Peaches on the Apple Tree

In fourth grade, hoping to postpone our spelling test, my classmates and I clamored to repeat a newly learned April Fool’s song. Mrs. Paulson, hugely pregnant, plucked her ukulele, burped, and began: “Look out the window, what do you see? Peaches on the apple tree. I fool you; you fool me. This is April Fool’s day.”

Does anyone get excited about April 1st anymore? Or has the fun of fooling others faded because it’s a holiday without candy or presents?

In elementary school, we expended great effort throughout the day trying to trick one another with obvious ploys: We yelled “Mildred, look out!” then shrieked with laughter when she ducked. We claimed to see spiders in hair and flies in spaghetti. We loosened lids on saltshakers and swore the principal sent us with the note telling Johnny to report to the office “imeditly.”

The only person who never fooled anyone was Laddy Swenson, who, every year, said he could see a booger in your nose.

As a teacher, I was sometimes the victim. My fourth-graders taped the button on the handset of the room phone so it didn’t pop out and connect when I answered. I yelled “hello” to a ringing phone several times before their giggles gave them away.

A sixth-grader offered me the grape juice he’d saved from his lunch. Fortunately, I spotted the purple puddle collecting in his hand from the tiny holes he’d poked in the bottom of the carton.

My ninth-grade students simultaneously dropped their books to the floor at a signal from their ringleader. I trumped them, exclaiming, “Sorry I’m late,” and dropping a dictionary.

One year, a colleague, Rich Roberts, amused the entire school with his gag. Rich epitomized professional dress and careful grooming: white shirt, coat and tie, creased slacks, polished shoes, hair only on his head, and every one in place.

The morning of April 1st, he stopped to talk with the grandmotherly school secretary after he collected his mail. In mid-chat, she reached out to perfect his splendor by removing a stray thread from his lapel. She tugged and tugged; the thread grew longer and longer; her jaw dropped.

Rich had used a needle to pull a little bit of a long thread through his lapel, letting the rest droop inside his jacket—until some helpful soul decided to remove it. All day, staff, students, and parent-helpers tried to clean him up as he laughed.

Years later, in a school hundreds of miles away, I tried the same trick. No one took the bait. Evidently a stray thread didn’t look out of place on me.

Last spring, I walked bleary-eyed from the bedroom into the kitchen just as Joel yelled, “Janet, bring something quick. I’ve spilled coffee all over the carpet.” I groped for sponges and cleansing agents, grumbled my way toward my gesticulating husband—wondering how he upended his coffee this time—and heard, “April Fool!”

On second thought, perhaps I’m grateful the April tradition has faded. I’m too old for such fun.

Have any
April Fool’s memories of your own?
Please leave a comment below.


Some Smaller Joys

In honor of Thanksgiving, Aunt Beulah celebrates lesser blessings to illustrate the importance of indulging in laughter and small pleasures as we age. This post is excerpted from columns written for the Craig Daily Press in 2010 and 2011.

Thank_01.png.jpegDuring the Thanksgiving season, when others mention the blessings for which they’re grateful, I never mention Press ‘n Seal plastic wrap.

But I could.

The struggle to decently cover leftovers has plagued me for decades: I’ve balanced plates atop half-full serving dishes, hurled plastic tubs and lids here and there searching for a matched pair, stretched elasticized bonnets until they snapped, and rued the wastefulness of discarding aluminum foil after one use.

Since the advent of Press’n Seal, I casually unroll a sticky length of film, stretch it across a bowl of dinner remains, smooth it down the container’s sides, and do a happy dance.

I’m also thankful for the trees in our yard that prevent direct sunlight from lingering on the house. Since the windows are shadowed most of the day, I think they’re clean.

I’m grateful I’m tall, though I didn’t think so during junior high dances when I swayed above a sea of bobbing heads like a heron stalking minnows. Now I know the advantages: I rarely have an obstructed view and can reach the highest shelves in supermarkets. I’m easy to find when wandering lost and will never, ever, be called a little old lady.

Praises be for Post-its. I find them indispensable for the thirty-two lists I make each day: calls to make, tasks to complete, books to read, groceries to buy, items to pack, gardening to do, and, for future reference, all the past places I’ve found my glasses. I’ve stopped short of writing a list of behaviors in need of correction to attach to my husband, Joel, but if you see him wearing a neon-green post-it, you’ll know I succumbed.

My gratitude goes out to friends and kindly strangers who tell me when I leave home with curlers in my hair, sales-tags attached to my clothing, or shoes of differing styles on my feet. Please, never hesitate.

I’m thankful that I no longer attempt to fold fitted sheets. I once saw Martha Stewart demonstrate a procedure for bundling the limply resistant objects into respectability, so I know it’s possible. I just can’t do it. So I’ve stopped trying; instead, I roll the sheets into a lump and squash it flat. Good Job!

Mentioning Ms Stewart reminds me of another blessing I enjoy: I’m not Martha.

I have better things to do than making a whimsical turkey from old Clorox containers for the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving table and surrounding it with placemats I wove from recycled panty hose.

I don’t want to bake cornbread from scratch and cut it into precise cubes, which I’ll toast, to use in a stuffing recipe that also requires portabella mushrooms, candied pecans, and fresh figs.

But I do want a Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones and filled with laughter—and I wish the same for all of you.

Have some thoughts
about small blessings you enjoy?
I’d like to hear.

Recap of Comments from Use It or Lose It
Jacke exercises her mind with SUDOKU puzzles, and Janice, who admits to struggles with technology that rival mine, recommends not giving up, but finding an expert to rescue you when necessary. Mercy points out that the Internet allows the disabled and the elderly to access the world and stay connected with their loved ones. She wishes there were more avenues available to help these groups enjoy the fun of the Internet.