with me) was at a meeting near the State Capitol with doctors on the board of a professional medical association. Knowing that he was surrounded by high achievers and genius intellects, I felt the need to bring him home to bread and butter reality. I had a large metal and glass bird feeder that was guaranteed to be squirrel proof. I placed it on the middle of a table on the back deck, under glowing yard lights. I borrowed my dog’s favorite stuffed toy (a grey squirrel) and sat him inside. Figuring the meeting was near the end, I texted my husband with a shadowy picture of a squirrel in the squirrel-proof bird feeder. With amazement, I told him how unbelievable it was that a squirrel actually got inside! I said I was too afraid to let the poor little guy out. Husband shared this bit of news with ten brilliant physicians. Once home, husband grabbed a broom and snuck out the backdoor like a big game hunter ready to strike. Two feet away from the feeder, it dawns on him the squirrel is not moving or even breathing. I’m crying again. He wondered aloud how to explain this to his docs.
Of course, as a serial prankster, I have many more questionable events to report. Some of them, alas, were really not funny – like when I blindfolded Jimmy Streater and cut the buttons off his new shirt. His mother did not laugh. I share these less than proud moments in my life to, just for this moment, remember being silly, thoughtless, and without life-and-death concerns 24 hours a day. Please do not think less of me. And if you have an exquisite prank to share – I am an email away. You’ll help me to feel more normal.
Thanks for sticking with me as my mind wanders all the way to April 1, 2022 when I hope to once again honor April Fools Day. It's always great to hear from you. I care what you think and love to hear your experiences! firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week I talked about great teachers - and I received an email from Ken Futernick, Ph.D., who is personally collecting and preserving stories from former students whose teachers made a huge difference in their lives. Check out his Teacher Stories Website and consider adding your own tribute. Teachers need to know how much they matter.
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