Bernice’s April Fool’s Day Birthday

Bernice, looking directly at Val, while collecting some bridal party intel.


Had she lived, my mother would have been 86 April first. I reflected on how mean we were to her on her birthday some years, ringing all the doorbells and running from one end of the house to the other. I was the baby of the family, and I thought April fools pranks were mandatory, like turkey on Thanksgiving or drunkenness at funerals.

Bernice used to have the dry cleaning delivered, and with it came loads of safety pins. The clothes would be pinned to the paper-cover hangers, and she would remove them carefully and attach them to her house coat. I thought this chain of safety pins was so that she always had one handy, but one day she told me it was so that the baby didn’t get them. This was curious, as the baby was me!

Bernice liked to smoke. She didn’t just smoke. She delighted in smoking. She particularly delighted in smoking in places where smoking was prohibited. If they hung a no-smoking area sign somewhere, she would light up and say “Well, we could smoke here last week.”

When I was small, we went to the doctor’s office and the doctor was smoking. His rotund round belly hung between his tree-trunk legs and his too-tight pants revealed what I presumed was an uncomfortable tailoring snafu.

I heard him explaining to my mother that she needed to lose weight, and I gave up faith in the medical profession at the tender age of seven.

The green felt hat...of the more "social" branch of the Masonic Lodge...The Tall Cedars.

The green felt hat…of the more “social” branch of the Masonic Lodge…The Tall Cedars.

My father had a funny green hat. He wore it to meetings and I loved to touch the soft felt. George was constantly doing for others…to the point where I was jealous. We were always making pit stops on what I thought should be my personal time with him, and on a couple of occasions he left me playing on a swing set or two and had to come back and get me when he noticed (or more than likely mom noticed) I was missing.

One year it was an unseasonably warm April first and my sisters were away spring skiing with my father. My jealousy at their travel without me turned me as green as my father’s Tall Cedars green felt hat. Mom made the best of things, smoking her green pack of menthol Salems and arranging the couch cushions on the floor for our pretend camp-out.

When the others returned, they brought me a pale blue dolphin with a bottom lip that squeaked when you squeezed it. Forever a cheap date, I accepted this gift and was over my envy in a flash. I had that thing until I went to college.

Even lung cancer did not convince Bernice that smoking cigarettes might be a bad thing. Once she took a stand on something that was usually it with her, and I realize I am like that, too. I am often satisfied by “agreeing to disagree” with someone, because in my heart I “realize” I am right.

In the spirit of Bernice, live and let live, choose your battles carefully and most importantly, when the time is right, choose not to battle at all. Have your Tall Cedars hat ready at all times, and keep your safety pins away from the baby!


2 thoughts on “Bernice’s April Fool’s Day Birthday

  1. Wise words, Jaye, but the best line by far is “His rotund round belly hung between his tree-trunk legs and his too-tight pants revealed what I presumed was an uncomfortable tailoring snafu.”


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