My family takes April Fool’s Day pretty seriously. As a child, I thought everyone did. I didn’t notice that normal people spent the month of March watching NCAA basketball or going for bike rides; I was busy brainstorming for April 1, preparing gambits that would be a notch above remarkable but just shy of incredible. When I was nine, I told my parents my school had burned down. When I was (actually) driving back from post-Katrina New Orleans, I called my dad to tell him I was dropping out of college and moving into a FEMA trailer with my new sweetheart. Pretending to be my landlord’s lawyer, I threatened to sue my roommate for having loud sex.
But each year, my 85-year-old grandmother is the biggest target. On one hand, this could be perceived as cruelty to my elders. On the other hand, you should see the grin on her face when she retells the stories. Which she does, constantly, to strangers. She clearly enjoys being part of the annual revelry, even if her role is to be duped. One year I told her I was getting married. Another year I told her I was climbing Mount Everest — without a jacket. Then I dragged her to Grand Central Terminal, where my friend Ben pretended to be a StoryCorps employee.
Eventually, she wised up and stopped picking up the phone. She now marks the April 1 box on her calendar with the most counterintuitive instructions a Jewish grandmother can imagine: Don’t talk to your grandson today.
I had to find another way to reach her. My aforementioned friend Ben suggested snail mail.
This is what I sent her:
Quickly, a couple things about my grandmother. She was raised by socialist union organizers in New York, which makes her a) virulently atheist, and b) very liberal. She think religious people are idiots and doesn’t understand why we didn’t have universal health care fifty years ago. She also happens to be a snob about grammar and punctuation.
At this point in the prank, I knew I either had her or I didn’t. Either she would believe that a stranger from a farcically repugnant religious group with a suspicious street address was donating money on her behalf, or she would see through it. But she never does.
So I decided to keep going.
I’m guessing she found the your/you’re confusion harder to countenance than the threats of violence.
And then, on the off-chance she was still reading, the pièce de résistance:
So far, JesusLovesFetuses@hotmail.com has received no emails. Let’s see what happens…
She was fooled. She called the number of the church group to complain, and when that number forwarded to my cell and she heard my voice on the answering machine, she figured out it was all a hoax. This was the voicemail she left me (sorry, I have no idea why it’s so large):