Small Traditions

April Fool’s Day passed quietly for me, which was a disappointment. I wanted to do something in person, not like last year’s blog switcheroo, but my only idea wasn’t practical. The dearth of jokes wasn’t because I was home alone–I don’t prank Jenny, and I don’t think Elena would have understood. That said, I think next year will be a good one to prank her for the first time, so I hope they don’t make this trip an annual event.

When I was growing up, my mother pulled the same prank every year. She inherited the tradition from her mother, who first heard about it on a call-in radio show at least six decades ago. The trick is simple–the night before, pour warm milk into glasses, add Junket tablets, and refrigerate. The primary ingredient in the tablets is the coagulant rennet, which gives milk the texture of pudding and consistency of jello. At April Fool’s breakfast, it still looks like milk but has to be eaten with a spoon. It works best with whole milk–this year’s effort, using skim milk, only became moderately slushy.

I can’t reach deep enough into my memory to pull out a time when I was fooled by the joke, but my mother assures me that it got me more than once, and likewise for all of my siblings. For her the most memorable instance was one time when Leisa couldn’t figure out what was going on and insisted on trying to drink the milk. After enough tilting and shaking, it came loose and splattered all over her face. I think there’s a good chance that John and I convinced her to keep trying to drink it, despite evidence that such a strategy was a bad one.

I did have one idea this year, for a joke on my parents, but I chose not to invest the resources to implement it. It references a unique family tradition. On minor holidays, like Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s day, one of my parents would usually disappear down into the basement. Not long after, there would be a knock on the front door that, when answered, revealed not a visitor but an assortment of small gifts. Usually this included candy or some other edible treat, but that wasn’t all. There were also what appeared to be ordinary household items–rolls of masking tape, pencils, blank paper. My mother says that they gave us things like that because we were creative and figured out ways to use them. I remember that no matter how much I tried to protect my masking tape, it would eventually end up in the general supply, leading me to believe that my parents were trying to double dip by giving us presents and also replenishing stocks of simple household items. I’m not complaining–if that’s what they were doing, it was actually quite clever.

In any case, my plan for this year would have been to drive up to their house with a similar collection of items, then execute a ring and run of my own. Unfortunately, the long drive didn’t fit into my schedule, especially with my plans to drive up the following day.

A good prank is slow magic. It isn’t about humiliating the subject, but instead about making something impossible for happen, even if just for a moment or on a miniature scale. It takes detailed planning and flawless execution to make even one small impossible thing happen, so I fear that my prime pranking years are now past. That’s one small reason I’m glad to have Elena and Moonbeam–they’ll be easy to fool, at least while they’re young.



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5 responses to “Small Traditions

  1. Laura

    Fun post, Mark. Except where are the pictures of your youngest two siblings? We had to play with your hand-me-down masking tape. Just sayin’.

  2. Leisa

    Was I really the only one gullible enough to fall for the milk trick multiple times? I do remember being tricked more than once, but I didn’t realize that I was the only one. I guess that makes me doubly gullible.

    • rothlmar

      No, we all fell for it multiple times (according to Mom). You have the distinction of having it splattered all over your face, probably just once, probably at the goading of your older brothers.

  3. Pingback: Favorite Posts | The Number Field

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