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Frizzi: The Queen of the April Fool’s Day Jokers

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This will be the first April Fools' Day in 80 years on this planet without my Mother. She passed away in February, the day after my birthday. I knew her exactly 58 years, 11 hours and 4 minutes. 

In all that time, there were your typical mom-son highs and lows. Those things happen. But I remember Mom, known to the rest of the world as Janie, as a woman who loved to laugh, loved to smoke, loved to garden, loved a dirty joke and loved to play cards. Her voice so screechingly shrill, that when she was a youngster her family used her voice to cut through the heavy Pittsburgh smog.

And she loved April Fools' Day. Second only to Christmas, this was a holiday she truly looked forward too. The rest of us in her little brood, not so much, for we knew that we were to be her victims and the annual butt of her April Fools' jokes. She was a crafty and inventive gal, too.

“Guess what, everyone! Today is the first day of Spring!” she’d shriek during breakfast as she clutched her morning coffee and cigarette. We looked at each other with fear and trepidation. We all knew what that meant. That was her shot across the bow. We could see the scheming gleam in her eyes. We could hear the gears in her head. She was plotting and planning. April Fools' Day was just around the corner. And we were nervous.

The calendar, hung over the family toaster oven with care, mocked us. What would it be this year? Where would the joke spring from? Would it be the closet? The toilet? Eyeballs in the meat loaf? Nothing was sacred and no one was immune.

We could tell when April Fools' Day grew closer because Mom would send us off with a kiss us on the cheek. Then, with her blue eyes sparkling with mischief, she’d chuckle and walk away. That’s when we knew trouble was a-brewin’.

One year, I decided to turn the table on her. I had come across a Halloween mask. It was made of pliable rubber and completely covered the head. It looked frightening realistic. Actually, the mask was too realistic, which was its fun.  I would wear it when I visited friends in order to scare their parents and siblings. I would hang out of a car window terrorizing drivers. I would wear it to parties. My parents drew the line at church and school.

This April Fools' Day, it would be Mom’s turn to be the mask’s victim.

So, very early on April Fools' morning, while all were a-snooze, I crept down into the kitchen. I put the mask on a meat platter, surrounded it with garnish, and put it in the fridge.

That morning, I didn’t need my alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. Mom’s bloodcurdling scream did the trick. My Dad came running in from the bathroom to see what was up. He was in the middle of shaving during Mom’s window shaking wail and had blood streaming from his divots. Once Mom saw that, she screamed again. Naturally, I was lying on the bed crying with laughter. I never thought my April Fools’ revenge would be a “two-screamer”.

I must have been laughing pretty loudly because I soon heard the pounding of footsteps up the stairs. My bedroom door flung open. Both parents glared at me, breathing heavily. I laughed even harder.

“My God, Mom!  What did you do to Dad?” Mom took a look at Dad’s slaughtered face and she too started to laugh. And despite the obvious pain, Dad managed to crack a smile. He, too, saw the humor and justification of my prank even if it did cost him roughly a half of a pint of blood. Don’t think he didn’t plan his own friendly retaliation against Mom’s yearly pranks; he just clearly thought such actions over and wisely decided against it.

Mom chuckled and said, “Well, you little (rhymes with ‘dastard’), you really got me good this year!” Then she gave me one of her patented “I won’t forget this” squints and left the room.

Now, depending on which sibling you spoke to, I was either a hero or had awakened a sleeping giant. But I was too busy basking in my glory to care either way. I had beaten the Master at her own game. I had taken the Queen of the April Fools' Jokers down a peg.

That next year, there was no breakfast announcement from Mom on the first day of Spring. It had passed and we had forgotten about it. We went about our days  ̶  Dad at work, the kids in school and Mom left alone in the house with her thoughts.

I wasn’t even worried about April Fools'. It had somewhat snuck up on me. Nobody mentioned it. And when it came, I thought that the April Fool jokes were over with because I had taught Mom a lesson that she would never, ever forget.

That morning, the alarm clock rang and I got up, got dressed and went downstairs, ready for breakfast. But only Mom was sitting at the table, smoking and drinking coffee. “Breakfast was a half hour ago, honey. You’re late. Didn’t you set your alarm?” Apparently someone had set my alarm clock back a half hour.

“You’d better hurry or you’re going to be late for class!” I grabbed my books and ran out to my car, which was now parked a whole block away from the house. I heard her cackling as I ran to the car and grabbed the door handle, which was liberally covered with peanut butter.

I turned to see her head sticking out of the front door, laughing amid a cloud of smoke. I shook my peanut butter smeared fist at her and muttered something like “buttafinga” and sped off to school.

I would bookmark my schoolbooks to the place where class had left off. And in every class, when I opened a book to those pages, they had been taped shut.

This annoyed the teachers.

“Mr. Frizzi, would you PLEASE turn to page 47!”

“I’d like too but, I can’t seem to…find the page.”

I couldn’t tell them what Mom did. After all, I didn’t want her to do hard time for vandalizing school property.

The best was saved for my visit to the rest room. I was in dire straits and had hurried into the men’s room and “bellied up to the bar”, so to speak. It was at that crucial moment that I had discovered that Mom, while doing her weekly sewing, had lovingly stitched the porthole in my underwear shut. 

When I came home that afternoon, I opened the front door and flinched, fearing that I’d be doused by a bucket of water or worse. I came into the kitchen and found Mom sitting at her usual spot at the kitchen table, her coffee cup and ash tray within reach. She looked up, smiled and said, “Well, honey, how was your day?”

I knelt before the woman, kissed her hand and called her “Master”.

That night, I found that she had short-sheeted my bed.

When Mom turned 80 last year, one of her granddaughters had the idea of us filling a jar with our favorite Mom memories. While I had several, I added only one piece of paper. It had just three words, “April Fools' Day”. She looked at me, and that familiar gleam came back in her aged blue eyes. And, for the first time in years, I could hear the gears in her head plotting and planning.

I’d like to think that when Death came down to give her what W.C. Fields used to call “the old fashioned hug,” that she looked him dead in the eyes and said, “No! Not today! It’s my kid’s birthday! How about tomorrow?” Then she whipped out a deck of cards, smiled and said, “High card wins.”

And this April Fools' Day, I fully expect for Death to wake up that morning and discover that all of the holes in his cloak have been neatly sewn shut.

About the Author
Donn Frizzi is a well-traveled man, if you consider Pennsylvania to southern Indiana to Texas and finally Peoria to be the definition of well traveled. But in each of his stops he gained certain insights that make him who he is — including a Pirates and Rangers fan who must travel to St. Louis to watch quality baseball without buying a plane ticket. Poetic justice, perhaps? A talented writer, Donn also can make a good point by putting pencil to paper and drawing with satirical splendor. We’re hoping to persuade him to grace our website with an occasional toon, as well.